Former Bloomberg TV India’s founder & editor-in-chief Govindraj Ethiraj’s 3-year-old data centric news & analysis portal IndiaSpend.com has launched a Hindi version of the site in beta. The Hindi version of the site currently features translated articles from the flagship site, but Ethiraj told Medianama that within a week or two the site will start featuring exclusive content.
— Govindraj Ethiraj (@govindethiraj) March 9, 2015
The primary reason for starting a Hindi site was to reach out to a wider audience, said Ethiraj. IndiaSpend syndicates content (currently free of cost) to leading English newspapers and TV channels such as Hindustan Times, Indian Express, etc. Ethiraj mentioned that they have also had talks with major Hindi publications like Dainik Jagran, who have expressed interested in IndiaSpend’s content but were a bit apprehensive as it was in English, hence the Hindi site. IndiaSpend is currently in talks with Uttar Pradesh-based Khabar Lahariya, which publishes newspapers in certain rural dialects of Hindi including Bundeli, Awadhi, and Bhojpuri among others, and Gaon Connection for exclusive local content for the Hindi site.
Just like the flagship site, the Hindi version also focuses on sectors such as Economy & Policy, Education, Health, Infrastructure, Agriculture and Defence. It also has separate sections on states like New Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. IndiaSpend has plans of launching standalone sites in other Indian languages as well, however that will happen at least 3-6 months down-the-line, according to Ethiraj.
Interestingly, the site uses Indic URLs for each article, unlike some of the other Indic language news portals like Dainik Bhaskar, ManoramaOnline and OneIndia that continue to use English URLs. Kannada news portal Udayavani also uses Indic URLs. This is interesting because there’s still a question mark over searchability of Indic language content, especially Indic URLs. As Greynium Information Technologies (OneIndia) CEO Sriram Hebbar had pointed out during last year’s #NAMA Indic event that searchability is critical for Indic languages to grow in India, because searchability leads to traffic, which leads to revenue.
Besides Ethiraj, the editorial team at IndiaSpend comprises of editor Samar Halarnkar, associate editor Jyothi Shankaran, deputy editor Shijith P. Kunhitty, and policy analysts Prachi Salve, Saumya Tewari, Chaitanya Mallapur, and Abheet Singh Sethi.
The main challenge Indic language content faces online is distribution, according to Ethiraj. He mentioned that there are other generic challenges, but those should rather be viewed as opportunities.
One of the primary challenges faced by online Indic language publishers in general is traffic. During last year’s #NAMA event “The Digital Future of Indic Languages” Udayavani’s Group Editor Ravi Hegde had said that around 40% of the traffic that the Kannada daily gets online comes from Facebook. Hebbar had also pointed out that while 60% of the traffic for their English section comes from Google, for the Indian language sites it is only 20%. Most of the traffic for their Indian language sites is direct, followed by Facebook.
Update: The flagship IndiaSpend site on an average receives over 20,000 unique pageviews every month. In the first two months of this year, it received 31,565 unique pageviews (January) and 36,435 unique pageviews (February).
This is a great move by IndiaSpend, especially so since the kind of data-based government policy analysis articles that are the site’s forte is quite niche and there aren’t many (if any) Indian language publications that publish similar content. It’ll also be interesting to see how the traffic varies between the two IndiaSpend sites.