How Way2News transformed the hyper-local news ecosystem in India

Keeping oneself updated with the latest news or reporting events from local communities is tough. But it seems that the regional audience is more interested to get local news updates from their locality and stringer community working miracles. The 2.5 million daily active users of Way2News, a leading hyperlocal news company, clearly showcase that digital is the only way forward for news organizations to penetrate deep into unchartered territories of the country.

Way2Online-owned Way2SMS used to be among the top-ranked website from 2007 to 2012. But realising that SMS messaging could soon fall out of fashion, the company came up with another branch called Way2News. Interestingly, it turned out to be the most popular hyper-local short news app. Presently, with 2.5 million daily active users, they’re growing by 100% y-o-y. 

In an interaction Exchange4Media, Raju Vanapala, Founder, Way2News, spoke about the hyper-local news ecosystem in India and shared how digital technology is reaching even the remotest corners of the country!

Way2News, the largest hyperlocal short news app based in Hyderabad is the new favourite in India.  “You name your region, the vernacular app has got you covered. From a workforce of just 13 to present 200 and initial 70,000 daily active users to 2.5 million DAUs, we are going strong,” said Vanapala.

Currently, Way2News provides personalised news in a short-summarized format and in eight Indian languages – Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Kannada and Bengali. He shared that the app has been downloaded by 20 million Indians, recording 4.8 billion screen views per month.

“Starting with a few stringers, Way2News has expanded its hyperlocal network to 40,000 active reporters, who share news daily in eight languages,” he told e4m. 

They successfully publish over a million hyperlocal stories and have 62,761 verified videos, covering 1,10,000 villages. Vanapala said that all this happened in a year. This feat has not been hitherto achieved by any news aggregator or media organisation till date, be it the mainstream or otherwise. 

Discussing the importance of digital news dimension platforms, he explained “If you look at India’s distribution of geographies, we have villages. They are assigned to mandals, and mandals to districts and districts to states. But when it comes to news, whether print or TV, they have only gone till the district level. Smaller towns are consuming the internet today; they have a hunger for news, and they only get what is happening in their state and the country. Print gives only 1-2 per cent coverage at a mandal level and not much else. Rest is an open area. With digital, we can go deep into villages with targeting etc, through our new app. We thought it’s a great opportunity to reach out to the true Indian audience in their language. So, we’ve created a hyper-local platform and we are sourcing this content from stringers and also using content from users. So, citizen journalism is working out well on our platform right now.”

Personalized news service is the specialization of Way2News. “We are here for the next billion ‘vernacular internet users’ and have not limited ourselves to a particular set of audience. In terms of content, we have personalised news for every user based on his/her interest,” said Vanapala.

Sharing more about W2SMS’s eventual evolution into Way2News, he says, “Our previous product at Way2Online, Way2SMS, ranked among the top ten most-visited sites. It had a good run between 2007 to 2012. Gradually, realising that SMS messaging could soon go obsolete with the rise of messengers we launched Way2News in 2015. We dreamt of building a product that would stay connected with the masses. This is when we reflected our thoughts of foraying into the short news segment with a hyperlocal approach.

 Besides news coverage, apps like Way2News have been quite impactful in highlighting local issues of roads, schools etc. and putting them forward to the right authorities.”

This Article Was First Published On Exchange4Media On February 21, 2020. Written By Shreshtha Verma

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