Facebook is reaching out to journalists to use their platform more aggressively.

Many influential Indian journalists are going big on Facebook and here is why
Flix Monday, September 07, 2015 - 16:15

If you follow important news organizations and pages on Facebook or list ‘news’ as one of your interests, there is a high possibility that you have been bombarded with sponsored posts featuring media celebrities, asking you to ‘Like’ their page or follow their updates.

You are not alone. There has been a consistent push to boost the presence of influential celebrity journalists and other personalities on the social network. Interestingly, The News Minute has learnt that Facebook is reaching out to journalists to create a Facebook page, or promote existing ones, aggressively.

The trend seems to have started with Shekhar Gupta, who has recently launched his company Mediascape, with digital content as an important aspect of his growth strategy. For the past couple of months, ads have appeared on our timelines promoting his Facebook page. Just recently Barkha Dutt’s Facebook page is also being promoted on our timelines. Dutt has quit her full-time position at NDTV to start her own digital media venture.

“I have been on Facebook for a while. I found I was using it less than Twitter. Facebook reached out and explained the unique advantages of their medium. I promised to check it out. And since then I have had a lot of fun doing so. It's a calmer space than Twitter and lots of interesting feedback. Time to reflect as well. And ofcourse more characters than 140! Facebook has decided to promote a number of public personalities they explained, including journalists, film stars and others. So it's a win-win. They amplify our presence as people to watch out for, and we are enjoying engaging on a different platform as well,” says Barkha Dutt.

We have also seen pages of Rahul Kanwal and Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today, and others like Karma Paljor of CNN-IBN, being promoted aggressively. Kanwal, however, has been among those who have been active Facebook for years now.

"The gorilla in the social media universe is Facebook. Every month 125 million people log onto Facebook in India. This is 45% of the total internet user base in the country and roughly five times the number of users registered with Twitter." Rahul Kanwal had written in Medium.  He had also given 10 tips to his contemporaries as he felt that "Very few Indian journalists had been using Facebook as a serious platform for crafting and sharing their professional work." 

This falls in line with the social media giant’s global strategy of wanting to make it the most sought after destination for reading and sharing news. The New York Times reported earlier this year that “Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.” Instead of their platform being used to generate traffic for other sites, Facebook wants to be the platform itself, to get a larger share of advertising revenue. You can read more about this here. And in India, Facebook seems to want more and more influential voices on their platform.

For now, it seems to be working for journalists too. The results are good. Gupta has more than 3 lakh followers on his FB page now. Kanwal’s followership has surged to nearly 6 lakh. Rajdeep and Barkha are catching up, with 2.3 lakh and 1 lakh followers each.

And journalists like this because, as one of them we spoke to said, the captive readership of some of these pages is higher than the entire readership of some newspapers.

“Journalist are starting to understand that they have far more readership on digital media than in mainstream media. Times of India’s daily print circulation, as of June 2014, is 2.9 million with a readership of 7.6 million. Today it has 7.2 million followers on Facebook and 5.2 million on Twitter,” says Pierre Fitter, a former print and TV journalist who now heads social media for a digital ad agency.

And there are some perceptible differences between the experience on Facebook and Twitter.

“Facebook is a more patient medium,” says senior journalist Shekhar Gupta, “it is not very abusive and I get healthy responses from readers. When I get the time, I like to sit down and respond to some of the messages.”

He also says that he finds Facebook to have a far younger audience. “It is also a much larger audience too, and I see during my talks that many young people are connecting with me over Facebook,” says Gupta.

Facebook provides better technology too. It is a better platform for long-form content and a great place to share videos, especially because Facebook wants to promote videos on the platform. Facebook has more than a 110 million users in India, Twitter has about 22 million users. “Twitter is a great place to break news, instant opinion and analysis – but for content sharing, Facebook is a better platform,” says Fitter. Additionally, Facebook’s ad-targeting, which allows you to choose and pick the exact kind of audience you want to reach out to, is a great advantage for content creators.

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