India's mobile connection numbers are sensational (a billion!) what truly captures the dichotomy is the fact that the proliferation of digital has hardly heralded the demise of traditional media. Even as print numbers tumble all over the world, in India, newspapers are still booming! The key in this case has been languages. As per the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), India's print publications grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 5% between 2006 and 2016 -- mostly in Hindi and other vernaculars!
What's more: not only is the news becoming more accessible to the public but it's also coming closer! Local news in the local language appears to be a winning combination, and once you add digitisation to the mix, there's a real scope for community champions to emerge.
A publication that typifies this trend is the Khabar Lahariya. Founded in 2002 in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, this 8-page paper with a circulation run of 6000 reaches 600 villages in India's most populous state. It's estimated weekly readership: 80,000!
However, the Khabar Lahariya is hardly just print, it also has a thriving website. And a look at its structure will tell you all you need to know about its formula.
Sections are called Taaza (fresh), Zilla (9 in total), Rajniti (Politics), Auratein Kaam Pe (Women at work - a hark back to Khabar Lahariya's origin as a rural women-run publication), Khel (sports), Halka-Fulka mood (Light mood), Jawaani-Deewani (Youth), Khas (Special) and Radio (closer to a Podcast). All in all, Khabar Lahariya is quite a stunning exemplar for how far rural Indian communities have come in the last decade or so.
Clearly, Khabar Lahariya is not just an institution that empowers rural women and connects rural youth using digital nodes… it’s also about a story of emerging India; a digitally empowered India.