Benita Chacko

Regional news: how are the challenges different from national news? 

At the first edition of The Future of News Conference & Awards, curated by afaqs!, panellists discussed the business and content challenges of regional news platforms.

It's the era of many mini-Indias - people think global, live local and consume content in their own dialect. In these times, whether it is cinema, OTT, podcasts or any form of content, regional languages are ruling every genre. The blockbuster success of films like Beast, Kantara, KGF and RRR across the country, has been a testament to that. 

However, when it comes to the news genre, regional news always enjoyed immense popularity. Be it for its local coverage, immediacy or simply familiarity. It's now seeing a similar surge on the 'English' Internet as well. Several publications have launched their regional web editions. And, seeing the popularity of online videos, they are also bringing out video content for their audiences. 

Recently, I moderated a panel discussion on the different business and content challenges faced by digital regional news platforms at the first edition of The Future of News Conference & Awards, curated by afaqs!. The panellists included Prasad Sanyal, chief content officer, HT Digital Streams; Rammohan Sundaram, country head and managing partner - integrated media, DDB Mudra Group; and Sudipto Nandy, product head - languages, Times Internet.

We discussed the infrastructural challenges, video offerings, the attempt to reach audiences in their dialects, among other things. 

There is a certain perception about regional news audiences - they are older or live beyond the metro cities. Shedding light on the audience, Nandy said, “The audience is now coming from Tier-II and III cities. We're seeing people coming from towns and villages as well. However, India is still at about 47% Internet penetration. So, there is a lot to do with the infrastructure. Many Gen Z, who are now coming online, are probably first time Internet users.” 

“While there are multilingual readers, we're also seeing people who speak one (native) language, making some impact, in terms of discovery. In terms of consumption, there's a fair share of non-news content that is being consumed. There’s a larger shift towards non-news. Videos and short-videos are also getting consumed more,” Nandy added. 

The national news platforms are also catering to these audiences. But how are their challenges different?

Sanyal said it is particularly challenging for national news publications to build a footprint in an area where they don't have a traditional footprint, and address that market specifically.

“News has always been a local medium. The biggest challenge is in understanding geographical realities in this country, which are very different. Consumption patterns are remarkably different from a Telugu to a Bangla to an English news site. Understanding those patterns and then catering to that audience, is challenging,” he said.

Regional news: how are the challenges different from national news? 

Sundaram said that all categories of advertisers like to be seen on regional platforms. While news on television gives advertisers reach, on digital, it offers impact. 

“Regional news is not about the language in which it's consumed. In the news genre, everything is about politics, followed by crime. 80% of our news is political, irrespective of the medium they are consuming it in,” he added.

You can watch the full panel discussion below:

News18 presents ‘The Future of News’ Conference is powered by Public App. The platinum sponsor is ABP Live, knowledge partner is Nielsen, and live streaming partner is 24 Frames Digital.

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