Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
In online platforms along with hyperlocal news, core news segments such as entertainment, crime and news headlines are popular. It follows non-core segments, which include health, tech, and fashion at the top of the list. News consumers’ migration from traditional print and television platforms into online platforms results in accessibility to more content, more platforms, interactive, shareability, and multimedia customized experience
Studies reveal that there were above 75 crore active internet users in India by 2023. ‘Active’ internet users identify such consumers, who visit online platforms at least once in a month. Active internet users who use regional language platforms crossed 72 crores. It signifies the growing dominance of modern Indian languages in the online landscape. One can forecast a brighter future for regional languages within the next two to seven years, by 2025 to 2030.
Leading internet service provider ‘Google’ organizes the ‘Google News Initiative’, a programme to promote digital journalism worldwide. Its Indian chapter sponsored a survey to map the status of the digital news ecosystem in the country conducted by the acclaimed research agency ‘Kantar-India’. The report of the study was published in May 2023.
Google-Kantar survey used ‘iCube’ a sample platform for profiling urban news consumers’ habits. It is connected with over 60,000 individuals spread across 390 cities and towns countrywide. Focus group discussions and detailed observational depth interviews among digital news consumers living in 43 cities were also conducted for eight regional languages. It included Hindi, Guajarati, Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. Such a wide sample contributed to the trustworthiness of the survey results placed in the report entitled “Indian Languages – Understanding India’s Digital News Consumer.”
The report reveals that half of the active internet users consume news online. It counts to 38 crore consumers. About 15 crore access news in the regional language platforms, which include 41 percent in urban and 59 percent belonging to rural areas. The statistics denote that about 10 to 12 percent of the total population of the country relies on digital news in regional languages.
The study highlights the importance of local news. About 70 percent of digital news consumers prefer hyper-local news. The trend is predominant in Hindi and Guajarati languages. In developed countries like the United States of America, the print newspapers covering local news were closed down due to reduced advertisement revenue and rising production cost during the first two decades of the 21st century. Digital news platforms took over the charge of the distribution of hyperlocal news. It seems the trend is gradually sweeping into the Indian media ecosystem.
The local digital news platforms cover hyperlocal developments ignored by the mainstream media. It helps the consumer in preparedness for day-to-day life. Further hyperlocal news increases community engagement and promotes transparency and accountability at the ground level for civic transactions. The exercise results in evolving a digital-first media environment.
Local news websites and news platforms in social media strive to fill in the gap created by the negligence of hyperlocal news by mainstream media. The local journalists took the opportunity to build up alternative news sources as the technological expertise of website and application building are easily available all over. The popularity of news apps such as Way2News, Local, OneIndia etc. at the national level encouraged media entrepreneurs in the country to enter into the hyperlocal digital news landscape. Local WhatsApp groups such as Edakochi people (Kochi) in Kerala in In-Solapur (Solapaur) in Maharashtra engage local reporters for hyperlocal news coverage. The success of such ventures attracted national attention.
Majority of hyperlocal news consumers, about 74 percent access news through video. Only 14 percent prefer to read news as text and 11 percent in audio format. In social media majority of digital news consumers, about 93 percent depend on YouTube and 82 percent through chat apps like WhatsApp. On the other hand, about 45 percent visit news websites and apps.
In online platforms along with hyperlocal news, core news segments such as entertainment, crime, and news headlines are popular. It follows non-core segments, which include health, tech and fashion at the top of the list. News consumers’ migration from traditional print and television platforms into online platforms results in accessibility to more content, more platforms, interactive, shareability and multimedia customized experiences. Digital media thrives in 24 X 7 basis and at the same time affordable, faster, wider, easier and more engaging.
Google-Kantar report debunks the popular observation that digital news media lags behind with regard to public trust. The survey statistics describe that among the top reasons for online news consumption depends 48 percent on trust, 48 percent on the simple and easy format and 45 percent on popularity among peer circles. The credibility of the source depends heavily upon the branding of the news presenter. Research and evidence-backed reporting along with presentation skills adopting visuals, and graphics construct digital news attractive.
The revelation that seven out of ten digital news consumers of regional languages in India by 2023 prefer hyperlocal news points a better future for local media. As the mainstream print and television platforms fail to pay the required attention to cover hyperlocal reporting, independent local websites and news platforms in social media have an opportunity to build up alternative platforms. However, all such novel initiatives require continuous publication for at least three to five years to succeed. Investment of time and talent are the foremost requirements for any venture including hyperlocal news in digital platforms.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on May 19, 2023. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-302
It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Indian Languages – Understanding India’s Digital News Consumer
A study by Kantar India, supported by Google 2023
Kantar- Google report : 1 in 2 India languages internet news are consumes of news in India.
Indian Languages – understanding India’s Digital News Consumer