A little over a month ago, in a post introducing Yahoo! Opinions, I’d written about the need for Yahoo to find its voice. And in the immediate aftermath, the newly launched initiative found some favorable coverage — like, so.
Both before the launch of our Opinions section under Amit Varma’s aegis, and in the subsequent weeks, I’ve been fielding questions from journalist and lay friends on the ‘So what?’ and ‘What next?’ lines.
The ‘So what?’ group argued on these lines: Dude, it is not as if you and Amit Varma invented columns — every damn newspaper/website worth its audience has columns, often far more ‘renowned’ names. So what’s the big deal about what you are doing here?
True. We didn’t invent the concept of opinions — they’ve been around almost as long as print journalism. And Yahoo! Opinions is not, in and of itself, a ‘big deal’ [though I must add that the early traffic numbers are well above what I had projected prior to launch]. Park that thought for a moment.
The other group wanted to know what was next.
This — the official Yahoo editorial blog.
We switched on the lights, with no fuss and fanfare, at noon yesterday. My colleague Suma Nagraj, who is point person for the initiative and who has been following the numbers obsessively since launch, is over the moon: 98,890 page views at midnight — that is, 12 hours post launch; 146,541 page views in toto as I write this, 24 hours after launch. That is, a few thousand more page views in a day than I get on this blog in a good month.
And no — we didn’t invent blogging either.
What we are attempting to do, with Opinions first and now the blog, is two-fold. The first, clearly, is to experiment with, and find, an editorial voice — an absolute essential for a site that is otherwise known as a content aggregator. Ergo, the blog: It allows my colleagues in Yahoo, who thus far have been voiceless entities spending their days and nights curating content that comes from a multiplicity of sources, to spread their wings; to write and, through writing, to move beyond their daily brief and explore their own limits. [The blog, incidentally, might appear a bit diffuse, lacking in a clear focus, just now — but that is exactly how we want it. The idea has to be for everyone, across editorial functions, to start writing; fine-tuning of the content et cetera will happen organically over time].
That’s a first step. Starting next week, we’ll gradually introduce a series of regular features on the blog, that will cumulatively help shape content and define the platform. And once their voices gain in assurance, the logical next step is to move into the realm of ‘original content’; to get a team that thus far has been desk-bound to step outside office, to find and tell compelling stories.
The second reason is a touch more complicated. A priority, when I joined Yahoo in January this year, was for us as an organization to decide on a long term strategy for the site. That exercise, which cuts across departments and hierarchies, took us the best part of four months — but we now know where we want to be a year, two years from now. And each of these initiatives — Opinions, now the blog — are calculated steps towards that destination. The coming months will see more micro-launches; hopefully, if we’ve done our thinking right, by the end of the year you’ll see exactly where we are going with all of this.
Meantime, do me a favor: check out the blog, and if you have feedback on the lines of what you would like to see and such, let me know. Here.
PS: Anticipating a question: Yes, I’ll be posting on that blog. Actually, during the seeding process I’d already put up three posts: on rock as escape in Nagaland; on Rahul Mehta’s debut with a collection of gay-themed short-stories; and on the 50th anniversary of Psycho besides a promo post to two columns on Yahoo that examine the arguments for and against homeopathy.
I’ve been kind of swamped, and haven’t had the time to figure out what I’ll post there and what kind of content I’ll save for this blog. Hopefully, next week will bring more clarity. In the meantime, will be off the air from now through the weekend — got a heck of a lot of pencil-and-paper planning to do. Regular service, on cricket and all else, resumes Monday [in any case, what the heck can you say about India’s ‘hopefuls’ in Zimbabwe that cannot be summed up in the one word, ‘hopeless’?]