social media bangladesh

There was a time when online community in Bangladesh was synonymous with Bangla blogs. Started by Somewherein..Blog and later picked up by many other community blogging platforms, these sites gave writers a place to practice their writing. But it wasn’t only limited to literature practice. People from all walks of life joined in and started writing their everyday activities, thoughts on current affairs and so on. Bloggers even took initiative to help those in need, too, at widespread occurrences such as flood victims and the likes. Bangla blogs once had a good thing going on.

People made friends, and enemies alike, on Bangla blogs. They would write about all topics imaginable and a discussion would take place. Sometimes these led to nasty environment, but most of the time, the situation was friendly and nice.

somewhere in blog
Somewherein…Blog, the site that sparked blogging in Bangladesh.

But that all has been slowly changing. Bangla blogs are active these days, you will find new posts every few minutes, but if you spend some time looking through them, you will see they no longer attract a meaningful discussion. A peek through the front-page of Somewherein..Blog today reveals the biting truth that people are no longer as active on blogosphere as they used to be some six/seven years ago.

So what caused the blog’s popularity to go down?

The answer is simple, social media. And in Bangladesh, I can be more precise, Facebook.

The situation in Bangla blogosphere is so bad that Prothom Alo Blog, a community blogging platform obviously inspired by the insane popularity of Somewherein…Blog, is closing down. The blog is maintained by the country’s largest and most circulated newspaper, Prothom Alo, as the name suggests. Even so, they decided to shut it off. The blog moderator writes that because popularity has shifted to social media and online newspapers where people can participate in a discussion, the popularity and effectiveness of Bangla blog has decreased. Under the circumstances, the authority has decided to shut the blog on 15th September 2014.

prothom alo blog
Prothom Alo Blog, also popular among general folks, has decided to shut down due to lack of engagement and the rise of social media.

Facebook launched quite some time ago. But it took a few years to pick up the people’s interest in this part of the world. And now that Facebook is usable at zero cost, the popularity of Facebook has risen above any other online community the country has ever seen. There are Facebook pages that write pieces on current affairs, share stories and photos which are sometime funny and relatable.

People who are good at something – be it writing a story, commenting on current affairs, photography, videography, etc – have already picked up a good number of ‘Followers’ on their personal profile or Facebook page. So they no longer have to go through the ‘burden’ of logging into another blogging site, write their post, and wait for others to see the story and comment. Because Facebook does that instantly and people can see that stuff instantly, at zero cost. Plus most people today are always active on Facebook, so they get instant notification of any interaction — likes or comments — on their posts.

Why would you go through another platform when you can do all these at the comfort of Facebook, ensuring maximum exposure to the people who follow you?

The talented people have developed a following on Facebook. And for others, there are hundreds of highly active Facebook pages. Come to think of it, it’s not that hard to see why the popularity, and more importantly user engagement on Bangla blogs has dropped significantly over the past years.

The discussion has moved to the social media platforms. And there’s no telling if it will ever roll back to those community platforms elsewhere on the web.

Regular bloggers on Prothom Alo Blog are frustrated by the shutdown decision and are preparing to hold petition to prevent that from happening. But it’s highly likely that the platform will not sustain. Social media has taken over the once crowded and cheerful, though often uncomfortable, Bangla blogosphere. There are still Bangla blogs operating with some active bloggers, such as Somewherein..Blog, but the crowd or the engagement like the past just isn’t there.

What do you think? Will the Bangla community blogging platforms ever be able to restore its popularity and user engagement?

Later published on CNN iReport.

Written by A. I. Sajib

I love writing about technology, life, and everything between. I love photographing people. I'm a Happiness Engineer at Automattic/WordPress.com. The best way to get to know more about me is through my blog at http://ais.blog

7 comments

  1. I am not very familiar with the Bangla blogs that you are talking about but even then, I’m curious about a few points. Were the blogs being used simply for communication as opposed to writing, say mini-essays in blog form? I mean, Facebook, though it has a notes function, can’t really substitute the functionalities of the blog platform. So if people were using the blogs like Facebook before Facebook became popular they may have moved but weren’t there enough people who were using the blogs to display their creative works, make an argument, show off their travels in a more involved manner than posting pics on FB can do or to describe stuff (in other words using a blog as a blog)?

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    1. Yes, there were essays, opinion pieces, and then there were short, status-like posts. These blogs used to be the social media of Bangladesh. Somewherein..Blog, in particular, was more like a combination of Twitter and Facebook. Most news broke on that blog as people would rush to post there as soon as they witnessed anything happening around them.

      After Facebook, all that has changed. Yes there are people who like to put on their creative work in a blog, and some people still do, but you slowly lose interest in a platform when enough people aren’t there to notice your work. Travelogues are hard to find these days. Most people are done by posting photos on Facebook. You can only find travelogues on newspapers. But as you can tell, not everyone writes on a newspaper. Those who used to write on blogs do not anymore simply because their friends and followers have moved on to social media.

      Blogs were always popular ever since their introduction in Bangladesh. But people can get along just fine with their Facebook these days. Heated debates are taking place as comments below photos and statuses, creative work gets shown off as photos and videos, and long-forms have taken the shape of statuses and notes.

      I’ll give you an example. I prefer to blog. If I write a post on one of those blogs and share the link on Facebook, what will happen is some won’t even click because it takes them off Facebook, some would click but won’t respond/leave halfway; whereas if I post the whole thing on Facebook, it has a high probability that more people will read this and share/comment.

      That’s how the popularity has shifted to Facebook. Not necessarily everyone likes it, but if other’s opinions/engagement matters to you, Facebook is the way.

