In 2006, no one had a Twitter account, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hadn’t yet formed, and I didn’t know the difference between a “PhD student” and a “PhD candidate”. It was, suffice it to say, a long time ago.
I bring this up right off the bat because in many ways, the deep substantive changes to the online and media landscape have driven the changes to Five Rupees. When we first started this site, it was mainly a way for three friends with varying interests to share links and opinions with each other and some other friends. Personally, it was a way for me to sketch my thoughts on stuff I cared about, ranging from militancy to elections to cricket. Gradually, the site drew a larger readership. At the same time, two of our original three stopped blogging for a number of reasons, the content of which changed depending on how defensive the two said non-bloggers were at the time you quizzed them on it. We did briefly add a fourth blogger, but even that experiment lasted just about a year.
So beginning around 2009, Five Rupees became more of a one-person operation. Our readership was still increasing, albeit slowly, and I was still having fun with it. It got to the point where a third-party media company, Asian Correspondent, offered to host the blog in return for vast, Abramovichian sums of money (or maybe it was a few hundred dollars a month, I don’t remember). That happened in 2010.
Around the same time, Twitter took off, which in turn changed the face of blogging. Short, pithy posts whose essential point was to link to an article with a brief comment disappeared. That in turn meant that only longer, more substantive posts made sense, which in turn decreased the average frequency of posts; it’s much easier to write five posts a week if three of them are one paragraph long with a couple links thrown in. The decreasing frequency of posts, along with the distinct mechanism of the rise of Twitter as a medium for exchange, saw our readership plateau. I was still having fun with Five Rupees, but evidently readers were not.
I don’t believe there was anything about this trajectory that was unique to Five Rupees. The fact was and remains: unless you are a superstar or very well-known, single-authored blogs stand no chance today. Just look around the bloggersphere and this basic fact becomes evident very quickly. One person cannot supply enough new content to satisfy people desperately looking to avoid their real jobs and waste time on the internet. Moreover, with me leaving graduate school and starting work, I simply would not have the time to devote to maintaining the type of site we had going in our halcyon days.
All this throat-clearing preamble is to say that Five Rupees is now newer, bigger, and, we hope, better. We’ve got some extraordinarily talented people who will be contributing to this site. When reaching out to contributors, I asked two basic questions. First, are they smart and good writers? Second, does the stuff they care about match on to the original purview, such as it was, of Five Rupees? I’m sure there’s brilliant bloggers out there who can talk about fashion or literature, but none of us have ever cared about either of those things, and we’re not about to start now. If you’ve been with us since the beginning (or close to the beginning), the subject matter of the new site will be very familiar: Pakistan and South Asia stuff, wars and violence, international relations, elections, sports, bad Youtube videos, and the like.
Who knows, maybe this whole thing blows up and it turns out that a bunch of us have wasted a lot of time and money. But I sincerely hope not. I’m very excited about the new team, about the new site, and about the direction we can take it. One way or the other, we’re going to have fun with it. I’m hoping you do too. And as we say in Pakistan, wel come.