Availability of vernacular content online; a need and a challenge

While brands and publishers realise language will shape content consumption on internet, factors impeding the growth of vernacular content need to be addressed, say experts

e4m by Sonam Gulati
Updated: May 8, 2014 8:08 AM
Availability of vernacular content online; a need and a challenge

By June 2014, India is projected to reach a whopping 243 million internet users, which is a yearly growth of 28 per cent. It is fitting that more and more regional language content should be created to cater to a variety of segments.

As per a study done by MindShift Metrics, after English, Hindi is the most preferred language for accessing internet in India followed by Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati , Telugu and Bengali in that order. The growing popularity of regional languages is supported by the fact that English speaking audience are fewer in number compared to regional language speakers and with internet penetration on the rise, the people beyond urban cities accessing internet are demanding content in their own language.

All global social media sites have also woken up to the fact that they if they don’t go local in India they might soon lose relevance. While Google launched its Translator in Hindi way back in 2007, and its Hindi portal in 2009; micro-blogging site Twiiter launched its Hindi support in 2011. Today, Google supports languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil among others. A study released by IAMAI earlier this year identified local languages as the single largest driver of internet growth in rural areas. The report found the current local language usage penetration among the active internet users is around 42 per cent. The latest in social media sites to launch Hindi language support is Pinterest. In March this year the social networking site launched a Hindi version.

More demand for vernacular content

All these trends are enough to make advertisers go local as well. Many brands from all sectors are now indulging in more and more local language content on digital especially social media. Brands like Maharashtra Times, BBC Hindi, AAP Kerala and mostly all publishers are now using social media to deliver content in local languages as well.

Talking to exchange4media, Prashant Dixit, Global Business Development at Vserv.mobi, a mobile ad network shared that more and more brands are turning to regional language content on mobile as well. “Initially the internet was English only medium and then came Hindi and later it took a long time for other languages to come on the web.It further took a lot of time for advertisers to adapt their content to vernacular languages. But on mobile the journey has been comparatively shorter,” he added. He further shared that Vserv has over 150 apps for regional content and more than than 35-40 regional magazines are getting appified or digitized. “Second rung of languages where the numbers are smaller are also getting attention. Our statistics clearly show that we are adding more users in vernacular languages than in English languages,” he added.

Zafar Rais, Founder and CEO - Mindshift Interactive shared that as per their data, the vernacular sites are growing at 56 per cent yearly and English sites just by 11 per cent  which is a clear testimony to the demand of regional language content. He further shared that IndiBlogger, a popular Indian blog portal, hosted 350 Hindi blogs in 2010 which has now gone up to 1861. 

Technology plays a big dampener as of now in cracking the regional language content code. There are no handsets available which makes internet browsing in vernacular languages a dream. Add to that the fact that bigger brands have not yet gone all out in terms of customized content in regional languages. While all vernacular language publications are going digital, the area of original content or ads remains untapped.

Dixit agreed that there is a challenge in creating the content at present. “The challenge is more in terms of ecosystem rather in term of acceptability of regional content by advertisers. While advertisers include regional content in their media plan the unavailability of regional content and more agencies coming in is a problem. The need here is agencies to start making more regional language creatives,” he added.

Rais stated that the challenge also lies in identifying the audience. “Advertisers and publishers need to identify specific target groups. One should also look at consumer base they have offline v/s online and customize content accordingly,” he added. He further said that the handling of regional audience requires a different training.

While 3G and 4G penetration coupled with further cheaper phones will take access to another level, content creation is a challenge that needs to be resolved at publisher level. Simple things like brand FAQs, product descriptions, etc. are never found in local languages. While matrimonial and education sectors have been using local languages since a long time the CPG category players are also coming to fore now.
What we need now is more vernacular sites like Raftaar.in and IndiBlogger.in that create an ecosystem for brands to also advertise in local languages. As Dixit pointed out, brands are ready and have already accepted the need for vernacular in their media plans, it’s all about the ecosystem.

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