It was a little over five years ago that my wife and I decided to start an alternative news medium. We were exasperated by reading the daily news in India that was largely negative and sensational in nature.

It got us thinking: What should news do to you? Should it shake you up in horror? Should it leave you disgusted? Or should it also make you learn? Should it make you contribute? Should it enable you to bring about a change?

With that idea, we decided to start our own news site, but with a difference. We decided to report only positive news. And by positive, we didn’t want it to be preachy or opinion-filled, we wanted to talk about ideas that have influenced communities, we wanted to showcase people who have brought about a change in their areas, we wanted to talk about the forgotten art forms of India, celebrate the successes of organizations that have improved the lives of many children— the list continues to grow with every passing day.

(from left) Dhimant and Anuradha Parekh

Start small, but start

Everything listed above didn’t really come to us on that fine day. What struck us was what we had to do — start a website of positive news. We started as a filter blog on Blogspot, linking to articles from various publications as and when we found them. But this too became difficult, simply because there were very few articles out there in other publications that fit our “positive criteria".

Pivot, of course

So we pivoted to covering news ourselves. We, as a team of two, went around Bangalore, the city we live in, to discover and know more about individuals and organizations. We covered these folks, captured photographs and put them up on our blog. We circulated the stories on Facebook and via email.

Get the ‘Network Effect’ going

We pushed our content to as many people as we could — family, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues and so on. The idea was appreciated by all and, more importantly, shared by many. So we continued to work on it persistently for six months. And then, one person mailed us, volunteering to join us on this journey. And she had a journalism background too, which neither one of us did. We were thrilled.

Going from 2 to 25 in 5

This one person joining in gave us the ability to cover a different city. It gave a different writing style to the articles. It gave us perspective. We continued to push content to our network, and then one more person joined in. This person brought in a different mindset and so our articles became more varied. Our readers started loving us more. And so more of them spread the word. And then more writers wanted to be a part of it. And thus we went to 25 writers in five years. Twenty-five writers who write for the passion of spreading positive news. Twenty-five writers who believe that we can bring about a change.

Amplify conversations

We identified early on that a large section of our readers liked us and wanted to share about us. So we got on to Twitter and Facebook early on and invested a lot in having conversations with our audience all the time. This helped us get a lot of leads for both our articles and writers. And then we focused on email. We hooked up MailChimp (an online email marketing solution) and used their fantastic drip email (they call it autoresponders) facility to ensure that we run our new readers through some of our best articles before they start getting our daily alerts. We also ensured we sent them a mail asking them to talk about us with their contacts — adding in a paragraph of content which they could just copy and paste in their mails. It quickly became one of the top 10 sources of reader traffic.

Be at it

We have done this, and continue to do this, for over five years now. The reason we remained persistent — we heard from every reader that they absolutely loved what we were doing. This was not a one-off from friends and family, this was from every random person who talked to us. They all loved it. And hence we decided to Be. At. It.

We’ve covered some amazing people and ideas and we continue to be surprised every day. Some of our best stories have been about the extraordinary effort that some people have put in to bring about changes.

There are thousands of such stories covered in the past years and we hope to continue to grow this movement. We hope to show that news can do a lot more than what it does today.

Anuradha Parekh and Dhimant Parekh are the founders and co-editors of The Better India, a Bangalore-based digital news website that concentrates on positive news, happy stories and unsung heroes. This article was first published in August on www.thebetterindia.com.

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