January , 2018
Social media is changing India, but not fully
14:39 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

A recent report published by the Reuters Foundation in collaboration with Oxford University reveals that India has emerged as one of the fastest-growing markets for US-based technology companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter. India’s Twitter users currently number at 26.7 million, and as of July 2017, Facebook reported that India overtook the United States to become the platform’s largest audience by country with a userbase of 241 million active users.

As more users, especially among the younger generation, spend time on social networks, they also attract advertisers and marketers. Although advertising revenue from print and television continues to be far higher than that from digital advertising, the latter is growing at double the pace. It accounts for a revenue of `76.9 billion, which makes up 15% of the total advertising revenue. It registered a growth of 28% from 2015 to 2016.

In contrast, the television and print industry registered growth rates of 8.5% and 7% respectively – well below the overall rate of growth in the advertising market as a whole. The slowdown is attributed to a lack of subscription revenue, as well as advertising revenue.  A significant percentage of digital advertising revenue is being spent on social media platforms. Almost all brands have a Facebook and Twitter presence and over 24% of the brands surveyed by EY India in 2016 reported that they spend more than 16% of their digital marketing budgets on social media.

In this increasingly mobile and platform-dominated environment, news media organisations no longer control all the main channels of communication. Earlier this year, a study revealed that two-thirds of American adults got news from social media (Shearer & Gottfried, 2017). Search engines and social media platforms are becoming an increasingly important way to get news in many European countries; in some cases digital intermediaries are being more widely used than the websites and apps of news organisations themselves (Newman et al., 2017). One recent survey of 36 markets across the world found that two-thirds of respondents identified distributed forms of discovery like search and social as the main way in which they get news online

While similar research is yet to be done on Indian audiences, it is clear that an increasing number of urban, English-speaking audience, as well as a small but growing number of rural, regional language audience (IAMAI-Kantar IMRB, 2016) are getting their news online and are spending a significant amount of time on social media applications.

However, conservatism still prevails in the Indian media. The Jagran group, for example,  which has more than 200 editions  and boasts of circulation in crores (and not lakhs as other print media houses do), still believe in the  innate strength of the print media. Their owners said in a recent interview that they are ‘secure’ as a print publisher for the next 25 years in India. Their strength lies in the multiplicity of editions (particularly in Uttar Pradesh) where each Jagran edition matches with the changing dialects of Hindi in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, a dialect of Hindi changes after almost 25 kilometres. The print editions emphasise the ‘local’ sentiment, culture, and language and that is how they thrive. The neo-literates (and the literacy rates are rising in India) prefer reading the newspapers in their own dialects.

The Indian media scene remains a little different from the global changes  - and we need to watch it keenly -  though the social media habit  is fast catching on.

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