Partho Dasgupta talks about the growing popularity of social media influencers as a news source

Media houses Vs. Influencers who have more reach? Can influencers really compete with media houses? Partho Dasgupta sheds light.

Gone are the days of crazy fandom for Bollywood celebs when posters of Rajnikant used to be doused with milk, or temples used to be made for Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachchan. The craze for Bollywood actors has seen a significant decline as social media has emerged. Why? Well, today influencers have become celebrities. They seem to have a lot more influence over Aam Janata than any media personality. The millennials and gen-z today get their news from social media instead of news channels.

The bite-sized news shorts on social media platforms are much preferred by today’s generation than sitting in front of the TV at prime time. Influencers today are representing each and every field and news media is one field that has seen a transformation since the advent of these influencers and social media. the fact that influencers can monetize their channels to create revenue has made it all the more attractive “today people simply subscribe to Youtubers to get news. The amount of research that some of the Youtubers do for their content is truly commendable and I think this is what people like. They are wary of the overhyped news on TV channels and prefer simple and straight news format by influencers.” Shares Partho Dasgupta Ex-CEO of BARC India and Presently Managing Partner, Thoth Advisors.

With the median age of India’s population at 29, most of the people using social media are young. With 658 million social media users in India in 2022, the number is constantly growing and so is the problem of unverified/fake news. Some of these social media personalities have more following than media houses and cater to the younger population in comparison to the television audience. For example, Dhruv Rathee, who comments on the Indian political landscape through his YouTube channels has garnered an audience of 10 million subscribers. Another news YouTube channel the Lallantop has 24 million subscribers!

Not only in the field of news media, but in general also influencers have made their fan base on social media sites. Virat Kohli has amassed 241.7 million followers on Instagram which makes his reach more than most of the media houses! This just goes to show that celebs today have the ability to grab more eyeballs and talk directly to the audience in comparison to established media channels.

If we look at the top 50 most subscribed YouTube channels 18 of them are from India. Even in the top three, two of them (T-series and Sony entertainment) are from India. This shows the strength of the Indian audience and their reach. Out of these 18, Zee Tv and Aj Tak are the only two news media channels that have made it to the top 50 in the world. The rest 16 are also media houses but mainly for entertainment or music.

“However one thing that needs to be kept in mind is that we are comparing giant media houses to individual creators which seems unfair. Even though they may not be at par with Zee or Aj Tak in terms of followers, the fact that one individual has a following of 10 m shows the kind of reach influencers have,” explains Partho Dasgupta BARC Ex CEO.

Today influencers are more in tune with the needs of the audience and conducting on-ground surveys. Their reach is directly proportionate to their content. If the people like their content their reach increases and vice versa. They also get real-time feedback on their content which helps them in evolving at a faster pace, unlike big media houses. Influencers have two-way communication with their audience which sometimes the anchors in the newsroom lack.

With recent attacks on various media houses regarding their ethics and their loyalty towards certain political parties, influencers seem to have filled the gap created for dissent. It doesn’t mean that these influencers are not corruptible, but their popularity shows that there are people who are consuming their content and supporting them. However, with power comes responsibility.

Influencers must be cognizant of their effect on the population and must dispense information most professionally. In this era of influencer marketing, it seems like influencers hold more power over the audience than traditional news media.

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