Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

BBC to launch first-ever mobile site for India

The rapid growth in online news consumption in India prompted BBC to launch the new service

New Delhi: Public service broadcaster British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) is set to launch its first India-specific mobile site ahead of the general election next month, according to a senior BBC executive.

“What we are launching is a special mobile version for the Indian marketplace and that’s to be in time for the Indian elections. The site will reformat the service with Indian stories and things that are more relevant and prominent to the local market," said Tom Bowman, vice-president, strategy and operations, global advertising sales, BBC Worldwide.

“Of course you’ll still have access to the global news but we have made connections to our other language services like Hindi and Tamil to stay most relevant in the Indian context. India is the first place where we have done this," said Bowman, in New Delhi to attend ad:tech, a digital media and technology conference.

The rapid growth in online news consumption in India prompted BBC to launch the new service.

“India is producing some startling statistics for online news consumption. Our online and mobile app traffic is up 340% over the last couple of years. Fifty-five per cent of affluent consumers actually are looking at their mobile devices more than once an hour according to a recent study we conducted across India," Bowman said.

“Here in India we once had a very strong reputation for radio but these days it looks like delivering information straight into people’s hands with their smartphone devices through apps, etc., is the way forward," he added.

Mobile is also fast becoming a primary business device.

“At least half of these people are using this device for business on a very regular basis. We have seen more than 30% of people expressing a powerful preference for getting their news information on their hand-helds in the first instance. That’s the way they pick up information most readily. Those people with the latest smartphone devices are also engaging in live streaming and viewing video clips. From skimming through content, mobile consumption has become far more in depth," the BBC executive said.

The BBC has extensive plans to cover the April-May general election. “This is the world’s largest democracy with more than 800 million people going to the polls. I have heard that close to 100 million people are going to be voting for the first time; that’s more than the population of the UK. This is also a really important election as far I understand it so the BBC is upping its coverage for that," Bowman said.

Several well-known international television presenters from the BBC, including Mishal Husain and Jon Sopel, are headed for India to help with the election coverage

Other than special reports on BBC news channels, there will be additional coverage on its websites, including BBC.com, and the new Indian mobile site. “Content will include global news, Indian news, features in content that you expect to see and also connections to our Tamil and Hindi services," Bowman said.

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