Gaon Connection to launch audio newspaper

By Devesh Gupta , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | October 08, 2013
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The UP headquartered weekly is gearing up to launch India's first audio newspaper for its rural audience to reach out to even those who cannot read.

Gaon Connection, the UP-based weekly paper catering to the rural populace, is all geared up to launch an audio newspaper on the mobile platform to reach out to those who cannot read the newspapers.

Atul Churamani

Neelesh Misra

The audio newspaper will include voice stories filed by reporters, voice columns by experts and voice editorials by the editor. Gaon Connection expects to launch the new innovation in about four months.

It has tied up with OnMobile, a value added services [VAS] company, to bring the paper on the mobile phone platforms and has already developed the technology. It is currently in talks with telecom service providers to offer the final output on different networks.

The company plans to offer the audio paper to the consumer at a monthly subscription charge of Rs 25-30.

Atul Churamani, head, content, OnMobile, says, "Consumers will need to dial a specific number depending on the telecom operator they are connected to, which will lead them to a menu where they can hear different options such as press 1 for headlines, press 2 for editorials and so on. Readers can make a choice to hear the different news from there."

He adds that it will help reach a lot of audience that is otherwise difficult to reach.

Speaking on the idea, Neelesh Misra, editor and co-founder, Gaon Connect, says that in rural areas of India, only 50 per cent of people can read. "It is an important step that will help us to reach out to the even those people who cannot read the newspaper. This will also give us a strong presence in the rural areas," says Misra.

Misra adds that Gaon Connection also plans to come up with a single number that allows access across all telecom operators.

Considering there is a lack of specific television content for the rural areas, Misra is also aiming at addressing this gap, too. "We are planning to launch some rural content on several GEC's and news channels. There is hardly any content that is available for the rural areas on the channels, which is informative and can help them. Our content will also broadcast the Gaon Connection song."

The weekly newspaper, Gaon Connection, was established in December, 2012, and in less than a year, has already reached a circulation of 10,000 copies in UP and has begun operations in Delhi, Maharashtra, Bihar and Jharkhand. About 1000 copies of the weekly newspaper are currently circulated in New Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Kaushambi, which have more affinity to the rural areas.

The 12-page coloured broadsheet is distributed through the help of 20 odd self help groups and 20 odd Kissan Clubs across 45 districts of UP. Gaon Connection delivers copies to these groups, who then further distribute to the readers in their areas of operation.

The weekly paper is mostly distributed at local tea shops, village haats, schools, panchayats and other touch points that witness large gathering.

Currently, the ad and content ratio is very weak as the paper does not believe in getting local ads. Misra says, "We do not want local mithaiwalas. We look forward to associate with larger brands, especially FMCG, and give them space for brand integrations in our pages."

Gaon Connection also trains its distributors to be reporters for the paper. Misra explains, "A local distributor can earn with us by not just distributing the copies but also by reporting for the paper."

On the content side, the paper focuses on relevant news such as information on crops, loans, government schemes, schools, roads, entrepreneurs and others. Misra says, "National dailies have their own agenda and they mostly focus on the national news and forget about the rural India and rural people. Even if there is news on rural, it is mostly about crime or negative news. We aim to break this and inform people on the happenings in their city. Gaon Connection in 2014 aims to be a daily newspaper."

It is currently distributing around 4,000-5,000 copies in Maharashtra, Bihar and Jharkhand each.

The marketing activity is mostly restricted to word of mouth as the newspaper refrains from spending on huge campaigns.

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