by Apurva Venkat

Bennett Coleman leveraged user generated content through app : Dilip Kukreja

Nov 14, 2017
Application ManagementIT Management

This is how Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL) created a platform for citizens to submit their stories. n

The BCCL group started an initiative called the Print-Digital-Print Innovation. One of the initiatives was a closed loop engagement with its readers. For this, the organization created a mobile app, called Citizen Reporter. On the app, readers can submit stories and photos of concerns they have in their locality.

The announcement of the app was made in the print edition (newspapers). Stories were submitted by readers on the app (digital) and after a round of checks by the editors, they were published in the print edition (newspapers).  The project was started three years back and has had multiple releases till now.

“We were looking at ways to create digital engagement with our readers for all our print editions, both in English and Indian languages. The idea was to create an engagement platform that would also enable our readers to drive a social change. The “power of change” is in the hands of the citizen, says Dilip Kukreja, VP–Enterprise Architecture, Solution Delivery and Digital Innovations, Bennett Coleman & Co.

 Open content submission with user identification

Bennet Coleman & Co created the Citizen Reporter app, to allow citizens to share stories, pictures and videos, under various categories such as civic, social, crime, law and order, and so on. The app was made available on all major app stores.

The app is integrated to the content management system (CMS)/editorial software tools/online news sites of the Times Group. The app allows easy content submission, and user recognition (capture user profile image). It keeps updating the reporter by giving notification of actions by Times Group on the content submitted, and acts as a hub that coordinates publishing of selected stories in print daily along with the name of the citizen reporter. It also enables users to share stories on social media. All websites of the Times Group have a separate tab called Citizen Reporter, where the stories are published. This creates an online presence for the reader as well.  

 Flurry of user generated content and social impact stories

The app enabled the Times Group enhance reader engagement leveraging user generated content and social impact stories. It also helps in government-public-media partnership to solve basic issues of the citizens. Currently the app has a total of more than one lakh users across TOI, Maharashtra Times, and Navbharat Times, and has generated more than 1.5 lakh stories from citizens.

 Leveraging cloud, catering to low bandwidth areas

The Times Group had two main challenges during the implementation of the project. “On the business front, this was a new idea that was digital and a cloud based platform. So conceptualization and piloting it was tough and time consuming. Once pilots were successfully executed, the editorial teams were able to resonate to the idea and actually see the real levels of citizen engagement. This was now exciting for the brand and editorial teams!” says Kukreja.  

 Another major challenge was to try and make the app work even in a 2G network so as to ensure participation from areas with slower networks as well. “We are currently working on ‘CR Lite’ which would be device agnostic, would have web access and social login features,” added Kukreja.