Social media-savvy party to metamorphose its mouthpiece for volunteers into a newspaper to reach out to all voters. Somesh Jha reports
For a party that is relying so heavily on the social media platforms -- making a footmark on Facebook, Twitter and even the Android market -- it seems the Aam Aadmi Party only seeks to reach out to the technologically savvy audience.
However, the party has carved out a plan to widen its ambit to around 30 lakh households of New Delhi, from where it will fight the Assembly elections in December, in the traditional manner -- through the print medium.
The AAP, which has been running their in-house fortnightly mouthpiece named 'AAP ki Kranti' has now gone live to the citizens of New Delhi as the winter sets in and election atmosphere grips the city. Launched in late June, the party fortnightly mouthpiece, in Hindi, was meant for the volunteers initially, however, the party has now decided to widen its ambit and extend the newsletter's reach to all Delhi citizens.
The party has applied for registration of newsletter with the Registrar for Newspapers in India and expects to get approval in a few days. "We did it so that we could retain the name and no one else uses it for commercial purposes", said one of the party representatives.
But for a party with such a wide reach on social media platform -- over 4 lakh likes on their official Facebook page and more than 1.5 lakh followers on Twitter, why is there a need to hark back to traditional ways? "Our surveys show that 60 per cent of the capital state still have no access to social media and depend on print medium," said Gopal Sharma, Editor-in-Chief of AAP ki Kranti, who earlier worked as the Chief of Bureau at the Amar Ujala newspaper. The fortnightly basically spells out the activities of the party on a weekly basis.
And what do they charge? Citizens' support and nothing else. They neither accept payment, nor carry advertisements of any sort. "We are not a commercial paper. Our aim is to make people aware about the party and spread information," said one of the volunteers who did not wish to be named.
The eight page mouthpiece has four pages of colour print and Arvind Kejriwal on the masthead. It raises ground-level issues, lists the activities of the party, upcoming events and gives information on the party's candidates.
"A lot of people still rely heavily and trust the print medium and we cannot afford not to cater to them," said one party representative.
Already four lakh newspapers have been printed, the party claims, and they are getting a huge response. "We get calls from our supporters who request us to take money for the paper and also from advertisers but we refuse," said Sharma.
The party makes use of a low-cost and low-quality paper, which the party claims is even cheaper than distributing posters and using banners. The cost behind one newspaper is Rs 1.50, hence, if 30 lakh fortnightly are circulated till the Assembly elections in December, then its printing will cost Rs 45 lakh to the party.
AAP has already collected around Rs 17.50 crore through donations and will utilise those funds for this. Door-to-door distribution will be done with the help of their long army of party volunteers.
The team associated with bringing out the print version comprises of 15 people, who basically are either journalists or write heavily on social media platforms like blogs. The citizens can also access the e-version of the publication through a separate fortnightly website.
The publication may also be printed in English in some of the constituency such as New Delhi where the demand for English medium print editions are high, Sharma said. However, a decision in this regards will be taken up by the party members later on.
"Once the elections are over and we are not in a position to utilise the party funds, we may think of charging minimal fee to the citizens which covers only the print cost," said the editor-in-chief. Whether this will work well for the party or not that is a different question, but the party is surely going all out and wants to leave no stone unturned to make a mark in the upcoming elections.