Rediff.com has launched LocalNews, a local news service built on top of its RealTime News Search, which indicates that the company is increasingly going hyperlocal. Rediff LocalNews essentially takes news from partners from its RealTime News search, and showcases it in on a map, organized by location. The discovery of news is through search and the map: users can zoom into specific locations on the map, and Rediff has done well to try and ensure that the interface isn’t too cluttered, since information from towns can overlap easily and appear cluttered. For example, it’s only on zooming thrice that I was able to see the news for the town of Patnagarh.
Still, we do think that Rediff can do a few things to improve the interface: perhaps, instead of the news appearing overlapping the map itself, there can be a column on the left which displays the news updates, alongwith recommending news for nearby towns; when you click on a new location, the news gets updated. This is cleaner and also allows Rediff to introduce monetization into the news feed – through its local deals initiative – Rediff Deal Ho Jaye.
What’s worth noting here is that news isn’t necessarily categorized by city or the town in which the news has originated, but (it appears to us) by the fact that the town or city has been mentioned in the news story: For example, a news story that has been published in Delhi, but is about the Bokaro Steel City, will find a mention as a part of news on Bokaro.
This is because news publishing in India is still focused on main cities and towns and it is only over the last 5-6 years that one has seen print publishers, especially those like Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, go deep into smaller towns and cities with local editions; still, and many towns are still only serviced with national news, often a day late, and hence there is scope for disruption from digital editions, especially on the mobile. The challenge, though still lies in news reporting, not aggregating, and addressing the return on investment in setting up local news operations. For example, there is no news on Reckong Peo, the headquarters of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh.
Also, for a company that has so far focused on making it’s sites both Internet and Mobile friendly (the rationale behind its homepage redesign), Rediff’s LocalNews doesn’t appear to be mobile friendly. We thought that something like LocalNews would be designed with a mobile-first approach.
For an example of how to execute on hyperlocal, Rediff should perhaps look to LocalBeat, a Bangalore based hyperlocal mobile applications company that has aggregated local news, deals, events and directory listings rather well, in an easy to use interface which allows you to look for news, deals, events etc, once you’ve chosen a location. It also has a citizen journalism component, which allows users to upload local information and issues via the application. Our review of LocalBeat in its previous avatar Taazago here.