      Hope it’s clear now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your involved comment. I hope someone studies this phenomenon seriously. I’m interested because this isn’t how it is with the English-language scenario–blogs have remained blogs while social media is very popular but still in its own turf. I wonder if it could be that those who prefer to write lengthy posts, unsuitable for social media are either doing it in Bangla on print media or doing it in English on blog forums online and hence are moving out of the Bangla blog scene? Just a speculation. But now that you mention it, I’m seeing something similar in Kolkata too–people seem more interested in posting notes on FB than on building their own blogs.

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        1. Yes the situation is completely different in English-language scenarios. These blogs, or blog-like platforms, have greatly benefited by the rise of social media as they can now build up a good following (Likes and Followers) on their social media profile/pages. But in Bangladesh, that’s not really the case.

          I’ve been with Somewherein..Blog, the pioneer medium in Bangla blogging community which is still active today — though not as much — for over 7 years. In my early days, I’ve seen plenty of extremely talented writers who every day bring new perspective to the table of discussion. As the popularity grew, more and more people entered the platform, the environment used to often become distasteful. That hurt many of them and they simply stopped writing. I’m not sure whether those people still write blogs today — in English or Bangla — in their own medium such as on WordPress or Blogger. I don’t know because I used to ‘Follow’ them only on those community blogs.

          There is a front page where all your new posts show up — much like Facebook newsfeed except you see everyone’s posts — and that’s how people used to discover others. As they left the platform, we were simply left out in the dark. Now some of them do blog on their own sites, but as you can see, we don’t know where they are.

          The foundation of Bangla blogging, or how it is perceived, is that there will be an open platform where even new bloggers can get read by many. But since social media has become more popular and your average people have made the move, most people no longer go to these blog sites regularly. And the individual blogs never quite gained popularity over here (probably because you had to remember/save different URLs, and on the blogger part you had to do a lot of marketing to get people to enter your blog).

          I started here in 2008 (two years after joining Somewherein..Blog) and I immediately noticed the difference: everyone had their own blog, with their own customization options. But community Bangla blogs were always popular because “you didn’t need to worry about traffic. If you wrote good, it would get read no matter what.”

          Probably most Bangla bloggers hated the fact that you had to market your blog and work hard to get people to visit your blog — and even if they did, they might never return. On community blogging platforms, that was never the case.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. During the 2002-2005 Bangla blogging was technologically very cumbersome. Somewherinblog started a new era by offering an easy way to write in Bengali. But it was also a livejournal type community blog. Bangla blog could not get out of this box. If there are 3 or more Bengalis in a group they split and start a new group. Considering this reality growing and reaching far with community blogs were too much to ask. There are no examples of succesful community blog except for countries like Russia and China. Many bloggers in the west becaome popular with their personal blog with separate urls (not community blog).

    We saw the limitations of community blogs in Bnagladesh – different thoughts were being bullied – some low grade writers got unnecessary pamper by friends to show their importance. Only focused and closed groups like Cadet College blog and Sachalayatan sustained. But those who tried to accomodate many writers with different ideologies failed (like Prothom Alo). The idea is grade but there can be a PhD thesis on why these blogs failed.

    I have some observation.

    1) Facebook can make writers popular among immediate friends but fail to spread the article to the world (blogposts can be searched by Google, Facebbok posts can’t).

    2) Many learn SEO and post pseudo /stolen contents to earn money. Good and popular bloggers (say renowned writers) could earn money genuinely from their writing. Not only Google Ad, there are some Ad networks on Bangladesh (like G&R) who support Bangla contents.

    3) Bangla blogs are too local. If some of the Bangla blogs would have been translated – we could have seen more international readers learning about bangladesh through blogs.

    4) We are far behind in Twitter and other social networks which can promote our writings in different platforms. Facebook/Twitter – these are only tools. The important thing is to express ourselves. There is an advantage with blogs – it can last, searched and referenced.

    So I think Bangla blogs should break away from community blogging and popular writers should consider updating their writings in own blogs regularly.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. However, there are some things I would like to add.

      The problem with separate blogs, like this one, is that it sort of discourages people to write after a while as they fail to grab enough attention/readers. Granted, it’s the same all over the world. But not every blogger has the time of will to do ‘marketing’ for their blogs, more so when they are not looking to make money out of it. The best thing about community blogs was that you didn’t always need to market your blog or ask people to visit your site. If you had a catchy headline, it would have been read. I personally saw a few people who started their own blogs after breaking away from blogs like somewherein…, only to stop after a while as they didn’t have enough readers.

      Facebook fan pages can be a good medium to connect with readers, but then again, I guess you already know Facebook wants money if you want to reach all the people who like your page.

      Secondly, I agree English blogging needs to be made popular because people from outside world don’t get a chance to know what we — average people — think. (There are others who think people from foreign countries should not know what we think, I refer you to my removed CNN iReport article and follow-up post.) I started Express Bloggers some time ago if you remember, but failed to gain traction because most people don’t really read or write in English. Or maybe they do, I just don’t have access to the right audience. Could be both.

      On a side note, I’m planning to launch another group blogging site with invited bloggers only. Named #Dhaka, I’m yet to decide how best to approach potential writers and readers. As always, you can rule out most of the people from platforms like somewherein…blog, but there’s a whole new bunch of people out there who would love a platform to speak their mind but don’t have the time or will to set up their own blogs. This ranges from your average teenager to entrepreneurs to stay-at-home moms. Hope you can let me know your thoughts on this. 🙂

      Like

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