This article, titled “Why News Outlets are Watching India’s Next Billion Internet Users” outlines the potential market and unique circumstances of India’s burgeoning digital news market well. In designing for a population with such diversity of language and dialects as well as varying rural literacy rates, Ketla has focused on distributing some sort of comic-like news content in the effort to manage the specific requirements of India’s more modest (in comparison to the US’s) average smartphone and network capabilities and aforementioned language diversity.
I’m treating this design challenge as a way to think creatively about how to represent information and content in ways that are engaging, addicting, and not jarring. Assuming that Ketla’s goals are to distribute “locally relevant news” in this illustrative form, I had many questions. Who and what defines locally relevant? Who creates daily content of quality? To me, it seems difficult to sustain quality visual content that is both locally relevant and with minimal requirements of language knowledge.
Inspired by what Darryl Holliday and E.N. Rodriguez created alongside Nortasha Stingley and her story, I decided to approach a more community-based and arts focused approach to distributing engaging content. Here, I am defining local as “domestic” for now, and instead of playing with an idea of “relevance” I will instead just focus on the comic’s ability to captivate. Content will not be of the quick headline sort but instead focus on journalism and local stories instead, perhaps including a Vox-like “Why the” et cetera title. At first, artists will be hired to work with journalists to illustrate stories but the hope is that we will accept visual submissions from the community at some point. If content is too difficult to produce on a daily basis then it will be pushed on a semi-weekly basis or some other more lax publication schedule.
Instead of designing a mobile application, I chose to manage distribution of content via an e-mail subscription service that sends a story of the day with accompanying comic to subscriber’s inboxes. The host website will display the comics in a day-by-day format as an archive for perusing. In e-mail, the action of forwarding is much less of a niche black box than is the “share” action in social media applications which should increase spread. All content will be marked with a simple tag-line to aid new users that received forwarded content to on-board themselves to the service. E-mail is used by individuals of all ages and all income brackets so I find that to be the most acceptable courier.
The aim of this service is to provide people (both in and outside of India) with stories of Indian people and art from Indian artists. Hasit Shah in his research found that app discovery is a difficult falling off point for users with only 25% of surveyed individuals being unable to download new apps independently. The e-mail subscription service is low barrier to entry and also behaves optimally in environments where the data infrastructure can be unpredictable. This also allows those with mobile devices to enjoy the content but also those without mobile devices but access to the internet.
I think it is important to represent pertinent news and facts through stories to make them stick. Vox media does a good job with this in their video production. Their high quality combination of visual arts, graphic design, and journalism provide a new media for the new generation of news consumption. In this same manner I am trying to replicate such a happy unison of qualities in a simple and cheap way.