What makes Rocket Post so special?

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | October 02, 2017
Shivendra Gaur, founder of the WhatsApp-based news service, told us at Digipub World.

Shivendra Gaur, founder of Rocket Post, came all the way from Pilibhit, where his news service Rocket Post operates out of, to Gurgaon (where Digipub World was held recently), to answer the question in the headline.

Shivendra Gaur Shivendra Gaur

Publishers, he said, are spending less on news itself and more on distributing it. This adversely affects the quality of the news. The solution, Shivendra believes, is leveraging the power, reach and speed of social media (especially through mobile) and WhatsApp's broadcast feature/group news (which works well even on 2G phones, he pointed out).

People today, in general, are inquisitive for news; it's now up to publishers to leverage this fact, he said. With this sort of model (one that leverages social and WhatsApp, that is), the 'breaking news' format works very well, Shivendra said.

News, to Shivendra, is a "product". Unless publishers charge consumers for it, the concept of news, he insisted, falls flat. He charges his news consumers Rs.100 per year. As of March this year, Rocket Post had around 11,400 subscribers, of which only around 3,000 were free subscribers; the rest were paying subscribers.

Today, he has over 14,000 subscribers in all.

He often asks these people for their opinions on social issues and uses this pool of consumers for consumer quick "surveys" over WhatsApp.

Shivendra also spoke about fake news and how it poses a threat to news in general. Charging people for news and increasing one's base of paying subscribers, he said, is a good solution to the problem of fake news.

Thanks to his subscription-based model, he said, he is not at the mercy of advertisers.

Rocket Post, launched in April last year, is now spreading beyond Pilibhit, to neighbouring districts.

Watch the video here:

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