Digital news consumption surges 41% in India

(Image credit: Future)

The surge of bad news that flooded the print media outlets across India following the Covid-19 lockdown appears to be presenting digital content providers just the thrust that they required to replace the newspaper with news apps seeing a 41% spike in usage in recent times. 

A research report revealed that news websites and apps saw a spike in both the number of users visiting the sites and the time they spent on them, suggesting that the content people found online was more sticky and presented avenues for social sharing.

A joint study by Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) and Nielsen India found that users spent around 40 minutes per week tracking news on their smartphones in the week of March 28 to April 3, up from 27 minutes in the pre-Covid sample period (January 13-February 2). Overall, the news consumption on smartphones has grown 34%, the report said.

Another interesting aspect to the surge in the consumption of news on digital platforms is that the demand has been driven by smaller cities and towns, and there is a marked preference for videos over text updates.

While this is a welcome development for digital news media organisations, it seems more trouble for the many print organisations in India, which this week saw a plethora of layoffs and salary cuts.

With the distribution network completely knocked out due to the lockdown and ad revenues plummeting dangerously, print outlets fear that the corona epidemic may have driven the final nail in their coffins.  

Shakir Ebrahim, the founder of YouTube-based digital news and analysis portal BISBO India believes that the figures pointed towards the acceptability of digital news over print medium. He said people now seem to have fully adapted themselves to consuming news from digital platforms. "As far as online video news is concerned, we see a broader audience that's looking for it now", he said.

Earlier this week, Google News Initiative launched a “Journalism Emergency Relief Fund” that would assist thousands of small, medium and local news publishers globally. The parent company said the funding would be open to organizations producing original content for local communities during the Covid-19 crisis and will range from $1000 to tens of thousands of dollars for larger newsrooms.