There is a new, unlikely entrant in the fight against fake news. Paytm has announced that it will make e-papers available on its app, for free.
Paytm has announced that it will provide free access to e-newspapers of various national and regional media publications on its app. This is part of the company’s initiative to provide a direct channel of authentic and genuine news on COVID-19 and other matters. The service is currently available on Android (handsets) and will be soon be introduced for iOS as well.
Paytm claims it's the company's bid to fight misinformation. It has launched free e-newspapers of Dainik Bhaskar (Jabalpur Group), Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran INext, Punjab Kesari, Mail Today, Mid Day, Jagbani, Navodaya Times, Financial Express, Indian Express, Loksatta, among others, on its app.
Apart from introducing e-papers on its app, Paytm has also been attempting to combat the spread of the novel Coronavirus in different ways. It has revamped its app to make bill payments for utilities much simpler so that users can avoid stepping out. The company is seeking donations for meals for daily wage earners and is working on this initiative in association with KVN Foundation, in addition to attempting to raise contributions for the PM CARES Fund.
Amit Veer, senior vice president, Paytm, states that this is the brand’s attempt to make news accessible to citizens who are staying at home, maintaining social distancing and successfully fighting COVID-19. “The strategy is simple and honest. We want people to have access to genuine news and information. Newspapers are a great source of current affairs. This way users do not have to rely on unverified information being floated on social media,” he says.
"We are at the moment assessing its progress. Depending on the success and need, we will take a call on making this feature permanent. At the moment, we want to ensure that citizens have access to all home essentials, newspapers being one of them,” he says.
“We are becoming a centralised platform to provide free access to a variety of papers that users can read on their Paytm app. We are planning to have e-newspapers of as many as 50 national and regional dailies on our app,” Veer adds. Several publications have reached out to Paytm and the company says it is assessing all possibilities, including publishing magazines on the app, in the future.
The CEO of the digital wing of a leading English daily, whose paper is listed on the app, mentions that there was a distribution challenge at the beginning of the pandemic, and a lot of readers were unable to access a copy of their morning paper. "At times like these, readers want to access credible sources of news. For that, we partnered with a lot of corporates and used their databases to send out PDF copies of the paper.”
He emphasised on the fact that during this time of crisis, the paper did not want to focus on profits. “We’re more concerned with disseminating the right news to the readers and that’s why we’re allowing free access to our e-papers. As long as the crisis is on, we’re going to be liberal about the distribution of our e-papers, even though it comes at the cost of revenue and monetisation for us,” he says.
“We believe in providing credible journalism. The more people have access to credible news, information and a balanced view of things, the better it is. What we see is that some media channels tend to project extreme views, and there’s a lot of fake news floating around on social media platforms and distribution channels. In a typical scenario, I would want the paper’s distribution to happen through my website, but these are difficult times and it's important to put the community before our own business interests, and that’s what we’re doing,” he adds.
He says that when a reader reads the paper on Paytm, or through any digital medium, they have no way of tracking the readership numbers. “These decisions do not have commercial intent, they’re intended for the greater (public) good,” he signs off.