Bust­ing a Bias

In its lat­est ad film, Dailyhunt, a plat­form for news in re­gional lan­guages, busts the be­lief that English is more cred­i­ble than ver­nac­u­lar lan­guage.

The Brand Reporter - - EDITORIAL / CONTENTS - By Abid Hus­sain Bar­laskar abid.bar­laskar@afaqs.com

The por­tal busts beliefs that English is more cred­i­ble.

Six­teen hun­dred di­alects, 30 widely spo­ken tongues and 22 of­fi­cial lan­guages, that’s where the dig­i­tal mar­ket seems to be head­ing. A new ad cam­paign ‘#HarBhashaEqual’, by mo­bile­based news ag­gre­ga­tor Dailyhunt, tries to put more mus­cle be­hind the in­creas­ing shift to­wards ver­nac­u­lar con­tent.

Even the print medium seems to be rid­ing the ver­nac­u­lar wave. While global trends sug­gest a de­cline in the cir­cu­la­tion of news­pa­pers in coun­tries such as USA, UK and Aus­tralia, In­dia has seen a steady rise. Ac­cord­ing to the Au­dit Bureau of Cir­cu­la­tions (ABCIn­dia), cir­cu­la­tion in­creased from 3.91 crore copies to 6.28 crore be­tween 2006 and 2016. Ma­jor growth was clocked by ver­nac­u­lar medi­ums like Hindi, Tel­ugu and Kan­nada among oth­ers.

In­ter­net giants like Ama­zon and Google are do­ing their fair share too. Ama­zon is busy teach­ing its vir­tual as­sis­tant, Alexa, Hindi and re­gional lan­guages such as Tamil, Tel­ugu, Kan­nada, Malay­alam, and Pun­jabi. Sim­i­larly, Google is also train­ing its Google As­sis­tant to un­der­stand com­mands in ver­nac­u­lar lan­guages.

A Google-KPMG re­port from 2017 heav­ily stresses on a forecast that the In­dian-lan­guage in­ter­ne­tusers are set to grow to a whop­ping 534 mil­lion by 2021 at a growth rate of 18 per cent CAGR (com­pound an­nual growth rate). The re­port fur­ther sug­gests that as a fu­ture trend, in­ter­net plat­forms will move to­wards con­tent ag­gre­ga­tion.

afaqs! Re­porter spoke to Umang Bedi, pres­i­dent, Dailyhunt (former MD, Face­book In­dia and South Asia) to find out more about the com­pany and its lat­est cam­paign ‘#HarBhashaEqual’.

In Bedi’s words, the cam­paign was rooted in mul­ti­ple re­al­i­sa­tions of bi­ases within so­ci­ety around or against lo­cal lan­guages; the bias ver­sus English. “We’ve all had per­sonal ex­am­ples. Many within our team, who are more com­fort­able with the lo­cal lan­guage, felt bi­ased against as peo­ple have not taken them up with the same sense of cred­i­bil­ity, au­thor­ity or achieve­ment be­cause of their lan­guage,” Bedi states.

“The cam­paign aims at high­light­ing our in­built bias for English and against ver­nac­u­lar lan­guages; it seeks the sup­port of In­dia to seek lin­guis­tic equal­ity within the coun­try. I think that is re­ally the essence be­hind the ‘Har Bhasha’ cam­paign.”

BREAK DOWN OF DAILYHUNT’S READER BASE

“In terms of Dailyhunt’s reader base, we have over 100 mil­lion ac­tive read­ers. Of that, 60 mil­lion use the app while the rest use our web­site. English read­ers con­sti­tute less than 10 per cent of our base.

Our reader base is in line with the lin­guis­tic dis­tri­bu­tion of the In­dian pop­u­la­tion (1.2 bil­lion peo­ple); 32 per cent read Hindi which is spo­ken by 530 mil­lion peo­ple. It’s fol­lowed by a clus­ter of South In­dian lan­guages spo­ken by 250 mil­lion In­di­ans. Next are Marathi and Gu­jarati, spo­ken by 150 mil­lion, fol­lowed by Ben­gali and Oriya, spo­ken by 100 mil­lion and the rest in­cludes lan­guages such as Nepali, Bho­jpuri and Urdu.

