Record spike in consumption of regional language content amid Covid-19 pandemic.

As the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, people across the world, during this pandemic-induced social isolation, are consuming vast amounts of media. The consumption pattern of home-bound global audiences changed drastically over the last one month. During this period, the world has been craving for regional content in a big way. From television to digital media, the trends are changing fast – locally.

In an interaction with ‘The Financial Express Online’, Raju Vanapala, CEO of Way2News, shares how Indians are consuming regional content at an all new-level.

Reportedly, there’s a significant increase in the consumption of regional content during the lockdown. Do you also see a surge in traffic?

Absolutely! The need for regional content is becoming more real at this time. There is a demand and it is growing exponentially. People are more interested in receiving local news. The urge to know what is happening in their communities is emerging faster. The urban and the suburban residents, or the people belonging to smaller towns and rural communities, are widely relying on online platforms for information.

Share some growth numbers of regional news during the lockdown.

We have witnessed a sea change with regards to consumption of regional content following the announcement of nation-wide lockdown. In the last 30 days, our daily active users grew by 55 percent. Time spent on the app has gone up by 67 percent, while video consumption increased by 60 percent. We’ve recorded a 56 percent increase in users sharing content with others.

As always, the strong presence of Way2News in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities is increasing in size. Strong word of mouth is working miracles. More to it, there is an increase of 70 percent organic traffic every day.

Which region is generating the most traffic these days?

We’ve enjoyed massive user engagement in Hindi, Telugu, Bangla and Tamil since the beginning, but following the lockdown, the four said languages have witnessed three-fold increase in terms of new users. The rest, Marathi, Gujarathi, Kannada and Malayalam are recording an increase of 50-60 percent. In addition, our weekly retention rate has improved by over 30 percent. This is surely a good sign.

Since the last two weeks, we have been expanding our reach to few untapped geographies. We are offering in-depth coverage of local news. It will give the existing and new users an easy way to stay updated with news from their communities. We’ve added 19,000 more villages, taking the total to 1,20,000 from about 475 districts. Currently, we are active in 3479 mandals/talukas. On the whole, Way2News is covering 72 percent of “hyperlocal” stories on a daily basis.

Since people are focusing more on regional news these days, what are you doing to strengthen your local news network?

Regional content has been the key from the alpha and we are keeping our basis strong. We are curating content based on locations and personalizing it for our users. We are focusing more on authenticity – especially at such an hour. Our motto is to provide high-quality journalism to build public trust.

In the hyperlocal news ecosystem, citizen journalism is playing a major role. We have recorded a 49 percent increase in April against March with regards to publishing stories. We have raised the bar in the hyperlocal news ecosystem. We’ve always been eyeing to provide mandal level coverage. And we are reaping the benefits. Engagement is at an all-time high.

How the consumption patterns have changed during the lockdown?

With people staying indoors amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, consumption patterns did change. Consumers are looking for more content. Our Average screen views per user has gone up significantly. Our Push notifications are getting 45% better open rates compared to earlier. Video consumption is at its peaks right now. All these stats clearly show that consumers are more curious to know what’s happening around them.

How are you and your team is managing work from home?

Undoubtedly, we are in the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. Foreseeing the crisis, we’ve taken up required measures to deal with the challenges. And being a part of the news ecosystem, adapting to an entirely new working environment became crucial. We’ve set up a communications protocol in advance for better communication and coordination among respective language teams to address the challenges with a positive approach.

Tell us how are you managing your Digital Ad Budget?

Talking about our digital ad budget, we’ve increased our spends by 30 percent. We are majorly acquiring users through Facebook and Google. People want to know more about what’s going on with Covid-19. And we are capitalizing on that opportunity,

Note: This article was first published on Financial Express - May 15, 2020. Written by -  Tarun Bhardwaj.

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