Meeting the Expectations of Millions as They Go Online on The Election Day
The 2019 General Elections could possibly be the most important Election event ever, in India...
As India advances towards the general elections, this year, it will be the world's largest democratic exercise, and the biggest test ever for digital news publishers. India has close to 900 million eligible voters, and an estimated 500 million have access to the Internet. The country now has around 450 million smartphone owners against 155 million in 2014, when India went to polls the last time.
From a demography point of view, what makes the general elections interesting is the role of the internet and the new age millennial voter. There are also a few important factors and trends that are dictating the scene:
- Indians are now going online for news and gathering information about what is happening around the world. According to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2017, released by the Readership Studies Council of India, as many as 40 million people read newspapers online, which is directly proportional to the growth in the household ownership of mobile phones, which had also gone up from 79% to 91% between 2014 and 2017.
- The Emergence of the New Age Millennial Voter, which would constitute hypothetically 100 Million first-time voters, when the 2019 elections come around. It is not just that the numbers are humongous but also their characteristics. New Age Millennials are often better informed, consume a lot of information online and are more tech-savvy than the rest of their family.
- Inexpensive Smartphones and 4G Connectivity are expected to change the way election campaigns are conducted and political parties are likely to focus more on video content to catch the attention of the online, tech-savvy and first-time voters.
So, what does all of this mean to the digital news publishers in India? Definitely, more visitors to their website and mobile apps on the election day. More eyeballs to be engaged with interesting and interactive content and ultimately more opportunities to monetize the audience as they spend greater mindshare on their digital channels.
Let's Have a Look at What Elections Results and Content Mean for the Online Publishers:
Back in 2014, NDTV.com recorded the highest traffic on an Indian website in a single day, during the 2014 general elections. NDTV.com registered over 13 billion hits on May 16, the day of the election results, a new record at that time.
NDTV's digital properties also set other records, logging 11.6 million unique visitors and 117.7 million page views across all platforms, the highest ever in a single day. The number of concurrent users hit an all-time high of over 500,000. Over 200,000 concurrent users watched the video on their website.
Fast forward to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections, December 2017. The event saw reporters talking to "AAM JUNTA" on the ground, sending live updates to the newsrooms, posting instant updates on websites and apps. In the studios, anchors and panelists involved in all-day long debates, some of which were streamed live on their linear channels.
During the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections in December 2017, the Akamai platform saw similar results and surges in traffic. This is an aggregate representation of the statistics across the top 10 publishers on the Akamai platform.
Taking the trend forward, 2018 also saw similar surges in traffic during a few events like the Karnataka Elections (May 12, 2018) and the Assembly Election vote counting day for the five states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana (December 11, 2018).
The table here is representing the total hits and total volume of traffic delivered in a single day, across these events, respectively:
With the results of the recent assembly elections announced on December 11, 2018, there were three trends that were visible and are of utmost importance to the digital news publishers:
- Sudden Spike in Traffic on Their Digital Platforms: An average of 7x increase in the total traffic for the top digital publishers on the Akamai platform, as compared to the previous day
- Video Content Consumption Around Events: An aggregate consumption of 0.5 - 1 PB of video traffic consumption in a single day, across the top digital publishers on the Akamai platform
- Mobile-Driven Content Consumption: Almost every event saw the web v/s mobile split to be approximately 50% - 50% and 40% - 60% for the December 2018 assembly elections in the five states
So, What Does All of This Mean to the Digital News Publishers?
The general elections in 2019 is going to be one of the most significant political events in the country and is sure to raise the curiosity and interest of every strata of the society. As we march towards the Election Day in 2019, digital news publishers should start getting "Election Ready" and watch out for the points below:
- As the tendency to consume news online increases with deeper internet penetration, inexpensive smartphones and 4G connectivity, combined with millions of voters, the elections are definitely going to drive a lot of visitors towards online news websites and mobile apps
- Digital news publishers would have an opportunity to attract more traffic to their digital properties with innovative campaigns that engage the users with informative, interactive and valuable content
- With opportunities come challenges. The publishers will have to brace themselves to manage the huge traffic spikes on their website and apps while ensuring a smooth user experience, all along
- Live streaming and video-based content would definitely give digital publishers an edge to ensure a high-quality viewing experience, which will be critical to retain viewership
- Lastly, but most importantly, the publishers will have to ensure that their digital services are always available for viewers so that their brand reputation does not get impacted
In the upcoming chapters of this blog series, we will discuss about what the online audience actually expects, what those expectations mean in terms of technical challenges and how digital publishers can prepare themselves for a crucial event like the 2019 General Elections.