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 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.”
“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