Our lan­guage port­fo­lio al­ready cov­ers 1.1 bil­lion of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. We don’t see any new in­clu­sion as of now. The av­er­age time spent, per daily ac­tive user, is 25-30 min­utes, more than dou­ble the time spent on any other plat­forms in our genre.”

ROLE OF AD­VER­TIS­ING

“We don’t do too much ad­ver­tis­ing. 40 to 50 per cent of users come or­gan­i­cally, which means they come through in­stances like re­fer­rals from friends and fam­ily or they come through links on ar­ti­cles which peo­ple might have shared.

It is easy to ac­quire users; it is very hard to keep them on the plat­form. Our last ad, a TVC — In­di­ans ka news ka daily dose (2017), was more of an ex­per­i­ment. We haven’t re­ally done any TV, out­door, ra­dio or print cam­paigns since. We are a tech plat­form; our fo­cus is on AI and ma­chine learn­ing which plays its role in user re­ten­tion.

‘#HarBhashaEqual’ is not about driv­ing traf­fic to Dailyhunt, it’s about driv­ing the right sense of aware­ness within the ecosys­tem that an is­sue like this ex­ists. Get­ting back to the cam­paign, it did re­mind us of the days when we used to value an im­ported US or UK-made prod­uct more than In­dian coun­ter­parts.

In the film, real achiev­ers are cou­pled with im­per­son­ators. Both, the real and the fake speak on stage, con­vey­ing the real per­son’s achieve­ments. While the real speaks in a na­tive, ver­nac­u­lar tongue, the fake speaks in English. Later, when asked, a sig­nif­i­cant part of the au­di­ence sit­ting off-stage, de­clared that they found the im­per­son­ators (English speak­ers) more con­vinc­ing and cred­i­ble.

More­over, with ads, Dailyhunt and In­shorts, apart from turn­ing out to be ma­jor plat­forms for con­tent and news con­sump­tion, might ac­tu­ally turn out to be a new seg­ment of ad­ver­tis­ers them­selves.”

CHAL­LENGES FOR AN AG­GRE­GA­TOR PLAT­FORM

“The chal­lenge is not unique to Dailyhunt and is two-fold — first, the num­ber of de­vices that are com­ing into the mar­ket. There are about 350400 mil­lion smart­phones, which is grow­ing by 30 per cent ev­ery year and the in­ter­net in In­dia is largely a mo­bile base. In a coun­try of 1.2 bil­lion, there are only 400 mil­lion smart­phones. The smart­phone growth has to hap­pen even faster. The macro ecosys­tem chal­lenge of adding more smart­phones has to be dealt with.

Se­condly, while the ecosys­tem grows, we have to have more lo­cally rel­e­vant con­tent. Peo­ple are in­ter­ested in their lo­cal con­tent, in their lo­cal lan­guages.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

“We are mak­ing a mas­sive pivot to­wards video con­tent, re­design­ing the en­tire ap­pli­ca­tion and head­ing to­wards a Dailyhunt 2.0. It ful­fils our mis­sion to be the largest Indic plat­form which is em­pow­er­ing the next bil­lion In­di­ans to so­cialise, dis­cover and con­sume con­tent that is not only in­for­ma­tional but also en­ter­tain­ing. It has to span across mul­ti­ple gen­res like astrol­ogy, Bol­ly­wood, cricket, di­vin­ity, and life­style. Half of the con­tent con­sump­tion on Dailyhunt is news and the rest is en­ter­tain­ment, life­style and sports. We are tak­ing all of it and adding video in the same flavours. Video is per­va­sive and helps in cross­ing bar­ri­ers like lan­guage and lit­er­acy.” ■

The cam­paign seeks the sup­port of In­dia to seek lin­guis­tic equal­ity within the coun­try.

“We are mak­ing a mas­sive pivot to­wards video con­tent, re­design­ing the en­tire ap­pli­ca­tion and head­ing to­wards a Dailyhunt 2.0.” UMANG BEDI

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