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How India’s demonetisation can help publishers & content marketers

The Indian government’s November 2016 announcement on demonetisation had sparked significant impacts to various sectors across the country, and the publishing industry is no exception. While much has been said about the potential downsides of demonetisation, the opportunities this new policy presents to publishers and content marketers both in the short and long run should not go ignored.

In the short run, with so many new changes shaking up India, news flow has drastically increased and guidelines are quickly being updated in response to demonetisation. Publishers are tapping into this steady stream of content to engage audiences, and we’ve seen huge spikes in publishers’ page views recently. Not only is content readily available, publishers have also secured eyeballs – the effects of demonetisation are felt by every individual, and audiences are paying extra attention to the news now to stay updated on latest happenings.

More significantly, demonetisation has ushered in digitisation, setting off a ripple effect that publishers and content marketers can cash in on to grow their business in the long term. Here are three major shifts that we predict will happen in the coming year:

Growing smartphone adoption
India is Asia-Pacific’s fastest-growing smartphone market, and is currently home to 220 million smartphone users, mostly comprising people from urban and semi-urban regions. Conversely, feature phones are more widely utilised in rural India, dominating the market with over 50 per cent share as most people from rural areas prefer feature phones to smartphones.

The government’s push for a cashless economy will see a rise in digital payment via mobile apps, and penetration of smartphones is set to increase in across India, including rural India. Small traders and farmers who have traditionally shied away from smartphone usage will likely start acquiring and using smartphones to make payment at local shops and kirana stores. In the coming years, smartphone adoption is therefore likely to skyrocket, facilitated by India’s increasing affluence and the rise of the new 4G enabled smartphones, especially amongst millennials.

This shift to smartphones means publishers will not only have more opportunities to engage consumers, but also reach new segments of consumers beyond their existing core base. Marketing and advertising tactics will also change to suit the medium of mobile, and publishers will soon be welcoming more ways to monetise through content.

More diverse uses of the Internet
In rural India, the Internet has primarily been used as a medium for search and social interaction, especially through Facebook. The move towards digital money, however, will introduce people to more ways to use the Internet through a plethora of digital payment options, from e-wallets and apps to online transactions and e-banking.

Prime Minister Modi urged during his radio programme Mann Ki Baat for people to “learn how this digital economy works”, and the government has launched an extensive social media campaign to promote cashless transactions. These awareness initiatives, coupled with increasing adoption of payment apps such as Freecharge and Paytm, will boost people’s understanding of Internet usage beyond just social and search.

This in turn helps build an ecosystem and optimal digital environment within which publishers can thrive. More publisher apps are likely to pop up, offering audiences content in local languages and leading to growth in vernacular page views.

New avenues for publishers to scale
With 342 million Internet users (27 per cent of India’s population), India surpassed the US to become the country with the second-largest number of Internet users, according to a 2016 report by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. This isn’t just restricted to urban areas – a Boston Consulting group study predicted that rural Internet users will grow from 120 million in 2015 to almost 315 million in 2020.

As the effects of demonetisation sweep across India, Internet adoption is set to accelerate even faster. Against the backdrop of digitisation, consumer behaviour is changing and content consumption is gradually shifting online. This has opened new avenues for publishers to scale especially in vernacular content, which is why we’ve seen publishers beefing up their content writers team and generating more content to engage users.

While the immediate effects of demonetisation may not seem optimistic, the benefits of demonetisation will surface in time, as smartphone and Internet penetration grows across India. The time to relook business models and break into the digital space has never been this ripe. Demonetisation presents a timely opportunity for local publishers and content marketers to cash in on to stay relevant and competitive in today’s digital economy.

Sandeep Balani

Sandeep Balani is Director Business Development, India at Outbrain.
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