Jasmine Newswires, who I’ve critically looked at twice before in this blog, silently started their newest offering in an expanding smorgasbord of news and analysis through SMS and their blog on the web.
For full disclosure, I was part of a team of experts who headed a small group of persons in charge of selecting innovative proposals from a pool of applicants to a small grants scheme facilitated by INTERNEWS in Sri Lanka. We found the JNW idea of developing their SMS based news service, still one of a kind in Sri Lanka, into Sinhala, Tamil and English podcasts, to be a cut above the other proposals. Although it’s taken far longer than expected, pointing to the difficulties of multi-lingual news gathering, translations and the need to maintain professional standards in their service, JNW alerted a few of us of their new podcasts last week, and have now opened up a new page on their website where anyone can subscribe to the podcasts online.
The first podcasts (and there are three at the time of writing this) point to the potential of doing short, pithy podcasts on the news that JNW sends out daily via SMS. However, they also flag how much more JNW needs to develop these podcasts if they are to be taken seriously by an audience of consumers used to more professional productions through international media such as Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), VOA or even local initiatives such as VOR Radio.
Firstly, there’s the obvious deficit of presentation, that I hope the new website of JNW, in the process of development I’m told, will address. There’s no brief yet comprehensive overview of each podcast in terms of what it is about. Although there’s a file-size next to each podcast, there’s no mention of the length of the programme.
There’s also no branding. JNW needs to brand its products through jingles, a decent intro and extro and perhaps a signature tune that plays in the background as the news reader speaks. Without such branding, these fail to leverage the brand awareness of JNW as an increasingly trusted and known SMS news source in its podcasts, that sound generic and amateurish.
Rather than go with the one size fits all approach, JNW needs to target specific audiences with its podcasts. Financial market information for instance may not interest someone outside of the CSE or business. News on human rights violations may not necessarily interest someone working in the realm of international money markets. As I noted in an email to Chamath a short while ago:
a) diversify your news stories b) strategically begin to target specific audience / markets c) respond to their needs with a basic service menu plus a couple of market specific offerings. So for instance your basic services / info menu could be:
1. Two Daily updates from AP, Reuters, Factiva
2. One Sports Update
3. One Financial / Stock Market update
4. One Misc. update (can be entertainment, research, analysis etc)
From this, say for the CSO / NGO market you can add the possibilities of:
1. Four daily updates (news)
2. Morning geo-political situ update
3. One update on Peace & Conflict Research (can link up to InfoShare Research Unit blog)
any one of the 2 – 4 of the original menu set. Other options can be added at a premium.
JNW, in trying to be all things to everyone (which may have worked as a new startup) will soon begin to frustrate its subscribers with an overload of information that is mass produced and sent to everyone, with no real emphasis on the sectors they each work in.
With regard to the podcasts in particular, targeting specific audiences can make them attractive to content providers such as mobile phone companies, who can charge a premium for consumers to download a podcast of their choice every morning on handsets capable of handling MP3, or indeed, provide a service through which one can dial up and listen to the podcast for all handsets on the market.
JNW can also license out their technology, once they’ve honed it sufficiently, for large organisations to create their own in-house news and information services – especially those with large field operations with operatives and aid workers often cut off from other media.
Finally, they need to work on their announcer / announcing – who seems to be on the same steep learning curve as JNW is at present.
I’m clearly a fan of JNW’s SMS news service, but feel that they soon approaching a tipping point as a business where they will have to clearly outline strategies for future development in order to maintain their existing customer base, attract VC, and diversify into content provision for several distinct markets, through SMS, the web and podcasts.
Visit Jasmine Newswires here, and subscribe to their podcast here.