So who needs football?

We had done a post yesterday on Nike’s latest cutting edge commercial on the soccer world cup. While looking for stuff related to that post, a colleague stumbled on this:

Unrelated, but worth your time: in his latest column, Amit Varma points out that all of us, every single day of the week, gamble in various ways with our lives. So why is gambling with our money illegal?

If gambling *was* legal, how much would you bet on the likelihood of a shark attack during the soccer WC? Oh okay, there’s lots of other whacky bets to chose from — here you go.

Back to foosball — and a closer look at some of the specific skills showcased in that video:

Unrelated, but fun — my colleague Tenzin has a post up, on football songs to rock to. Any additional suggestions?

The problem with blogs

Last Thursday, we launched an official editorial blog on Yahoo.

I reckoned at the time that it was an experimental effort; that it would take time for my editorial colleagues to get the hang of the platform, and also for the audience to discover the blog and its contents — if we did 100,000 page views a month, I’d have reckoned we were off to a decent start.

The numbers we are now seeing are insane: on day one, the counter hit 98,480. On the 5th, the editorial bay here in the Yahoo office obsessed over the counter ticking over like crazy, till it stopped at 1,81,899 page views — a hard act, we all thought, to top. On the 8th, the celebration was for hitting the 2 lakh mark a day — 2,19,274 page views to be exact. Yesterday, the 9th, the counter topped out at 2,62,115.

Here’s the macro picture: in exactly one week [the blog was launched at noon last Thursday], the cumulative page views at the time of writing this is 1,145,370, and counting. To put that in perspective, this blog is now a year old — and the counter currently is at 862,040. That for me is the scary thought — that an official blog on a website did a few lakh more in its first week than this blog has done in a year.

More perspective, this time at a micro level: Though I don’t labor over the posts here for hours [a typical post takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes to write, including finding all the relevant links etc], I do invest some thought in them; I post only when I think I can add something to what exists out there in the public domain. And on a good day, a good post gets anywhere up to 25-30k page views.

Against that, on the 8th I put up a post called Dying, Daily. When I started writing it, I knew what I wanted it to be: against the backdrop of air crashes, I wanted to look at the thousand deaths we die each day without thinking about it; about the pathetic state of our roadways, and about how the daily deaths on our roads would, if they were included in medical stats, qualify as a pandemic.

Turned out, it was a particularly bad day at work — I literally logged out of one conference call so I could log into another; there were people here who I had to meet, a ton of stuff to be done… In between, I tossed off a couple of lines here, a link there, and finally published the damn thing not because I thought I was done, but because I reckoned I’d never really get it done the way I wanted it to be, and a post had to go up. In other words, if that post was on this blog, I never would have published it that day.

Guess what, though — that post alone has, at the time of writing this, logged 1,58,035 page views. Crazy? You don’t know the half of it. And the only reason for it is its placement, for the better part of the day, on our top carousel.

All of this makes you think: increasingly, the Indian blog ecosystem is being filled with high quality bloggers. Some four years back, even, there were maybe three, four Indian bloggers I routinely followed: Amit Varma, Jai Arjun Singh, Great Bong, Nilanjana Roy… Today, that number tops 30, and I keep finding more good blogs to follow almost every other month.

The bloggers on my reader are all talented writers — some of them outstandingly so. It’s a natural process of selection — the less time you have for such indulgences, the more rigorous you are about whom to follow, so over time, such lists get really refined. While I don’t have a sense of the kind of numbers the bloggers on my list are doing for individual posts, I’m fairly certain it is nowhere close to what ‘Dying, Daily‘ — a post any of them would condemn as hastily assembled, almost amateurish — has done in just over 24 hours of air time.

That is the problem with blogging, right there: on the one hand, bloggers need their own space, in order to break free of the constraints of conventional media — the reason they take to blogging in the first place. But then, it comes at a price — their content, though more often than not of a quality consistently higher than what the MSM offers, does not enjoy the high visibility writers of far less ability routinely enjoy in our newspapers and websites.

It’s a problem — and, from a purely selfish, Yahoo-centric point of view, an opportunity. I know that the organization has been, of late, doing some thinking along these lines; trying to find a way to guarantee high quality writers the independence they crave while simultaneously enabling their work to reach the far larger audience they deserve. Hence, for instance, the recent acquisition of Associated Content, in the wake of which I noticed a post on TechCrunch that posed a question:

And that is the part that has people scratching their heads. Yahoo is clearly out of the search business through its approved deal with Microsoft. What is left are its owned-and-operated Yahoo sites and its ad network. So far, Yahoo has skewed towards the quality end of the spectrum in terms of online content. It is a brand other brands can trust. But Associated Content operated in another realm, that of non-premium content and related display advertising. It is closer to the performance-marketing end of the scale. More content on its site means more ads, but Yahoo does best on its home page and main portal pages where quality content is expected by consumers and advertisers alike.

I donno — who said a crowd-sourcing platform cannot have quality control? That the content served up through such a platform cannot be as compelling as anything in the mainstream space?

It’s going to take a while before all the pieces are in place, and the AC platform rolls onto Yahoo India — but frankly, I can’t wait. Meanwhile, my mind keeps nibbling at the enormous disconnect between quality and visibility in the blog space, and trying to figure out ways to bridge that gap to the mutual benefit of both. Hopefully, ideas will come — meanwhile, I’d be really interested in any thoughts you have on the subject, models I can learn from etc. Share.

Oh and — at a personal level, swamped with stuff, hence the radio silence on here. Regular service resumes Monday, unless something happens in between that merits immediate attention.