The rural population of Uttar Pradesh is all set to get a newspaper made for them, by them. Titled Gaon Connection, the Hindi weekly will be launched initially from the villages of three districts of the state, including Lucknow, Barabanki and Sitapur, in August.
The weekly will be introduced as a pilot project with an initial print run of 50,000 copies and will have a cover price of Rs 5 per copy.
The 12-page broadsheet will be circulated in villages and will target the "rural readers who otherwise have no voice as well as those companies which are interested to invest in these areas," says Neelesh Misra, editorial director, Gaon Connection. While four pages of the newspaper will be coloured, the rest will be black and white.
Gaon Connection will have a mix of employees from villages as well as urban areas. The newspaper will have a three-pronged strategy - while there will be a physical version of the newspaper, there will also be a news wire service that will supply news stories from the villages to the mainstream newspapers across the country.
The new venture is run by a 40-year-old organisation called Bharitya Gramin Vidyalaya Society and is a part of the Gaon Connection project that will have a newspaper, rural information centres, and train computer teachers in the rural areas. The newspaper will be made available across the villages of the three districts. It will also be distributed to marketing heads of the companies, and mainstream media for rural news service.
Talking more about the project, Misra says, "The idea is to take out the first issue ourselves, create a model, and then scale it up. We want to bridge the rural-rural divide so villages can share best practices, knowledge and information across rural communities."
The newspaper will have three main sections -- Gaon via Pradesh that will have stories and columns of NRIs with a rural touch; Gaon via Shehar that will talk about city dwellers who have some connection with the village life; and a Village Special section that will cover interesting developments at the village level.
The media house conducted a survey last year across 3,000 homes in the villages of UP, where it found that villagers are willing to spend money, provided they are excited about the product.
To promote the newspaper among the advertisers and general public, the newspaper has launched an online crowd sourcing campaign, where it asks people to send Rs 500 a month or Rs 6,000 a year to the company to help a rural reporter do a story.
The newspaper plans to undertake a unique distribution strategy to sell the physical version of the newspaper in the rural areas, that otherwise do not have a very robust distribution network. According to its plan, the organisation will tie up with pan shops, fertiliser shops, schools and cart pullers to stock the newspaper. Apart from this, there will also be a travelling library, a jeep converted into a library, which will travel on fixed routes, allowing people to read and buy the newspaper.