With a user base of nearly 50 million, Internet penetration is increasing rapidly in India. Though considered to be an urban medium, the Internet is catching up fast in rural areas too. And with people increasingly spreading out to different parts of the globe, the Internet serves the purpose of keeping one in touch with one’s roots. Tapping into this mix of sentiment and technology are the language dailies.
The fact that a greater mass of the Indians live a more vernacular life, offers greater opportunities as well as promises for the language newspapers, and to some extent that promise has already started to show.
As one experienced media planner said, at the end of the day, it had a lot to do with the loyalty one shared with a particular daily. If the options are available, the reader will try to read or have access to it in whichever market possible. Sitting in any part of the world, a reader of say The Hindu or Malayala Manorama, will look for its daily edition rather than being content with any other alternative. Therefore, a traction is already happening and the online versions of language newspapers are being used independently.
Time to add newer verticals
Till some time back, newspapers were launching their online versions as a customary add-on to their main dailies. But today, more and more newspapers are launching newer verticals as well as sub-domains. This way the newspapers are using the online medium effectively to have better control over classifieds. For example, Malayala Manorama launched their matrimonial site targeted solely at the Malayalee community all over the world. Recently, Tamil daily Dinamalar added two sub-domains on cricket and car buy and sell.
Commenting on the online vehicles of Malayala Manorama, Mariam M Mathew,
COO, Manorama Online, said, “At Malayala Manorama, the online edition was never looked at as an add-on feature, but as an integral part of the newspaper business. With more than 450 million pageviews a month, Manorama Online is now a strong brand on its own.”
Though the Internet still continues to act more as a place for window shopping than buying, most of the dailies are entering into tie-ups to promote online shopping as a different domain altogether, thereby extending the market further.
While commenting on the launch of their sub-domains this year, R Rangarajan, Advertisement Manager, Dinamalar, informed that two more sub-domains – jobs and real estate – were on the anvil, while the company was looking at some exclusive tie-ups for its shopping domain. “We do not want to get into some run-of-the-mill shopping. We are looking at some exclusive deals with some of the top-notch manufacturers and discussions are underway,” he added.
Hyper local information centre
The vernacular dailies are definitely growing bigger in reach by creating newer assets out of their online ventures and that is mostly due to the advantage of being the touchpoints of hyper local content. There has been occasions where the dailies have ventured into domains where there are other players doing business at a pan India level. But the mere regional flavour is perhaps helping these dailies have an edge over others.
Mariam of Manorama Online said, “People are looking at niche portals now that have expertise in the local market. Strong regional brands have an advantage on this front compared to sites with pan Indian presence. This is why m4marry, Malayala Manorama’s online matrimonial portal, has about 1.5 lakh active users within three months of its launch.”
Even where the question of interactivity comes, the newspaper’s command over local news and topics gives it a better scope for providing the platforms for communities and blogs.
Though the NRI quotient has been a major factor for most of the vernacular dailies to come up with online domains, with the growing spread of the Internet in India, it is no longer the only driving factor.
Mariam said, “The NRI factor was the reason for our initial success, but now with different content and value additions that are not available anywhere else, our pageviews within India are nearly 50 per cent of the total traffic.”
With a common measurement system continuing to be a concern for the online fraternity and the dream of a paperless world still very far away, most of the vernacular dailies are coming out with varied online options not just for the sake of exploring the hidden treasure, but for doing some value addition for their existing readers as well.
As Rangarajan said, “More than traffic, we are looking at some good value addition to our existing readers.”
Understanding the online market mechanics and treating it with some focused attention is the need of the day for the dailies. “We have been very focused on our approach with regard to Online and have never considered it as just an add-on feature. We have tried to look at our customers and understand their needs and their media consumption patterns right from day one,” Mariam affirmed.
Speaking on the future usage of this medium by language dailies, she said, “Online editions of regional newspapers will not only grow in the future as hyper-local information centres, but will also become the key-differentiating factor. Their strong brand presence in the market will also help in this growth.”