Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blog Aggregators, an Entrepreneurial Option

With blogs fairly exploding as a medium of choice for expression among over 100 million netizens who use them to document everything from the personal to the professional, it was only a matter of time that initiatives to filter blogs on their content came into the picture.

It is the way of the world that no sooner chaos begins to manifest itself in steps order.

Since the time the first Blog Aggregator (BA) came into being others have followed suit, building communities, gathering contributors along the way to help with scouring the blogosphere for quality content to bring to their readers. And occasionally, now fairly regularly, they’ve stepped in to defend the right to free speech while mobilizing the blogging community into one voice, sending ripples across the Internet. And their readers have grown, first exponentially, then thick and furious.

At some point they become viable entrepreneurial propositions if you understand the space they operate in, and are prepared to dedicate yourself to the task. As content continues to grow on the Internet the need for content filtered by Blog Aggregators (BA) will continue to grow as well.

DesiPundit, arguably India’s largest Blog Aggregator, is a case in point. With over 12,000 RSS subscribers, and over 2500 page views daily, DesiPundit is a model for how to run a blog aggregator. Founded by Patrix, it’s the morning cup of chai for thousands of people looking to catch up on their corner of India.

Nikhil Narayanan, a contributor with DesiPundit, and who blogs at Nikhil's Musings, shared his thoughts with Power Of Ideas on the issue of blog aggregators as a viable startup option for entrepreneurs.

POI: Can Blog Aggregators be viable business models?

Nikhil: Yes, but since such models work on Ad based revenues the 'when' of becoming viable cannot be easily answered.

POI: What goes into building a Blog Aggregator, the technology behind it? And the social effort that goes into building it up among the targetted audience?

Nikhil: A Content Management System like WP/Blogger, Plugins/Widgets to read RSS (for auto feeds and publish) are needed. It is always better to have a self hosted Blog Aggregator as it can help build the brand. A Blog Aggregator is a win-win. Bloggers are never unhappy with the publicity.

POI Adds: AJAX and Widgets (largely operating on XML, allow users to aggregate OPML files, feeds etc. through a single interface) are used to aggregate feeds and form key components of BAs.

POI: What's the cost of setting up a BA, and what kind of manpower effort is needed for running it since man-hours also cost money. What did DesiPundit (DP) cost to build?

Nikhil: Hosting space and a domain name would cost around 1200 INR annually. Wordpress and Plugins are thankfully free. One can use automatic aggregation like DP's Community Section and/or manual aggregation like DP's New & Upcoming section.

In automatic aggregation, the only task is setting up the list of blogs for the BA. Manual aggregation is just linking interesting posts and the time involved depends on how much time one is ready to spend surfing blogs. Linking a post hardly takes more than two minutes. Designing a template would cost some more money, again depends on the template design.

POI Adds: WordPress is Open Source. Plugins are developed by programmers to aid those who may not be able to write their own PHP code etc. Plugins can range from those that aid with Feeds, Video, Forums, Downloads, Advertising, and Admin tools you can install.

POI: What kind of an entrepreneur expertise is required to start a blog aggregator?

Nikhil: Zilch! Some experience on the blogosphere, and the time and effort to find good blogs is all what is needed.

Note: Nikhil also added that there could be a reason for conflict between Content Generators and Blog Aggregators since the latter base their business model on the efforts of others, something he opines is "unfair" (on the bloggers).

POI Adds: Blog Aggregators are moving in to address this very issue. Lonely Planet's Blog Sherpa program is a step in this direction where content generators receive payment from the Adsense program on their content tagged to Lonely Planet's Blog Sherpa project while the host platform gets to showcase their content.

In addition to DesiPundit, Blogbharti is the other major Indian Blog Aggregator.

Other Indian Blog Aggregators

1. Chitthajagat (Hindi Blog Aggregator)
2. Blogadda
3. Blogvani (Hindi Blog Aggregator)


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