Latest in hyperlocal journalism: Ola to launch Ola News Network

By Prarthana Mitra 

Ola Cabs announced on Friday that the homegrown cab-hailing service would soon be launching a news network to gather and disseminate hyperlocal news, “powered by our 1-million strong team of driver partners on the roads, spread across 110 cities in the country,” in an official press statement.

The cab aggregating firms in India have in the last decade or so grown offshoots in every sphere of life, and now it’s time for them to enter the fifth estate.

The initiative tentatively called Ola News Network (ONN), will be offering riders valuable and timely insights into traffic, weather and related local information on demand. A digital TV channel can be used for delivering updates directly to the user’s phone using the Ola app, or through live streaming on the display screens available in the “prime” cabs. Their promotional video shows a brave new future for localised news, in which “reporters on hire” will provide with the information they seek, like traffic updates in a particular area, vegetable prices at a given market, even real estate solutions in a new city.

Media outlets believe that following Reliance’s acquisition of Network 18, new initiatives in the digital publishing sector had slowed down considerably. The publishing industry, which is dominated by several traditional stronghold companies, may raise objections to Ola’s new model regarding the lack of regulations, journalistic standards and mediatory role of editors.

However, the “reporters on hire” model could be very economically viable at a time when digital news agencies are trying to slash the huge costs involved in newsgathering. With Ola’s drivers acting as hyperlocal reporters, catering to queries and demands posed by users instantly becomes easier. Additionally, information provided on a one-on-one basis, i.e., people hiring reporters for their information needs is a micro-journalistic approach that stands to simplify the burgeoning troubles of mass media in the digital realm.

Also Read: I&B ministry working on guidelines to monitor digital journalism,

However, it is possible that Ola may succumb to pressures, even withdrawal, especially at a time when the Information and Broadcasting ministry is chalking up measures to regulate online news channels.

Note: As it turns out, this was Ola’s April Fools prank.