It is no surprise that today’s consumer market is heavily influenced by digital devices, especially smartphones. From making purchases to being guided on what to wear to even training your mind to believe certain narratives (think of the countless listicles on Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the like), our smartphones have morphed into being our friend, a vendor, a customer, and in some cases, even a mentor.

As a publishing house, this is a bittersweet moment of truth. On one hand, publishers are experiencing an increasing shift from print to digital. On other hand, it gives ample opportunities to the tech writers and journalists to research, discover, and write about the latest innovations.

The Daily Star, the leading English daily in Bangladesh, feels the urgency of the moment to establish its presence in the digital arena with its own digital team, comprised of digital marketers and content creators looking to unlock new possibilities.

This team led The Daily Star to launch its own Facebook Messenger Bot in February 2017, a chat bot that the users could use to consume news on their smartphones. The current Facebook page of The Daily Star has more than 2.5 million followers. More than 30% of Web site traffic on www.thedailystar.net is coming from social media; thus, the messenger Bot definitely has the potential to create a new audience and deeper reader engagement.

Bot users receive daily morning updates, based on preferences they set, and can easily explore more stories. The Daily Star team already has several updates planned to add more functions.
Bot users receive daily morning updates, based on preferences they set, and can easily explore more stories. The Daily Star team already has several updates planned to add more functions.

Like in any other developing countries, Bangladeshi consumers are also adapting to this worldwide change. Bangladesh has the highest 2G coverage rate among emerging economies. The 3G network is also popular in the country, and in total 15-25 million individuals are mobile Internet users (Source: Light Castle). The total number of Internet subscribers reached an astounding 67.245 million at the end of February 2017 (Source: BTRC). From these users, a lot of insightful data can be gained.

For instance, we now see that 70% of Facebook users are between 18 and 34 years old. An important tangent here is also that Bangladesh has a median age of 25.4, and the 8th-largest population in the world (Source: World Bank).

The Daily Star Facebook Messenger Bot currently is a simple tool that gives users a daily update in the morning. Users can ask for news using keywords or the menu built inside the messenger. Based on the interaction with the readers, we will add features in the future.

The bot features the day’s top news stories. Users can swipe to see five news items and go beyond the breaking news by opting to read more stories. Already some of the most popular search items have been tagged with the technology. In the future, we are planning to utilise the bot for publishing secondary and higher school results, or even for recruitment results.

However, the future looks to be more interesting than that, as the team is looking to upgrade the bot and increase its functionality. English is the second language in Bangladesh, so The Daily Star also wants to cater to the needs of users who prefer news in the native Bengali language. The simple user interaction script of the bot also is being developed to create a more sophisticated and conversational tone. This is going to take the experience to another level and be a true example of conversational journalism.

Currently we have an organically grown user base of 1,000 subscribers for our Facebook Messenger Bot service. By providing the bot service and other digital ventures, The Daily Star is planning to stay one step ahead in the game and create a remarkable online presence that caters to the needs of the readers.