Shiv Bhaskar Dravid leads The Viewspaper: The Voice of the Youth, a news-site for youthful citizen journalists. Launched in May 2007, the website has over 6,000 contributors and 149,000 Facebook followers. | Photo by Ryan Bramhall
Story by Elisabeth Loeck
Shiv Bhaskar Dravid sat in his mother’s room watching a debate on an Indian news channel. The government had ordered public buses to use natural gas to help the environment, and bus drivers had gone on strike. On the television, politicians and TV analysts railed on both sides of the issue. Then Dravid railed at the television.
Seven years later, Dravid runs his own online newspaper, which covers India and the United Kingdom for readers 30 and younger, and may soon serve other continents.
Dravid wanted young Indians to have a voice in government and societal issues. He rode buses more than an hour to and from college each day, and those people on TV “hadn’t ridden a bus in 25 years,” he said.
At age 18, he found no outlet to communicate his thoughts on issues affecting the population. In India, 70 percent of the people are 35 and younger while 70 percent of the politicians leading the country are 75 or older, Dravid said.
To fight those numbers, Dravid founded theviewspaper.net three years later, at age 21, to give youth an opportunity to share their opinions on important issues. After four years, it is a self-sustaining and nationally recognized media outlet for youth.
Contributors have been as young as 13 and but cannot exceed age 35.
Writers and readers come to The Viewspaper: The Voice of the Youth to share and receive opinions on every subject matter.
“Young people are really questioning representative democracy because you don’t have connectivity,” Dravid said. “Now, I don’t need a representative, I can have my say.”
According to Dravid, formal protests in support of an anti-corruption bill have shown the attitude of young people who feel disconnected from the political class and even from the media. While many good things are happening in India, the corruption is eating it up from the inside and there is a need for change, he says.
The Viewspaper supports itself partially through online advertising, but mostly through creative revenue streams, such as helping colleges set up online newspapers or providing other IT or editorial support. The company works closely with grants that generate readership and uses campaigns and Google ads to earn funds for production. It broke even in late 2010.
The most active base for the site is at the college level. Unpaid writers from the top colleges in the country contribute, but as the venture has grown, less and less continued response is from the older end of the spectrum. To reach contributors of the 25- to 30-year-old age range, The Viewspaper implements niche advertisements online.
While unsure of what the future will hold for The Viewspaper, Dravid wants to expand versions of the website to include the U.S., Australia and Singapore.
With 6,000 contributors and 149,000 followers on Facebook, The Viewspaper is an internationally recognized entity.
“On a basic level, that we got these 6,000 people to start thinking is an accomplishment,” Dravid said. “Everyone has coffee table talk, but to sit down and write it out takes effort. People are noticing.”