Road To 2022: The increasing appetite for vernacular content...

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Vernacular Content Ankit Agarwal Do Your Thng

Ankit Agarwal shares how original vernacular content connects with the markets now called Bharat - as they relate with the voice, video and other spoken form of content which presents better regional nuances.

There is nothing new in the world, except the history you do not know. When it comes to the rise of vernacular content on social media, the adage hits the nail on the head. Think of television. When it was new, the content was limited to one language. After the market was saturated, distributors branched out to channels in different languages.

This history is repeating in digital content.

Creators, brands, and businesses are realising that India may consume content in English, or at the most, Hindi, but there is a lot of "Bharat" leftover. This Bharat, with over 120 major languages and thousands of dialects, demands vernacular content. 

For brands or platforms to continue focusing on English as their primary mode of communication is an exercise in futility. Not that English doesn’t work. It does. But it fails to resonate with the bulk of the audience, given that only 10% of the country’s population speaks it. It is why all major social platforms, from LinkedIn to Facebook, localised for various Indian languages and began supporting vernacular content. The user stickiness is an eye-watering 95% when an app is available in a local dialect.

The First Gear 

The emergence of a digitised India puts vernacular digital content in first gear. With increased smartphone usage and internet penetration, internet users from lower-tier cities outweighed metro-city users in India. These people prefer to read, listen to or watch content in their local language, with YouTube stating that 95% of its users opt for regional language videos.

Vernacular content, structured, created, and disseminated in a local language, targets these non-English-speaking audiences. And because it uses the dialect they speak in their daily lives, the content leaves a longer imprint on them. Moreover, it garners more engagement. A glance at the Twitter accounts of an English newspaper like TOI and a Hindi newspaper like Dainik Jagran is proof enough. The latter gets far more likes, retweets, and replies because it uses Hindi for all its posts. 

The Second Gear

The demand shifted to a higher gear when a new segment of users, those who hail from the rural areas of India, showcased an obvious preference for it. By 2023, this segment will account for 48% of all internet users in the country. 

One of the reasons this new segment of users finds vernacular content more reliable is because it captures regional nuances. But it isn’t the primary reason.

That honour goes to videos. Non-English-speaking users find vernacular video and voice a more natural way to interact with technology. Rather than read or type, they’d watch or speak.

While English users are comfortable searching through text-heavy content, this segment chooses to browse using a visual interface like video. It lent thrust to the demand for video content in regional languages. 

Since videos are also the most effective way to speed-walk customers through the marketing funnel, businesses have been heavily investing in them. A recent example is the TVC for Marico's new pack for Parachute Oil. The ad is in Tamil, as is the bottle of oil; both are produced specifically for the Tamil Nadu market.

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The Third Gear

Voice pushed the pedal further on vernacular content. A significant portion of Internet users in India’s interior doesn’t understand the written word, even when it’s in their first language. Voice search became an alternative to traditional Googling for them, giving the search engine giant the impetus to enable voice search and many of its other products in multiple languages. 

Likewise, these users favour audio digital content on streaming platforms. Gaana, a commercial music streaming service, estimates that 40% of its podcast streams are from vernacular content. The audience gravitating towards regional audio content is from Tier II and III cities. The languages leading the way are Bhojpuri, Kannada, Tamil, and Bengali.

The Final Gear 

The first three drivers of regional language content acted as push factors. The final one, an influx of content creators producing content in their default language, became a pull factor. The number of talented creators using a regional dialect is slowly and steadily increasing. So much so that creators who originally relied only on English are now publishing mixed content. 

It is for a simple reason. The traction on vernacular content outpaces English. For the same rationale, brands now want to partner with creators generating localised content. Such collaborations reach a niche market but it is a sizeable one.

Beyond Phenomenal Growth

Bharat is reaching a tipping point—a point where vernacular content will lose its label and merely turn into content. Businesses that haven’t already got on board the regional content bandwagon need to do so now. 

They must reinvent and start catering to a heterogeneous audience that expects content in their mother tongue. There is an inherent benefit to it. Vernacular storytelling is simpler, more accessible and more authentic. Hence, more effective. 

Weave Tone & Culture

However, mere translation of English into a local language doesn’t do the job. The content and the entire narrative have to be adapted for the tone and culture of the targeted audience. It’s when vernacular content, and the campaigns that use them, bring out the essence of the language that they strike the right chord. 

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng authored the article for Social Samosa's #RoadTo2022 Series.

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