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NewsCode has 350+ field reporters and 18k+ village level entrepreneurs: Apurv Swarup, Co-Founder

12-December-2017
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NewsCode has 350+ field reporters and 18k+ village level entrepreneurs: Apurv Swarup, Co-Founder

NewsCode, an online platform for Tire III- IV towns and villages, aims to be India’s first national hyperlocal news organisation. It was launched on August 15 with a network of over 150 local reporters in Karnataka and 120 local reporters in Jharkhand.

In an exclusive conversation with Exchange4Media, Apurv Swarup, the Co-Founder of NewsCode, talks about his vision for the platform, its unique business model and the need to go hyper-local with the news.

Excerpts:

What is NewsCode and how do you plan to reach out to your target audience?

NewsCode aims to be “As Local As Your Pincode.” We want to enable access to real-time and hyperlocal news which is customised to the granularity of a pin code and aimed primarily at the unaddressed audience of the Tier III-IV Indian towns and villages. We ensure the delivery of credible news that is locally relevant, generated and delivered in respective local languages across various digital platforms.

Why do you feel the need to go hyper-local with news?

A rise in the number of local editions of newspapers over the last decade or so and a rise in the number of WhatsApp groups for local news over last two years are a clear indicator of the significant demand for local news. In fact, the genesis of the idea came from a journalist we met in Dhanbad who charged a monthly fee of Rs. 150, for people to be a part of a WhatsApp group where local news was shared. Needless to say, that WhatsApp group had a full capacity of 256 active members, with a waiting list of about 150 people.

An increase in access to technology, in purchasing power in Tier II-III towns and with saturation in the Tier I markets, these geographies are poised to drive the next phase of growth for the Indian economy.

We believe in responsiveness and engagement as central functions towards driving tangible social impact at a local level. In this effort, our team has taken up issues such as malnutrition, financial literacy, government health schemes and AIDS awareness among others, to not only ensure a conversation about the improvement areas in these sectors but also to create awareness of the unsung great work undertaken locally in these fields.

How big is your network of reporters around India? Which states will first get to use NewsCode?

We are currently present in the states of Jharkhand and Karnataka. Our team has 350+ field reporters along with 18k+ village level entrepreneurs in these states and they focus on issues not covered by mainstream platforms and enable a conversation around socially pertinent local issues.

While aggregating content, how will you check the authenticity of any news, which is one of the prime difficulties news organisations are dealing with today?

We are not aggregators of news. Our teams of reporters generate local content and a robust editorial team comprising of 20 editors, at each state desk, who edit and verify each article published on our platform. The endeavour is to ensure the delivery of reliable and verified news at an adequate pace to the audience. In the age of fake news, this process forms a key tenet of our guiding principle where we believe credibility and respect are worth more than popularity.

What is the idea and vision behind NewsCode? Where do you see it going in the next five years?

We have belief in responsiveness and engagement as central functions towards driving tangible social impact at a local level.

NewsCode intends to be India’s first national platform for hyperlocal news and media for Tier III-IV towns and villages. We plan to expand to a pan India presence engaging 10k+ field reporters as local partners and micro-entrepreneurs each, with an independent P&L responsibility. At full scale, we plan to have an audience engagement of 10M+ active users.

Penetration of smartphones, even in rural areas, has already become much greater than that of Newspapers and TV. If we can bring the same amount of credibility to digital as print or television, people would always prefer to consume news digitally. We are working to bring that credibility to the platform.

The general understanding is that news industry is not very profitable. What is the business model for NewsCode and how do you plan to challenge this notion?

We are also creating a new class of advertisers who have never advertised before due to entry barriers like high cost, accessibility and limited locality exposure.

Also, local cable channels, which used to be a locally run profitable business are dying due to the digitization of cable. We are working towards filling the void left by them.

Our primary revenue model is that of local advertising. Through our enterprise, we are creating a team of micro-entrepreneurs at a district level, each with an individual P&L responsibility, where we partner with them on a revenue share model.

The biggest challenge we face is convincing people at local level to associate with us and keep them motivated about digital media. Additionally, Tier III-IV has its own set of operational challenges which we deal with on daily basis.

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