ABP Network grows its audience through hyper-local community segmentation

By Shelley Seale


Austin, Texas, USA


At the ABP Network in India, the focus is growing local audiences through community outreach rather than targeting mass audiences.

As one of the top 10 publishers in India, with more than 100 million active users, the ABP Network has a prominent presence in the digital media and television in multiple Indian languages. It is growing its footprint across India with a clear focus on hyper local content that connects with readers.

ABP publishes in English and Hindi, along with Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Bangla, and Marathi — reaching audiences across India and beyond in many languages.

Sanghamitra Mazumdar, digital editor/English at ABP Network, spoke to INMA members on Tuesday about what drives the organisation and how they go about growing their digital audience.

Sanghamitra Mazumdar speaks to INMA members about ABP Network's digital reach and audience strategy.
Sanghamitra Mazumdar speaks to INMA members about ABP Network's digital reach and audience strategy.

Community outreach

The broad approach of targeting a vast, mass audience as one segment — the “push” method — is not how ABP approaches things. Instead, they focus on creating multiple, hyper-local communities and then growing audiences in each of those communities — the “pull” method.

“Pull is when an audience, people like you and me, know what they want,” Mazumdar said. “I’m getting pulled into the content because I’m interested in that particular kind of content. I’m searching for that content. I’m looking for it.”

ABP’s community outreach approach consists of:

  • Reaching out to select groups of people at a time.

  • Tailor-made, interest-based content.

  • Hyper-local issues.

  • Deeper, meaningful, sustained engagement.

Though this is a “pull” approach, it still fits within the “push” targeting method to reach those audiences who might not be searching for ABP content, Mazumdar explained.

“It becomes easy for the recommendation engine to carry this content out to like-minded people,” she said. “It is easier for search engines also to have this tailor-made content served to the reader.”

Rather than going for the “one too many” reader approach, ABP narrows down its scope to reach the right, more niche readers with meaningful content for their interests.

Their segmented approach covers many topic areas:

  • News

  • Entertainment

  • Sports

  • Lifestyle

  • Personal finance

  • Astrology

  • Spirituality

  • Religion

“All of the content is being produced keeping the select community in mind,” Mazumdar said. “We are very closely watching these communities and engaging with these communities through our hyper-local content and events.”

The ABP content strategy

Mazumdar said that of all the topic areas, entertainment is the top category that works best for ABP in terms of reaching their communities. Second is sports, followed by personal finance.

Various niches such as entertainment, sports, and personal finance make up ABP's content strategy.
Various niches such as entertainment, sports, and personal finance make up ABP's content strategy.

These topics — along with smaller topic areas such as lifestyle, religion, and education — make up the content strategy, which consists of text articles along with a heavy video presence.

“We have a video section, which is called Uncut,” she explained. “On Facebook, these videos do really well. My data says we are on the top position in terms of interaction on Facebook video across our platforms.”

One of ABP’s newest content initiatives is Google Web Stories in English (they were already being done in Hindi). The English Web Stories have gotten a very good response, Mazumdar said.

“We started it because we knew our readers have an appetite for this. They will come and consume, and it is really working.”

She stressed that this local community approach does not mean ABP isn’t chasing numbers or doesn’t focus on general or breaking news. She shared an example of a traffic spike on May 2, 2021, which was the assembly election results day in India.

ABP covered the election, and on that day traffic spiked up to more than 23 million users — a huge number, Mazumdar said. This provided the team evidence that the general public has trust in ABP when it comes to journalism coverage of important news.

A human-centric approach

“I know a lot of our peers are in the volume game,” Mazumdar said. “But we don’t really want to get into the volume game because we at ABP really believe that it might not lead us to fulfilling our objectives.”

Instead, their philosophy is that their content should be human-centric, providing high value for those local communities who depend on ABP for stories that matter to them.

“They might not come back if we are driven by volume-driven pieces.”

This approach includes:

  • Speaking directly to the users.

  • Making sense to the readers.

  • Being communicative.

  • Having the right tonality.

  • Providing the right sets of information.

  • Perspective building.

  • Developing a world view.

  • Creating a deeper bond with the audience.

“The end [goal] is always to build a bond with the readers,” Mazumdar said. “Our regional channels have a much deeper bond because they go for really hyper-local issues and subjects.”

As an example, she mentioned stories revolving around a fire that took place in Kolkata in September, the day before a big festival was starting. ABP provided constant coverage that updated, which really resonated with readers in that area who were eager for up-to-date information in real time.

Providing deep content on very local happenings is a vital part of ABP's local coverage.
Providing deep content on very local happenings is a vital part of ABP's local coverage.

The coverage didn’t bring in huge volumes of traffic numbers, Mazumdar added, but that was not the goal. The goal was to provide relevant coverage to that community of readers, to show their audience that they care and to strengthen that bond. 

Likewise, ABP set up a mini-site for the festival itself, providing everything their readers needed to know about it including news, a virtual tour, contests, discussion areas, and videos.

Special connect areas

ABP also builds communities around special topics, such as sports. Their Wah Cricket channel provides content on all things cricket, and the entertainment channel Saas Bahu Aur Saazish (SBS) has been going for 18 years. Various celebrities participated in the SBS 18-year anniversary.

“It’s been immensely popular,” Mazumdar said. “Everything that we put out about this particular programme, it is loved by the readers because it has its own community itself.”

She went on to discuss how these initiatives fit together into the overall ABP audience strategy.

“All of the technology and infrastructure and various marketing tools that we have at ABP maintain our segmented approach. Everything that we do is done keeping in mind these particular target communities that we have to reach. We have to have a special connect with them, a deeper bond with them, and that’s how we have managed to get numbers.”

Sports coverage, particularly cricket, is part of ABP's local content strategy.
Sports coverage, particularly cricket, is part of ABP's local content strategy.

Numbers speak

While they aren’t focusing on volume or chasing mass numbers, their segmented approach pays dividends, Mazumdar says, and grows their numbers in an intentional way.

“It works, because at the end of the day the numbers show it isn’t just volume that’s important.” If you’re engaging with your readers, she continued, that provides both growth and more loyal audiences.

In January 2020, ABP Network had only around 30 million active users. Over the past 18 months, that number has grown to 110 million and they have doubled their user base. The network has climbed from No. 27 on Comscore in January 2020 to No. 10 in August 2021.

“Only [focusing on] volume is not rewarding,” Mazumdar said. “Readers are your capital, and we have to bank on them.”

About Shelley Seale

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