That ethereal cheese
Is mara difficult. In Sri Lanka. There’s a cash ceiling here and I, at least have hit it. You need about 10,000 people a day to make day job money. I get about 400 with lackluster updating. I’m guessing I could get 1,000 if I update everyday, but that’s not enough. Off ads I make maybe Rs 2,000 a month – which won’t cover a trishaw to the bank. If I up that traffic to 10,000 it’s (theoretically) Rs 50,000. But that number, to me, is unattainable. The last official number I saw was from 2001, about 150,000 Internet users in SL. I’ve seen more recent numbers that say about 430,000. Assuming the latter, my retarded kallu sudda blog would still need to capture 2% of the entire Sri Lankan internet market to make any livable cash. Hence, in my personal choices, I’ve kinda left blogging on the shelf for a minute to work in print media, trying to raise awareness of Internet access and grow the national number, hoping that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Is actually serious shit. The Times has an interesting Small Business article on it. It talks about a few bloggers who each went from 300-3,500 hits into cash. On one level, if you reach certain numbers you make money from advertising. I mean, some people have hundreds of thousands of visitors per day – my favorite writer Andrew Sullivan for example. In fact, according to another Times article, Andrew accounts for 30% of the new traffic to his parent magazine’s site.
Once you get the numbers the money follows, but you have to get the numbers.
Sri Lankan Internet
In Sri Lanka, however, the pie is too small. You can’t have someone like Andrew Sullivan doing 125,000 people per day. That’s like a third to half of the entire population of Sri Lanka. In SL, however, people do pay like 100,000 for a page ad in magazines that reach like 10,000 people. There are unexploited niches here that can make money. For example, a Hi Magazine blog – written by a snarky writer – would be freaking huge. If I had even the remotest interest I’d consider it, but that’s something you can put a business plan and capital behind and it’ll prolly make money. There’s also a niche for business writing (LBO is profitable I think). And leisure, hotel, restaurant information is a mess online, a prolific blogger could cut through a lot of the chaff and make a bit of cash. At some point it might be fun to get some capital, hire some writers and do those things. Of course, you can always write a blog from here that appeals to a global (or Indian) market. Dunno. For me the answer is not yet.
While Sri Lanka only has maybe half a mil Internet users, it has over 8 million cell-phone users. I don’t think the PC/laptop is the vector to reach people here. Globally the trend is towards more and more powerful handhelds – which are cheaper as well. You obviously can’t do as much on a phone, but blogs are a medium that can convert well to phones. Hell, apparently fully half of the top 10 best-selling novels in Japan were written on cell-phones (Times). The cell phone is a workable vector, and Sri Lanka actually has pretty good 3G, HSPA and now WiMax coverage. The shit is in the air, if people learn how to pluck it.
It’s also a cascade. Right now Sri Lanka has some of the highest Internet prices in the world cause we have no economies of scale. Internet is actually way cheaper in bulk. That’s one reason the Nipponese pay about USD $0.27 for 61 Megabits. We pay a shitload more, I have to go to work and I can’t figure out the megabit thing, but a 4MB connection is like Rs 10,000-15,000. Japan is pretty small and they have enough people using the Internet to justify and recoup fibre and other investments. In Sri Lanka, howevs, laying fibre is prohibitive and there aren’t enough people to recoup money. Hence this generation is going to pay a shitload to fund the infrastructure that the next generation can use. And SLT charging 1,000 for ‘Broadband’ is bullshit. The market price – especially for the international pipe space out of the country – is simply higher. We do have to pay more to build infrastructure to deliver actual broadband.
That said, GPRS is like Rs 0.02 per kb (which is damn near nothing, about USD $0.0002) and 3G is also artificially cheap to encourage adoption. You can deliver Internet (and blogs) over those vectors, but it is kinda confusing and needs to be pushed.
So, do I think Sri Lankan Internet can grow enough to support professional bloggers? Yes. Do I think it’s ready now? No. I wish it was, but I think there’s still a lot of infrastructure work to do. Oh, and if we could stop the war and corruption that would be mara helpful. But until then the private sector and Sri Lankans might just have to do it ourselves.