Prime Edition

ARJUN S. RAVI
OUT OF TUNE

Arjun S Ravi is the editor of Indiecision (http://nh7.in/indiecision). He believes in brutal honesty, and thinks your band sucks.

Welcome to the blog-a-thon: Tips for a career covering culture online

hen I started Indiecision.com, my music blog which now powers the editorial at NH7.in, over five years ago, there weren't many active niche-interest Indian blogs and webzines chronicling the rise of emerging cultural movements. After the death of the forums, the conversation about music, at least of the non-Bollywood, 'indie' variety, had moved to Facebook and a handful of print publications attempted to represent what was going on in terms of artists and gigs around the country in their features supplements and 'Culture' sections. These days, there are a lot more blogs and webzines that allow readers to eschew mainstream media to find out about new artists, and stay up-to-date with what's going on in areas of interest like fashion, food and film. But there's still room for hundreds more.

Over the last couple of months, I've had conversations with several young people looking to start their own blogs and webzines. A lot of these people are looking for advice on how to start their websites, how often should they be posting, how long before they can give up their day jobs and just make money off this... all valid concerns, though all addressed in great detail by several people on the internet already, but largely in an international context. In India, the situation is a bit different because the culture-blogosphere is not saturated at all, with most popular blogs either being personal mouthpieces, or largely humour-driven, or political. So if you're looking to start a new music/fashion/graffiti/et al blog, now's the time, and here's some unsolicited, but hopefully helpful advice.

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These days, there are a lot more blogs and webzines that allow readers to eschew mainstream media to find out about new artists. But there’s still room for hundreds more.

Before you even decide to start a blog, book a domain and begin writing, know the Internet around you. A few basics of HTML, CSS and some familiarity with content management systems like WordPress and Blogger will go a long way when you're figuring out how your blog will look, how readers will find your posts, and any features you may want to add to it. You don't have to be an expert at these things, and they're pretty simple to figure out (Google/YouTube). It's also a good idea to bookmark all the blogs and webzines that have (almost always, especially in 2013, well after blogging came into prominence as one of the best things about the Internet) inspired you to start your own, and to visit these and other related sites regularly. It's good to know the details of your product inside out.

ant to make this blog/zine your life? Be prepared for the slow, hard climb. Sure, it's important to have a unique voice and style of writing, but few bloggers stick it out past the first six months if they don't see the hits. Heck, don't expect any hits in the first six months. A hundred people visited your blog in the first month? Great, that's a hundred more people who read your stuff which would otherwise have just stayed in your head. There's a rigour and discipline to blogging or managing a zine. Your readers are fickle. They're getting all the information they need from their Facebook and Twitter streams. If you're not giving them something new on your website regularly, and with a relatively strict frequency, you're just another one of the thousands of sources they're already accessing. Write a lot, write often, get better at writing, get your friends whose opinions you trust to write. There's no denying that there's a serious amount of thankless, unacknowledged hard work that you're going to have to put into this. And there's no guarantee that even if you did all of this for a year or more, the numbers will add up and you can sit back and wait for cash to be flung at you from advertisers or publications that want to syndicate your work.

There are a bunch of other things you probably need to keep in mind when you consider starting a scene blog or zine, but I suppose knowing what you're getting into and a sense of realism about expected rewards are perhaps more crucial than the rest. Every one of the ideas I've heard from people eager to start their own blogs are unique and engaging. The implicit understanding that only time will tell whether they will be a success, and a confidence in the soundness of their voices will go a long way in ensuring that they'll stick around.

 

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