Aishwarya Ramesh

Content discovery and the local language content game

On the fourth day of Languages Week, a panel discussed the process of content discovery in the context of regional language content.

The sheer volume of content available keeps ballooning. How can tech and design help the consumers find what they want? This was the topic of discussion on Day 4 (yesterday, October 29) of Languages Week – a series of webinars hosted by afaqs!.

The panel included Anoop Mohan, associate director of technology, Asianet News Media and Entertainment; Kranti Gada, chief operating officer, Shemaroo Entertainment; and Rohit Tikmany, SVP and head of product and growth, Viacom18 Digital Ventures. The session was moderated by Ashwini Gangal, executive editor of afaqs!. The presenting sponsor for the session was ABP Ananda and the powered by partner was Colors Marathi.

Gada began the discussion by mentioning that Shemaroo has multiple language options. Bollywood is still the main genre, but apart from that, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi are the four main languages the company operates in.

“As far as consumers go, factors like taste, adaptability to tech, the kind of phone they own, etc., have a role to play in the kind of content they consume,” she says. Tikmany of Viacom18 mentioned that his company has a group of ‘catchup’ TV shows, apart from ‘Roadies’ and other similar shows.

Content discovery and the local language content game

Mohan of Asianet mentioned that the channel was initially very south-focused. It started with Malayalam, Kannada and eventually, year-on-year, the channel expanded to English, Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and Hindi languages.

“Social media aggregators and affiliates play an important role in the discovery of content, specifically to interpret news which is not limited to a particular genre. Maintaining quality is a challenge when it comes to a site that hosts multiple genres.”

Mohan also said that unlike conventional newspapers, digital publishers don’t have space constraint... “From desktop, 90-95 per cent of engagement on content is moving towards mobile. So, we need to focus on design and put content in the relevant format.”

Gada added that content distribution and recommendation are all about creating a word of mouth marketing piece. The content distribution and the discovery technology on the platforms are two big pieces of the puzzle, according to her.

Content discovery and the local language content game

“The third piece of the puzzle is the influence on the customer – whether it is by word of mouth or other means, like influencer marketing,” she said, adding that if a particular language does not make up more than 10-15 per cent of the content on the platform, it can lead to a feeling of being alienated.

“It’s not just about the numbers, it’s about putting the content in front of the person looking for it so that he feels satisfied.” Gada said that supply of quality content is also a problem, especially in languages like Gujarati and Marathi (as compared to South Indian languages).

Tikmany mentioned that in general, content has a wide meaning. He said that content ranges from text to video to premium to UGC to professionally produced content and so on.

“Content is a very wide spectrum. I'm only going to limit my views to the slice of the spectrum that we operate in, which is binary video, professionally produced long-form content. In my worldview, discovery starts when you have the viewers’ attention. Getting more viewers and attention from existing viewers does not amount to discovery.”

Tikmany added that in the OTT industry, people get caught up with ‘sexy’ problems, like machine learning, algorithms and what not. But he opined that some basic problems have to be solved before moving on to more complex ones. “If someone searches for the name of my show on Google, I have to be visible for them. This also amounts to discovery.”

He added that taking consumer behaviour into account is also important. For example, if someone has opened the Voot app at 8 p.m., it’s likely that he is looking for long-form content.

Gangal, the moderator, wondered if language was being treated as a genre unto itself – with people being shown recommendations across genres for the same language if they consume one piece of content in that language.

Mohan mentioned that when Asianet was in its initial stages, the first step was to create awareness about it, and that was a way to facilitate discovery. “Each and every social media platform has its own discoverability algorithms and are unique. The same type of content does not perform uniformly across these platforms, and that makes discoverability challenging.”

He added that when there was availability of hyperlocal content, there was a potential for hyperlocal news personalisation. Mohan also said that when the volume of data is increasing, the data points that suggest content also need to be engraved in an equivalent manner.

Watch the full discussion here.

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