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Ronb: Influencing How Nepal Consumes Its News

Few Nepali pages on the internet have gained as much prominence as Routine of Nepal Banda. Started almost a decade back in 2011, when the craze for social media was still somewhat new, Routine of Nepal Banda (RONB) today has amassed over 1.9 million followers on Facebook, 781 thousand followers on Instagram, and holds the current spot for the #1 trending Viber community in Nepal. What was just a casual page dedicated to posting city lockdown routes during an era where strikes and political instability were commonplace, it has since become the go to source for information that is quick and reliable for countless Nepalis.

26-year-old Victor Paudel, who is the founder and one of the admins for the RONB pages recalls, “I had just finished my tenth grade when we started Routine of Nepal Banda. Back then I had been into sports journalism and had been helping out some seniors on a website called givemegoal.com. When RONB started, we’d help out these journalist dai’s with their posts and they’d help us with news information.” Perhaps it was because of the situation then, RONB always enjoyed good reviews and a healthy growth. Paudel shares, “Back then people really needed updates about bandas, and what the situation was like in different places. So even when we just had a thousand or so likes, we received a lot of support on what we had been doing.” He further adds, “The page really blew up after the earthquake, because of the updates and information that we had circulated during the crisis. It was then when we realised that we could do something much bigger with it (RONB).” As of now, RONB has been registered under the name Routine of Nepal Pvt. Ltd., and is recognised as an online media company. However while RONB may be registered as a traditional media outlet, the way it functions is radically different to how other traditional media houses have been working. “If you were to count our salary-based employees, you would only find around five people work for RONB. A lot of what we do is possible because of volunteers and freelancers that reach out to us. These local level volunteers constantly notify what is happening through calls, messages and emails.” Says Paudel who vouches for the positive impact that citizen journalism has had on the company.

While the name Routine of Nepal Banda was a clever take on the political environment that existed during its inception, that environment has since died down. Now Paudel claims that the company has been debating on whether or not they should stick with their iconic name or go for something that suits the times.

As a matter of fact, RONB’s reliance on citizenship journalism might have been exactly why they have had such an impressive growth rate. At the time of writing, Socialbaker.com estimates that the RONB Facebook page is growing at a rate of 1200 plus new followers each day. And as this number grows, the number of information sources that RONB has grows alongside. While big corporate media giants might carry a lot of hidden biases that stem from sponsorships and investments, an independent media outlet that relies on its own audience for information creates a much-needed alternative to mainstream media. Paudel shares, “Political and business news aside, we think that the content that the people send our way is likely to be what other people want to know more about as well.” He goes to reaffirm RONB’s faith in citizen journalism, stating that the company wants to bring to light stories that are useful to everybody and doesn’t work to benefit only a select few.

Another one of RONB’s key selling points is that it only features brief informational bites rather than the highly researched stories that newspapers are known for. Paudel believes that these snippets of news are perfect as readers are always in a rush. “People often just read catchy headings which ends up misleading them,” he claims. He then adds, “We try to condense all the necessary information into a handful of lines so that people can get quick information without being misled.” These news snippets aren’t the only procedures that RONB has in place to avoid misinformation. Paudel assures that the admins abide certain gatekeeping measures in order to avoid biases. He shares that RONB doesn’t often publish a political or business story, and on the occasion that it does, it is to highlight an incident rather than to promote an opinion. This also means that RONB ends up missing on trending incidents at times. “We are always glad to raise the voices of people, but most of all we want to publish and propagate positivity rather than simply put out negative content,” tells Paudel.

With posts currently averaging at 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh hits on Instagram and around 3 lakhs to 4 lakhs on Facebook, one would assume that RONB would be drowning in sponsorship deals. While that does hold true, RONB hasn’t always been open to all the long list of offers that have come its way. In fact, the company has a picky list of criteria when it comes to who it features. “We emphasise on promoting local brands and films; and that too only enough to fulfill our costs of operation,” says Paudel. For RONB, sponsorships aren’t simply advertising a product on their pages, but rather also being useful information that might benefit or interest their audience. RONB has also developed a habit of promoting independent activists, creators and local stories that they think will have a positive impact on their audience. By doing so, the company feels that they are able to give these impactful people and stories a wider platform; be it a prominent activist or a novice photographer.

 

While RONB’s stats have always enjoyed a healthy growth, it has also had to face some bumps along the way. For instance, while RONB’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages have soared, the Routine of Nepal Banda app has struggled to garner momentum. Released on the Playstore in August 2015, the app has only enjoyed around 10,000 downloads, a low number in comparison to the millions it has on other platforms. Paudel acknowledges this issue, stating that perhaps it was because they couldn’t find anybody to properly run the project along with it being a high budget endeavor. Regardless of this setback, the company is now working towards designing a website under the name, ‘RONBpost.com’ where the media company plans on posting longer blog like stories that could connect to users looking for more information on a short post. The company also faced further dilemmas when it came to the relevancy of their popular title. While the name Routine of Nepal Banda was a clever take on the political environment that existed during its inception, that environment has since died down. Now Paudel claims that the company has been debating on whether or not they should stick with their iconic name or go for something that suits the times. While no official changes have been made, the company itself is legally registered under the name ‘Routine of Nepal’, opting to leave out the contentious ‘Banda.’

RONB has certainly come a long way over the nine years that it has existed. In this time period their content has undergone some strong changes and put more emphasis on their credibility. There is no doubt that what started as a simple Facebook page created by a teen has now grown into a strong media force of its own. “Even till a few years back, I would have never expected RONB to be a registered business,” Paudel recounts. He then adds that regardless of whether they wanted too or not, time has nudged them to move forward .

Sajeet M. Rajbhandari is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time writing and sharing stories. Namely having written for business and art magazines, his interests revolve around fields of literature, art, culture, business and communication. Besides this Rajbhandari enjoys traveling and is always up for making new experiences. Currently he is also pursuing an education in media studies at Kathmandu University.

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