My faithful fellow anglophones, as you may have noticed, the last two entries around here were written in Spanish. Sorry about that. But then, change is the spice of life, is it not? I’m contemplating the idea of publishing all future blog posts in both English and Spanish. That would be a lot of work. But then, if I try to convince others to do so, I should too, should I not?
In the mean time, most of the English-language posts I write here from now on will be translations from Spanish-language texts. Since I’m soon planning on doing a three-part series on some of the blogs I read in Buenos Aires, Latin America, and the rest of the world, I figured it was timely to translate a front-page article from today’s La Nación about this city’s five most popular bloggers. Unlike the original article, I will actually link to their blogs.
Modern Day Conquistadores
They are about 30-years-old, broke in to a format that was then little known, and today are read by 5,000 people a day
They had a specific idea and decided to transform it into a format that, up to five or six years ago, was little known. They chose the monitor instead of paper and the keyboard instead of pencil.
Interested in technological developments and media, situations which involve change, tourism from a different angle, or the simple desire to tell a captivating story, they created a space where they express their reflections. Today, they are followed by thousands of readers.
Denken Über, Mirá!, Orsai, Blog de Vaiajes, Bestiaria, Fabio.com.ar, and eBlog are just some of the Argentine blogs that lead in terms of visits and reputation, according to Alianza, a Spanish company specializing in Web 2.0, and are read daily by between 2,000 and 15,000 users.
La Nación gathered the blogs’ authors to try to decipher why their creations are highly ranked in such a competitive universe, in which blogs are growing at the speed of light. In Argentina alone, it is estimated that there are more than 300,000 blogs and more than 100 million in the world.
“The added value of a blog is opinion and knowledge of the author. Why read one newspaper and not another? For the same reason: the viewpoint of the person writing is what sets it apart from others,” reflects Mariano Amartino, 37-year-old creator of Denken Über, a blog that since 2001 has focused on technology and the Internet and is now read by half a million people a month.
“With a loyal audience, what is interesting to the author is also interesting for the readers,” adds Amartino, who, like the rest of the interviewees, is far from the stereotypical image of the nerd one has in mind when we talk about technology.
For Julián Gallo, the creator in 2004 of Mirá!, A space that brings together diverse information related to signs of the future, a blog is like a newspaper: you must publish every day. But, he said, what makes the Internet profoundly different is its immense diversity.
“The poor state of cable TV, with 120 channels and nothing to see, or neighborhood video stores, with their 3,000 titles, makes the media uniform and mediocre. The Web, on the other hand, is refreshingly interesting,” says Gallo, who is followed by over 600,000 visitors per year.
The professionals, 30-years-old or greater, opened their first blog as part of an investigation, as an exercise to stay up-to-date or for the simple challenge of having their own media outlet.
An interesting experiment is that of Hernan Casciari, an Argentine writer based in Spain. Author of Orsai, which is faithfully followed by 6,500 subscribers, and Espoiler, a blog about TV programs created for El País.com, Casciari debuted with a blog which, for a year and a half, followed the life of “mujer gorda” Mercedes, recounting her daily experiences over the Internet. “Within six months, there were 25,000 readers and that made me realize that people liked to read stories,” he says.
In 2005, his “Diary of a fat woman” was chosen best blog in the world by Deutsche Welle for being the first to use this space for fiction. “I used the format to tell a story without saying that it was a story,” he reveals.
In eBlog, Leandro “Lalo” Zanoni mixes topics like journalism, media, advertising and communication, and also leaves his mark when it comes to analyzing the present. As a gift to his followers, he shows advances of covers of magazines and books. That mixture works: he receives daily between 5,000 and 6,000 visitors. “One person is many things at the same time: journalist, politician, man, happy. The key point is to have different content and update it so that is attractive and invites participation,” he says.
A source of employment
For those who are the most highly ranked, this is already a source of work. “I practically live from this. I spend all day doing it. The blog generates many job opportunities that would not come along without it,” Zanoni said. This same response is repeated by the others.
With some 3,000 visits daily, Carolina Aguirre, creator of Bestiaria, precisely defines the two things that distinguish a blog: the idea and form. “The idea is the premise of your blog. The visitors enter for three seconds and, if nothing grabs them, they leave. Most bloggers do not understand that idea. The form is the originality in which the idea is expressed,” says Aguirre, 29-years-old. She understands. For two and a half years, she has put together hundreds of short stories about female stereotypes. “The format fits me like a glove. It allows me to write posts that are short and acidic,” she adds.
The case of Fabio.com.ar is especially particular. With no specific theme to lead its space, beyond that of the analysis of current affairs, the daily blog is followed by a loyal audience of 5,000 people, and sometimes reaches double that number.
“What’s different is that it lacks a particular purpose. I am direct, but analytical. A blogger should not be politically correct or have a fixed rhetoric,” acknowledges Baccaglioni Fabio, a systems engineer, aged 29.
Jorge Gobbi, who receives about 2,000 hits per day, helps travelers organize their own tourism experience. “People are increasingly accustomed to seeking information on the internet before traveling. And I collect little bits of information that are rarely seen, such as the changes in buildings and lack of water in one or another destination,” says Gobbi.
And so, these conquerors of modern times do not need to mark their territory: their ideas circulate a free universe that is connected, in this country alone, by 16 million users.
My friend Jorge has already responded to the article with some useful tips for new bloggers.
Regarding the idea of a fully bilingual blog: yes, a lot of work. I’ve only seen it done in a sustained way a few times. If it were me, contemplating the work of translation might inhibit my writing a post in the first place.
Writing for self-translation can also be inhibiting in terms of content and style. When I’ve tried it, I’ve found myself constraining my idioms, jokes and topics to the narrow domain of what I know how to translate. Sometimes I’ve gotten so tangled up I’ve had to write the text in my weaker language and translate it back to English.
One option might be an abstract or brief excerpt in English of your Spanish-language posts, and vice versa.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s even impossible to maintain a fully bilingual blog. It would mean not only localizing every part of my theme, but also translating each and every post, as well as the descriptive metadata (title tags in links. alt tags in images, etc), the html outputs of plugins, and every comment. Of course, there are licensing issues too – I’d have to put up a warning to commenters that everything they write is published under a CC license which allows for derivative works.
The translation side would definitely require more time investment than the writing side.
But just like the article mentions that the five Argentine bloggers started their blogs as experiments, finding out just how bi-lingual I can make this site will be my own little experiment. If it becomes too time consuming, I’ll just stick with the basics.