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The Lallantop raises the bar for language journalism in India

The Lallantop, a digital Hindi news and media brand, was launched in 2016. It quickly gained popularity for its distinguished style of political reporting and the liberal use of new-age and colloquial language. Neha Gupta has the story

The Lallantop is the world’s first digital-first original news brand with more than 24 million subscribers on YouTube, with an average 0.22 million views per video and over 280 million monthly views. On Facebook, the brand clocks in about 100 million monthly views. 

A subsidiary of the India Today group, The Lallantop’s motto is to be Real, Raw and Relatable. 

Saurabh Dwivedi, the founding editor of The Lallantop, joined WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media India conference to talk about the rise of language journalism in India and offer insights on some of the best brand practices.

Know your audience

During the Uttar Pradesh (the most populated state in India) assembly elections in February 2017, The Lallantop conducted a massive ground reporting exercise. The company was in a nascent stage and had neither resources, nor the training for such a huge venture. “What we did have was intent,” said Dwivedi.

“To truly connect with the people on ground, you need to leave your power position and take authentic interests in their lives and vocations. Don’t start bombarding them with political questions – who will you vote for? It’s a secret ballot, why will they tell you?” asked Dwivedi. “However, if you talk to them genuinely, they will share their concerns with you.”

Reporting live from the ground where emotions ran high, the brand connected with the audience directly, which resonated with viewers and proved successful. Building on this triumph, the brand used this reporting format in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and the 2019 general elections, establishing its credibility and leadership in the field.

Elaborating on the need to be real and raw, Dwivedi quoted an incident where the team found out about labour disparity through one of these conversations. “A female field worker in UP was earning Rs 250 (€ 2.8) for a job that paid the male field worker double that amount. This is a great way to know the nuances,” said Dwivedi.

The Lallantop’s most viewed video at 70 million views was unplanned and spontaneous. In December 2017, having just wrapped up the reportage for the Gujarat elections and with two days left for the final polling, Dwivedi and his team were chatting with the locals at the Sabarmati riverfront.

“Two girls begging for alms aged 9 and 11, narrated the story of how they saved another girl in a semi-consciousness from men who were trying to molest her. Two young girls were narrating the realities of India’s days and nights. This video was raw and unplanned,” said Dwivedi. “Go and talk to people. Listen to them. They will give you great insights about your democracy, economy and politics.” 

The three S formula

The secret to The Lallantop’s success that Dwivedi recommends to publishers is: 

  • Be clear (Spasht): Refrain from writing about a topic or a person unless you have a 100 percent clarity.
  • Make it simple (Saral): Make your content jargon-free, in their language, and loaded with examples your users can understand.
  • Make it interesting (Saras): Make your content as engaging as possible. “This is difficult and has no fixed formula,” said Dwivedi. 

The three Cs

According to Dwivedi, The Lallantop team doesn’t follow the stereotypical three Cs of business, that is, competition, company and customer. “Until the time journalists and publishers consider their readers and viewers customers, the true connection with the audience will be missing,” said Dwivedi. Instead the brand follows a different set of Cs: 

  • Character: While developing any piece of content, the character of it must shine. 
  • Content: Keep creating content. Rely on data, public feedback, new storytelling techniques and new technology.
  • Continuity: If your brand has launched a content offering, it is imperative to keep evolving. Neta Nagri, one of the brand’s most popular shows, is published in segments that last 2.5 to 3 hours each. Every episode garners a viewership of 1.5–2 million. 

“We tried to decrease the duration to 90 minutes, but it did not work. When we started this programme in 2019, it was a two-person show. Now, we have 7-8 guests and have introduced several new segments,” said Dwivedi.

(By special arrangement with WAN-IFRA. This writer is a multimedia journalist with WAN-IFRA.)