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How Indian language news websites are becoming an unmissable proposition for brands

With over 9/10ths of the Indian audience on digital media consuming Indian language content, explores the opportunity language news websites offer to brands

With digital news websites in regional languages doing well on their engagement, the platforms have become a preferred destination for brands looking at targeted advertising campaigns.

Manas Gulati

Citing the KPMG Google report, Manas Gulati, Co-founder and CEO, ARM Worldwide, said that vernacular language users are more likely to respond to an advertisement than an English language content consumer.

As per the report, the Indian internet user base is likely to touch 735 million by 2021. Indian language internet users are expected to grow at a CAGR of 18% to reach 536 million by 2021, while English users are expected to grow at only 3% reaching 199 million within the same period.

“With mobile internet getting accessible across segments and in the low-income bracket as well, it has given access to the masses in India which converse and consume content in the local language,” he said.

Gulati of Arm Worldwide says that there is a higher sense of trust placed on local language ads. He said, “Ads in the local language are able to create a sense of trust and make the audience believe that the brand understands them.”

Fortune Oil, which advertises on regional digital news platforms like Loksatta and Anandbazaar, also quoted from the KPMG Google report saying that over 9/10ths of the Indian audience on digital consume Indian language content.

“The regional digital news platforms open up communication channels with regional audiences that don't consume English content. To reach this audience effectively, it becomes imperative to leverage regional channels that allow for vernacular content to flourish,” said Sanjay Adesara, Media Head, Adani Wilmar.

Some of the regional platforms have a very wide reach and are a big fit for regional play in their respective territories. Gulati suggests that they should be used to reach out to wider and specific audiences who are comfortable in their native languages.

Rohit Jangra

Stating that communication and creative plays a pivotal role on vernacular digital news, Rohit Jangra, Group Head, Media Planning, iProspect India, said, “While mainstream media is for a universal advertising campaign, vernacular news is platform and location-specific. For example, in 2019, Parle Agro signed Tollywood superstar Jr. NTR for their Brand Appy Fizz as the brand ambassador in South India and Salman Khan for universal advertising campaigns.

Preetam Thingalaya

Preetam Thingalaya, Director of Media, Mirum India, also believes that ‘Multilingual India today is the real India’.

“Reports say that most Indians prefer Hindi as a language to search. There are also reports which claim Hindi to be the most preferred language when watching online videos. And there are studies which mention that most Indians prefer content in their native language,” he said.

Suraj Nambiar

However, Suraj Nambiar, Managing Partner and National Media Head, Tonic Worldwide, said that a lot of national brands do not give vernacular digital media much importance since they are lower in the media funnel or their content does not relate to the online channel.

“Digital vernacular news media do well with local brands and brands that are looking for an international audience. For example, for a builder whose projects are in Kerala, it will make sense to advertise in a Malayalam newspaper. But it also connects with the international NRI audience,” he said.

On these digital regional platforms, brands are generally looking to target the audience that prefers the communication in their language.

“This audience is indigenous. Also this audience is maximum in the age group of 35-44 followed by the 25-35 brackets. This is a more serious audience with money spending capacity, which in turn creates more chances for brands to increase brand salience in case of FMCG, Finance, Consumer durables and more,” said Gulati.

Fortune aims to target females in the age group of 25-45 years. “The target audience for regional digital news platforms varies across geographies. However, the ideal target segment identified is the 25-45 age group. This benefits our brand as we aim to target women of that age group,” said Adesara.

Jangra of iProspect said that it makes sense for any brand with a specific geographic presence to target the audience with language-specific creatives. He said, “It will help the brand build a better connection with the audience and make the product more relatable.”

Nambiar of Tonic Worldwide said that these digital platforms can target both local and national brands. “They should be able to analyze and segment data from different markets and show value to the planners and brand managers,” he said. “The priority is given to the channel that has a closer link to the TG who consumes the online content along with brand relevance.”

Vernacular platforms remain low on reach

However, when it comes to reach, regional digital news platforms do not have it easy. While these platforms provide extremely high engagement, they take a back seat when it comes to reach. But Thingalaya of Mirum said, “If the partner portal tick marks two of the 3Rs- Reach, Relevance and Resonance-I believe we should be good."

Even Nambiar of Tonic Worldwide says that these platforms lose out on this metric as they are pitted against a category where the reach is very high. “However, time spent and sharper audience targeting is high on these platforms and categories like BFSI and real estate have seen good returns on their metrics from such platforms,” he said.

Jangra of iProspect said, “Reach for vernacular news platforms may not be high if compared to mainstream English digital but it helps in reaching out to audiences in the language they understand well. Moreover, it becomes easier for the brands to build consideration within the audience in specific geographic locations.”

While Fortune also has the same concern with reach, they say that regional websites provide an opportunity to tweak communication based on the geography.

“The overall reach of regional digital news platforms is smaller in comparison to English digital news platforms (15M pageviews for Loksatta vs 120M pageviews for Indian Express, an English platform and the parent company of Loksatta). Having said that, working with a national digital news platform restricts communication tweaking based on geography and reduces overall effectiveness of the communication. Instead, creating a mix of regional digital news platforms allows for sizable reach along with opportunities to curate content specific to the channel's target audience,” said Adesara.

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