When enumerators from Sharecast Initiative Nepal fanned out across the country in January, they asked more than 4,100 respondents if they had mobiles on them — 91% produced phones. Of these, half were smartphones.
Eighty-eight percent of them said they used Facebook, and 45% were on Facebook Messenger, and 35% on IMO which uses less bandwidth, many to communicate with relatives and friends working in the Gulf.
Nepalis are drifting to digital media, Madhu Acharya and Bhumiraj Chapagain
Information technology is changing Nepali society faster than many of us realise. It is rapidly transforming the ease and speed of communication, and where we get our news and information. The changed media consumption pattern has created a crisis for Nepal’s mainstream media, which has found that the revenue model has collapsed. The subscription and paywall methods do not work, online advertising is limited and has low yield, and the Nepali Net has a long tail of new portals vying for the same ads.
Four years ago, there were less than 4 million Nepalis with Facebook accounts, today it has more than doubled. In last year’s Sharecast survey, 81% of respondents who used the Internet said they used Facebook, that number has risen to 88%. Even usage of the Nepali app HamoPatro has increased from 1.3% last year to 4% in this year’s survey.
Nepal is becoming a nation of net addicts, Sabina Devkota
Facebook is not only used to exchange holiday pictures among friends and relatives, it is also increasingly the main source of news and information about local, national and international happenings. As the results of the Sharecast survey in this edition show, it is a one-way street. Most Nepalis do not seem to post much local news on their walls. Also, while they use Facebook a lot, they do not seem to trust the content on the platform very much.
The other surprising finding is that the most trusted source of news and information for most Nepalis is not the media at all, but their neighbours, friends and family. More than 64% of respondents said they relied on that network for local news, and one-third depended on acquaintances for even national and international news. Interestingly, Province 2 ranks highest for its dependence on family and friends as a source of news, with half the respondents saying they depend on them for news and information.
YouTube use has soared dramatically from almost nothing last year to 34% in this year’s survey. The Facebook-owned platform Instagram is used by a much lower proportion (4.2%), although that increases among urban educated youth. Twitter usage is almost negligible (1.2%) even though the media fraternity and some politicians seems to think it is hugely important.
In response to a multiple choice question, 99% of respondents said they do most of their Interneting on mobile phones. Only 6% of Nepalis use laptops or tablets to browse the Net, and less than 1% use PCs. As smartphones and mobile data packages get cheaper, Internet use is going to grow.
Read also: Nepal's Changing Media Landscape, Sharecast Initiative
Today, about 60% of those who use the Internet on their phones have mobile data, 34% use wifi. Despite this, there is still a yawning digital divide: asked how often in the past six months they had used the Internet, 67% of 4,125 respondents said they had never logged on.
Interesting also is the number of people who said they had not read a hard copy newspaper in the past six months – over 73%. And even more revealingly, when asked why they do not read physical newspapers, an overwhelming 57% said it was because the papers never got to their area, or delivery was unreliable. Only 3% said it was because they rely on some other medium for news and information.
Mainstream media owners and editors blame the Internet for the loss in readership, but maybe they should be blaming their distribution departments. Of those who said they still follow the mainstream press, 94% were still reading the paper newspaper, 14% read it on apps, and 6.4% went to their home pages online. Nearly all survey respondents found newspapers and magazines trustworthy.
The take-home message from the survey for the Nepali media and public is that the mainstream press still has a check-and-balance role in our democracy. Internet usage is growing rapidly, but that is not the reason people are not reading newspapers less.
Facebook may be omnipresent, but most users are sceptical about its content. As in most countries, social media platforms will be dissemination tools, Internet sites will be more and more entertainment-driven, and it will be the portals with the higher credibility and exclusive multimedia content that will be rewarded with clicks.
10 years ago this week
The page 1 item of the #446 edition of Nepali Times of 10-16 April 2009 delved into Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s thin skin for criticism:
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal appears to be increasingly frustrated with the delays and has been trying to use his deft negotiating skills to try to convince the leaders of the UML and NC to smooth things along.
The prime minister has been barely able to hide his frustration. A day after returning from a week-long visit to Norway and Finland, during which he assured leaders there that he was serious about protecting democracy and the free press, he lashed out publicly using abusive language at his colleagues in the NC and UML. The next day, he turned his aim at the media, accusing publishers of being “smugglers” and under the control of “feudalists, capitalists and reactionary forces”.