Last Saturday night,I got a chance to meet some of my target audience when I went to the Indian Night, organized by Ohio University’s Indian Students’ Association. The occasion was to celebrate the Indian festival Diwali.
The ballroom at the Baker Center, at Ohio University, which holds 350 people was packed to capacity. In fact, the association spokesperson said that they had managed to sell all the tickets way before the scheduled end-date of the ticket sale.
The event was attended by a number of students from OU and Indians who are part of the Athens community. It was interesting to see what the Indians connected over and what does this diaspora community consider as inherently Indian.
There was Bollywood-song and dance. A lot of it. There were a few hybrid dance performances, such as Bharatnatyam mixed with belly dancing and a few traditional Indian raaga performances. The loudest applause of course were for the Bollywood dance performances. Even the American kids who are born and brought up here, put up performance of Bollywood dance.
This only prompts me to feature Bollywood even more prominently than I thought I would. Though I am a firm believer that Bollywood is not the only cultural symbol we have, but seeing the reaction of my target group towards Bollywood, I have to think otherwise.
Cricket is religion in India. It is the most popular and the most watched sport in India. The final match of the 2011 World Cup Cricket series (in which India played Sri Lanka), was watched by 67.6 million viewers over four hours. In contrast, the 2010 FIFA World Cup final was watched by only 1.5 million people in India. For most Indians who come to the US, a common grievance is they never get to see enough cricket here. And it is not just about watching cricket, culturally people also devote time to discussing a game and are very opinionated about it.
Cricket combines the idea of nostalgia; the feeling of staying connected to ones roots and ties in with the ethnic identity of the group that is my target audience.
So to give my audience more value for their time and money, I will prominently feature cricket-related news, as and when there is a tournament that is on. But considering there are scores of other news sites that are doing it, and actually will be doing it way better than me, I need to give them something extra or different.
I will again delve into the realm of nostalgia, and I am thinking of adding YouTube videos of some historical cricketing moments of the Indian Team. The audience is already aware of it, but somewhere curating these goose bump-inducing moments will help them refresh their memories, and serve as that add on to the current news. I can make it a weekly feature.
Some of the moments that I’d ideally curate is the nail biting finish of the Natwest Series, which is famous for the them captain’s reaction to the win.
The cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan go back a long way and curating a moment form these matches (where of course India won) will go down great with the audience. And Indian cricket is incomplete without the batsman Sachin Tendulkar, so I’d definitely have best moments of his matches.
One of the things that anyone who visits India talks about is “colors” and “contrasts”. The country is vibrant when it comes to imagery in terms of these two things. Colors in India can be associated to almost anything- clothes, religion, cities, public transport- everything. And the contrasts come from the move towards urbanization, the existence of tradition in a rapidly growing industrial environment. To visitors when this can be a little too much to take it, through the eye of a discerning photographer these come out as timeless images. It will be stupid not to capture this vivid imagery of India from my audience. Images such as this one which document the celebration of the Indian festival Diwali, or this one which was shot in a mosque in New Delhi, India, or this one which captures the Hindu ritual of the holy dip in Kumbh Mela; will be curated into a “Photo of the day” or “Photo of the week” section- depending on the availability of the images.
I think organizations like NYT and Daily Beasts have tie-ups with several photographers, wire services and stock images companies such as Getty from where they get their pictures. But since I do not have these tie ups and may not be able to subscribe to them till my app/website starts paying for itself, I will actually source the images from publications with well stocked photoblogs. Though, I will check on the legal issues of sourcing the images.
Looking for further places to curate India-related news, I think I will pay special attention to the India-related blog section of newspapers such as New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Since these are newspapers that are already published in USA, their India-related blogs have a diaspora skew to it already. Hence curating stories that are published here is going to be of interest to my target audience by default.
New York Times’ India-related blog is India Ink– Notes on the World’s largest democracy. This blog has some issue-based stories from India, all done in the light of recent events in India. The Wall Street Journal’s India related news blog is India Real Time– The Daily Pulse of the World’s Largest Democracy. It has in-depth coverage of issues that are in news in India.
A third news site that I would like to follow to curate news from is The Guardian’s data blog, which has some really awesome info-graphics on India, such as this interactive map on how many people die due to building collapses in India, will be of interest to my audience. Though, The Guardian does not do an info-graphic on India very often, I should keep an eye out for it, and highlight the same on my site whenever one appears.
While I look more into curating stories, I think I would devote at least one to two news stories per day on what we typically call trend stories. Stories that would most likely make it to the anchor of a daily broadsheet.
Some of the trend stories that I spotted, and I think will make a good read for my blog are such as these. One interesting and informative piece that I got on Buzzfeed, on the growing rental saree market in USA. The other two I got from an online paper firstpost.com, which has a section dedicated to the diaspora. One news is about the suicide among the Indian Americans, and the second one is about the trend of buying diamonds among the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs).
I think putting up these stories will further solve the issue of finding news stories that are of interest to the two sub-sets of groups among m audience that is the Indian diaspora. One group which is comprised of people of Indian origin who born and brought up in America, and hence are more “American” in their world view. And the second group are people who were born in India but then emigrated to USA. These trends stories are likely to interest both the groups.
How to get the word out there? A good way to do that will be to get the influential diaspora to spread the word around. I have been looking at diaspora forums, and found some forums like this one that has listed some of the prominent members of the diaspora in USA.
Sree Sreenivasan is listen here, and myself have been following him on the social media networks for some time now. He is a faculty in the Columbia Journalism School and teaches social and digital media there. He has around 53,000 followers on Twiter. If I can get him to tweet about my app, I think I’ll get some people interested in my app. He can act as my sneezer. Why will he help me, well because he himself is interested in social and digital media (obviously), but that apart in 2010, he helped create DNAinfo.com, a Manhattan-based news site that was named one of the six hottest news startups by BusinessInsider; and he is also the co-founder for the South Asian Journalist Association.
But the point is to get not just him to endorse me, but to get the likes of him endorse me. Selecting the sneezers is important, because all of them should not be professors, there has to be a mix of people, so that the message reaches the larger audience.
Recently we got to present our entrepreneurial ideas to a group of industry practitioners who vetoed our ideas and offered suggestions for our projects. One of the suggestions that was given to me was to call my site a news curation service instead of a news aggregation site. This may be a good idea because, I’m not merely aggregating the news, but instead I’m using my journalistic skill and news judgment to pick and choose the stories that serve the best interest of my target audience. Also since I’m only going to provide the 10- most important news of the day, it is like curating the artifacts.
The other interesting suggestion that was offered to me was I should have something of value for my audience that relates to their lives in US. Hence I looked at some of the other community newspapers and found they all have some section that is related to immigration news – reforms and laws. So going by this trend I’m going to pay special emphasis on immigration. Immigration will literally become a beat for me, and whatever happens in that beat will be there on the site. I’m going to try and make section interactive by adding info-graphic.