A little room to breathe

The thing I’ve always loved about the people I follow on Twitter is what they bring to my timeline: their curation, perspective, and criticism helps me learn. They bring a variety no editor can, but of late, my timeline has become rather unidimensional: it’s almost entirely about politics and news, and the OOTD (Outrage of the day). The problem with the outrage is that it usually makes for great conversation, and now dominates offline conversations if you have many friends who are active on Twitter. Which I do. I don’t want to be the one asking ‘so, what exactly happened?’, which is true of many of us.

But we need room to breathe, to think. Something a mentor said in a conversation earlier this month: he schedules his email and news reading because he needs contiguous free time to think. I also feel we need contiguous free time to do, which is a luxury that someone in my line of work (entrepreneur + journalist) doesn’t get.

So how do we deal with this? We take social media breaks, and schedule our usage, and block people who do the telemarketer thing: poor targeting with no respect for the other persons time.

Scheduling doesn’t quite address the other compelling problem. One thing that @mrajshekhar said to me a few years ago constantly worries me: at a time when I had become completely consumed with medianama, so much so that it was the only thing I’d talk about, Shekhar told me that I need to change, lest I become too unidimensional, which I never was. I’ve tried, not always successfully, but I’ve tried and keep trying.

The same thing, though, is happening on Twitter: the people I follow have become too newsy and too caught up in things of immediate concern (not necessarily of immediate importance). There are those who’re constantly posturing, sermonising, outraging, whether through tweets or retweets.

I was discussing this with Rishi Majumder in Mumbai, when we met at the Prithvi Theatre Festival: Twitter used to be my primary source for gigs, and for interesting things to do. Now, I invariably miss these gigs because of the flood of news, even from friends. I’m going to do two things, and I hope people won’t mind: I need more than a little room to breathe, and to discover more stuff that doesn’t feel like work. News does.

The third thing is that for my own sanity, I need a bit of positivity around me. There are people who’re negative and bring you down by what they say, not just to you. Then there are those who are positive, and make you believe that good things are possible. I need that bubble right now.

I’m going to create two lists: one for newsy folks, and one for temporarily unfollowed, for those who are going on a rant. This means I’m going to unfollow some people, and can only hope that they don’t treat it like a break-up (I’ve had that happen to me thrice already).

Then I’m going to follow people who do the artsy thing, because that’s the part that’s being crowded out.

p.s.: In case it wasn’t evident, I think I’m becoming to newsy too. Time for me to change too.

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Are Horizontal Portals Losing Out To Verticals In India? Not Yet…

There’s something amiss in this article in the Mint: it creates the incorrect impression that all Internet conglomerates like Info Edge, Times Business Solutions (TBSL), Consim Info and Web18 are drawing advertising away from horizontals like Indiatimes and Rediff. The article infers that this might be to blame for Rediff’s “declining growth in revenues” – down from just 8 percent up in FY08, compared to 90 percent up in FY07).

The fact is that for sites in the Info Edge, Consim Info and TBSL portfolio, advertising remains a fairly small percentage of revenues: for Info Edge, two quarters ago, it was less than 5 percent of overall revenues. Even assuming that it is now 6 percent of total revenues for the Q4 2008, that’s a maximum of Rs. 4.14 crores. Compare this to Rediff’s online advertising revenues (pdf)of around Rs. 22 crores in the quarter. Frankly, a 42 percent increase in Info Edge’s ad revenues, or a 200 percent increase in Consim Info’s ad revenues doesn’t mean much if the base is low.

For classifieds businesses, there’s better ROI in advertising some of their own services to increase usage. For example, a TimesJobs is more likely to prefer advertising a special package of jobs in, say, Hewlett Packard, as a relationship building exercise with a client, because the returns are greater in the long term, instead of putting up an advert for Sunsilk or BigAdda. Classifieds businesses mostly use Adsense. Horizontals have an ad-sales team, and also use adsense for extra inventory; ergo Classifieds and horizontals aren’t a like-for-like comparison.

The bigger competition is from other content-based Internet conglomerates like Web18, though their collection of sites can well be likened to a horizontal. Then there are other horizontal portals like Yahoo, AOL and MSN. Bear in mind that these sites have a significant online marketing budget, and are able to draw in traffic using search marketing. Then they sell advertising based on these numbers, and make the margin. Since Yahoo India’s revenues have grown 100 percent y-o-y for the last five years, there clearly isn’t a case for verticals taking away advertising from horizontals.

P.s.: The story also quotes Comscore numbers, which I have debunked here. Talk to any of the Internet co’s and they’ll tell you that Comscore numbers are not in line with their internal stats. Also, the term Internet Conglomerates was coined by Outlook Business.

Disclosure: I own an inconsequential number of shares in Info Edge and Network18

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