[App Fridays] Social video app by Inshorts team makes hyperlocal information Public knowledge
What happens when citizen journalism meets social media?
It results in the launch of homegrown location-based social network Public, which enables people in Tier I, II, and III cities to record and share happenings around them and provide real-time local updates.
Launched by news curator Inshorts, the hyperlocal information app has also become the second most downloaded app worldwide, as per Sensor Tower.
Within seven months of inception, the app, which has a rating of 4.4. stars, has been downloaded more than 10 million times and is one of the first Indian apps to reach the milestone at such a fast pace.
Launched in December 2019 with an initial investment of $5 million, the video-led social app competes with the likes of TikTok, YouTube, and others. According to the company, as many as a million videos are being created every month on Public.
The company said the Public app had seen a 100 percent rise in its user base - from 15 million active users to 30 million active users – amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This indicates consumption and demand for local information across the nation, with various interesting user trends.
The app aims to provide users with a platform that lets them share and view important and interesting videos from across their city in a single place. The information will be diverse and relevant to the public - elections, sports matches, power cuts, water shortage, celebrity events, and more.
We tried the app to see whether this “by and for the public” app works, and here’s what we discovered.
Start exploring after you log in. The app’s core is social media and you need to create an account, which can also be done via your Facebook or Google accounts.
Start using the app by setting your location. You can also choose the options manually. For instance, Delhi → Central Delhi → Karol Bagh.
The homepage starts auto-playing popular videos of the day/moment; we got to see a clip of Arvind Kejriwal’s recent announcement. If you don’t want to be bombarded with videos, you can also switch off the auto-play in settings.
Relevant content for everyone
The app relies on users to connect with each other in their local language and consume increased hyperlocal content. When we browsed some of the videos, we realised that locals and RWAs were using Public to raise and discuss concerns with local authorities (similar to how we use Twitter at a national level).
We found the fact that the app functions like a small, hyperlocal news channel for your locality/city and provides the latest updates through short videos engaging.
What all can you know more about on Public? Almost everything! Coronavirus, cricket, government announcements, power cut, water shortage, religious or community issues, robberies/accidents in the neighbourhood, jobs, health checkups and camps, doctor’s advice, market timings, and where you can buy of crops, vegetables, and fruits from local farmers.
Some of the videos were really informative; others were similar to the many WhatsApp forwards we all receive.
The Public app is currently available in Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, and Telugu. We browsed the app in Hindi, but could not find how to change the language setting.
Publicis Groupe India, in its latest report Reboot to a New Normal, revealed that online news has become the de facto source of information amid the coronavirus pandemic. Online regional publications are seeing huge demand, with as much as 50 percent increase. Understandably, government notifications and health-related news in connection with COVID-19 is the most consumed content.
Inshorts also claims that over 1,000 politicians are using the app to connect with their community. These include prominent names such as Hema Malini, Kamal Nath, CP Joshi, Chandrabhan Singh, Bhupinder S Hooda, Deepender Singh Hooda, and Om Prakash Dhankar.
Easy to share information
We often see people make a mobile video of incidents happening around them and share it on social media. This is often picked up as news. Public allows you to directly post a video and spread information/news.
To create content, press the ‘plus’ button in the middle of the home screen. You can either create a new video or give a video comment on a video uploaded by someone else.
The video creation tool is clutter-free, and lets you create the video with front or selfie options without any unnecessary editing tools. You can also upload videos from your phone’s gallery.
The app also has a social media aspect like many other short-form video apps. The user profile includes metrics like followers, posts, likes, and viewers on each post. The app is very easy to use, and you can figure it out in minutes.
The idea of citizen journalism via an app seems to be working for Public. The company aims to make the app available in all Indian languages in the coming months, and “to have 50 million users or more by the end of 2020”.
The short-video format makes the app consumable and may use less internet as compared to other heavy video apps. However, all information available on the app may not be verified, and should not be taken at face value.
If you are following your local leader, a celebrity, or key people in your locality, Public seems a good bet. Explore if you are proactive and keen to share hyperlocal news with other users. The app lets you share concerns and opinions with a hyperlocal user base, which works well for social networking.
We have to say that this made-in-India app for Indians deserves a try.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)