Ruchika Jha

Morning papers or prime-time TV? The diversity of India's regional media preferences

Regional publishers dive into the evolution of digital news, blending cultural nuances with cutting-edge engagement to secure loyal audiences.

Just as India's states and their nuanced cultures vary, so do their regional media landscapes. These platforms enjoy popularity, catering to diverse audiences with distinct preferences.

In some states, people still prefer reading newspapers in the morning, while others favour consuming news on television. How do these varied preferences shape the ever-evolving media landscape, and what does this mean for the future of digital news?

The same was discussed at the inaugural edition of afaqs! The Festival of Indian Languages (FOIL). The panellists comprised Neha Tandon, head - revenue, ABP Digital; Suhaib Husain, digital business head, The Printers Mysore; and Vignesh Vellore, co-founder and CEO, The News Minute. The session was chaired by Benita Chacko, assistant editor, afaqs!

Chacko opened the discussion by asking how regional factors such as language, culture, and political dynamics influence the challenges and opportunities faced by the organisation. Vellore shared that The News Minute operates from the southern part of the country and focusses only on the five southern states.

“If one looks at Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, a lot of the digital or media platforms have some kind of political affiliation, therefore creating a challenge. There are no independent websites as such apart from big names,” he said.

He thinks that Kerala is a mature state when it comes to news consumption. People there read extensively in their vernacular language, Malayalam, compared to English. Karnataka, on the other hand, is a cosmopolitan state at the end of the day. So you can get a wide range of topics you can read about and the people there are more into reading about civic issues.

“Language, for an organisation like ours, is extremely challenging because we have got five states with four different languages. The biggest challenge for us is that we cannot afford to have separate news desks for Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam,” said Vellore.

It is generally observed that not many big brands advertise on regional news websites or channels. However, Tandon had a different take on what kind of brands advertise on ABP Digital, a digital news platform operating from West Bengal.

She shared that there are luxury brands that advertise on its platform because they understand that reaching regional audiences requires publishers and the power of regional languages.

“Whether it is high-end mobile phones or luxury watches, these campaigns are different from one language to the other,” she said. Since Bangla is the second most spoken language in India and the seventh most spoken language in the country, she feels that it is important to examine whether advertisers are focussing on it.

Tandon further added that this thought process is now changing. “As far as revenue is concerned, language becomes an important part of the company as it is a publisher in several languages. Advertisers need to pivot and become partners.

It is impossible for an advertising agency or a brand to have people with expertise in 22 languages. This is what we should bring to the table for advertisers as this will help us generate revenue,” she commented.

Audience engagement and loyalty

In today's rapidly evolving media landscape, audience engagement and loyalty have become paramount to sustaining the relevance and influence of news organisations. Emerging independent media platforms are capturing people's attention with their content strategies and digital presence.

It has now become important for established entities to leverage their longstanding credibility while embracing digital transformation to offer interactive, timely, and quality content. Husain highlights that brand lovers and loyalists are always going to stick around because they believe in its (brand’s) work, the content it produces, and its authenticity.

“Keeping ad revenue aside, if you want to look at subscriptions, that is the audience that you should go after. It is a small amount. But if you can convert that user and make them pay for your content, their loyalty is going to be with you for a longer time. I always believe that subscription is a game of inches. You have to take small steps, understand if your audience is willing to shell out money and pay for content or stick with ads,” he said.

He explained that a loyal audience is still vacillating between ads or sticking with the brand, and this is the audience where some diversification is needed.

Watch the full panel discussion below:

afaqs! FOIL 2024 Media Partner:

Community Partner:
The Advertising Club Bangalore

Networking Partner:

Associate Partners:

  • Jagran New Media

  • Manorama Online

  • TimesNow Navbharat and

  • Voxxy Media

This is the era of ‘Bharat’—an India where regional audiences have become more important than ever. Anandabazar Patrika, the leading Bengali daily in India, has always set a benchmark for how journalism should be done in a regional language. A brand that has become a habit and a matter of pride for Bengalis, Anandabazar has been a stalwart for over a hundred years. Anandabazar has always stood for innovations and disruptions. It has partnered with thought leaders in art, culture, and literature to foster the growth of the Bengali language., the digital arm of Anandabazar Patrika, carries this rich legacy of its parent. As a digital-first organisation, it is revolutionising content creation in regional languages. It aims to disrupt age-old practices and embrace the new. The Festival of Indian Languages (FOIL), as an initiative aims to explore the power of local languages in mass media, which as an idea resonates with the same values and ethos that Anandabazar stands for. 'FOIL' will try to paint the linguistic patchwork that keeps together the magical concept of India. proudly partners with afaqs! in this endeavour.

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