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LiveJournal talks about its India strategy

LiveJournal, the blogging platform was acquired by SUP, a Russia-based online media company in December 2007 from SixApart, a blogging software company which acquired LiveJournal from Danga Interactive in 2005. LiveJournal has been eyeing the Indian market where it has a small user-base. Andrew Paulson, CEO of SUP, was in India in May 2008 during the NDTV Media Congress and mentioned their growing interest in India. We spoke to Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Director of Corporate Development, SUP, about LiveJournal’s India plans.

LiveJournal, the blogging platform was acquired by SUP, a Russia-based online media company in December 2007 from SixApart, a blogging software company which acquired LiveJournal from Danga Interactive in 2005. LiveJournal has been eyeing the Indian market where it has a small user-base. Andrew Paulson, CEO of SUP, was in India in May 2008 during the NDTV Media Congress and mentioned their growing interest in India. We spoke to Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Director of Corporate Development, SUP, about LiveJournal’s India plans. LiveJournal is partnering with Blogworks, a Delhi based corporate blogging and social media consulting firm to shape up its plans for their Indian users.

On plans to launch in India

We are not coming to India for at least the next couple of months but instead we are looking to offer LiveJournal to Indian users in an Indian flavour. We want to find out what the Indian LiveJournal community wants from LiveJournal and how we can support them here. We are in a completely different position in Russia where we have 9 million users and LiveJournal is central to the Russian internet. We are considered mainstream media in Russia. We are also strong in the US but India ranks as the 32nd largest LiveJournal community in the world. We are looking at a number of specific projects to enhance our user-base here. We want to build on the heritage of LiveJournal and give it a local flavour to the service for the Indian community.

While there are no immediate plans to open an India office or appoint people in India, the focus is on building the service in our Moscow and San Francisco offices for now and doing a huge amount of groundwork with consultants in India.

We are also open to meeting traditional content providers as well and associate with newspapers and other media to build their content. We will be coming back to India in autumn to finalize more of our plans.

On India Numbers

We are doing just under a million impressions a month and have about 5,000 unique users and 13,000 registered LiveJournal accounts in India. We were in India in May 2008 for the NDTV Media Congress and met up with many of our users over a week to figure out how we could develop the service here. We had earlier decided to see what we could do in India on our own but we are as of now partnering with BlogWorks and finalizing our plans for India. Blogworks is helping us with research, analysis and development and a lot of different ideas on building our communities in India.

On LiveJournal Vs other blogging platforms and networks

We are not looking to compete with Facebook or other social networks in India because that’s not really our approach. We are looking at being complimentary to these networks than compete with them as LiveJournal offers a platform to share niche content instead of just staying in touch with one’s friends for which there are better places to go to.

LiveJournal is not a traditional social network nor it plans to be as its strength, world over, is that it offers tools and enables sharing of content and build communities around this content. We think that there aren’t many platforms in India which are looking at doing that. LiveJournal has 16 million accounts worldwide and our plan is to build connections between these global users on matters of common interest and we are keen on a cross pollination of users and content between our users in different parts of the world. We did this with our relationship with New York Times which publishes content from the LiveJournal Russian community. We have a similar relationship with the BBC in Russia.

[Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks added that “While both Blogger and WordPress have the content, they lack the community. Social networking platforms on the other hand have the community but not the content. LiveJournal is different as it allows you to share unique content and there is a community already build around it”. ]

On Vernacular Users

LiveJournal users can already blog in Hindi and a couple of other regional languages. Also, about 10 to 15 per cent of the LiveJournal interface has already been converted into Hindi. While our initial focus is on the English language users, a translation program is under way and our US office is working on enabling content sharing in regional languages as well. In many parts of the world, the English language content can already be converted in many languages so vernacular users are on the agenda for LiveJournal as well.

On Advertising on LiveJournal

LiveJournal is also going to start selling local inventory to advertisers in India by the end of August 2008. We have already signed up with a global ad network for this. (Citing confidentiality reason, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser refused to reveal the name of the network.)

Check out the official LiveJournal India community here: http://community.livejournal.com/lj_india/

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