With two phases of the 2009 General Elections over, the media is in overdrive with news, views, analysis, and party campaigns. Digital media has rose to prominence in this Lok Sabha elections like never before with not just political parties and candidates, but media houses, too, looking to gain maximum mileage.
Key players like Google, Rediff and Yahoo have launched their election special websites to educate and motivate the Indian voters.
Rediff’s website, called India Votes 2009, has been inviting Internet users to upload photographs and videos related to the elections. It also plans to engage college-goers to report on elections in their neighbourhoods. Speaking on the idea behind launching a website on the elections, Saisuresh Sivaswamy, Editor, Rediff.com, said, “Unlike the previous effort in 2004, India Votes 2009 is designed as an exercise in ‘read, view and participate’. There’s a lot of emphasis on participate, which is also what the elections are about.”
On how the Rediff election website seeks to create differentiation, Sivaswamy elaborated, “We have laid a lot of emphasis on ‘view and participate’. We also have a healthy ‘Campus Reporter’ programme, which has received tremendous response, and we are currently tabulating the inputs before we decide on who will report for us from where. Our site is a work in progress, and the other exciting things that we have lined up will be seen soon.”
Google has collaborated with HT Media and five other organisations to put up a Lok Sabha 2009 site that provides election news, MP profiles, candidate quotes and polling booth locations. It also offers a mapping aide for searching for information constituency-wise and has a useful tool to check for one’s name in voters’ list in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Nagpur and Pune. It has also launched a community on Orkut called ‘Voice of Youth’, where it conducts lots of polls and where members discuss and debate on various issues.
A Google spokesperson said, “Google India has launched a website that showcases information pertaining to the Lok Sabha Elections 2009 at one location, 24 hours a day. The website, www.google.co.in/loksabhaelections, is a comprehensive repository of all relevant electoral information that will help Indian voters to study and analyse their candidates, constituencies and election related issues ahead of the Assembly Polls for April-May 2009.”
He further said, “We are not putting a number on it at all. The website is open to all Internet users and registered and non-voters of India, and we hope that many users will find these tools useful and fun. There are many campaigns kickstarted by other organisations that are aimed to appeal people to vote during the elections. However, our aim is to make Indian voters informed about their candidates, constituencies and other development issues.”
Yahoo! India, too, has launched a new site focused on providing users with up-to-date information on the General Elections. Users can access all election updates at elections.yahoo.in. Apart from being able to view the latest news updates, the website lets users share their opinions and updates on various leaders and constituencies during the elections, thus helping them make an informed choice. In order to cater to a large section of the youth, several of whom could be voting for the first time, the special elections site also focuses on educating them on the importance of casting their votes.
Updates on election schedules, expert analysis, online polls, discussion forums, opinions and photos are some of the other key features on the site. As the site evolves, Yahoo! India will also include interesting features like Manifesto Comparisons (a user can compare manifestos of various political parties) as well as comic strips on various news and updates during the tenure of the elections.
Gopal Krishna, VP - Emerging Markets & Acting Country Head, Yahoo! India, said, “The Internet has emerged as a pervasive medium and is playing a significant role in shaping the way people collaborate and interact on topics that matter such as general elections. Yahoo! India, through its special elections microsite, is providing users with a platform to participate in shaping the future of the world’s largest democracy.”
Pearl Uppal, Director - Sales, Yahoo! India, added here, “Political parties and advertisers have come of age and are now actively looking at the digital medium to reach the youth audience, a key demographic for them. Leading political parties and their agencies that have shown keen interest in advertising on Yahoo! to communicate with a highly engaged audience on the Yahoo! network have approached us. This is indeed an encouraging trend in the new age media.”