Here’s how the popular Routine of Nepal Banda runsThe page started as an outlet to disseminate information on bandas. But today, with more than 1.5 million likes on Facebook and 600,000 followers on Instagram, it is changing the way Nepalis consume news.
Whenever there’s breaking news, Bijeta Gautam’s first instinct is to check the Routine of Nepal Banda’s Facebook page to confirm it. The 20-year-old started following the page in 2015, when it only disseminated information on bandas and holidays, but today she uses the page to as her go-to source for updates on current affairs.
“I heavily rely on the page for updates,” says Gautam. With 1.5 million likes on Facebook and more than 600,000 followers on Instagram, Routine of Nepal Banda has become one of the primary sources of information and news for many Nepali youths like Gautam.
But that was not the intention with which the page started. Tired of the constant bandas that plagued Nepalis until a few years ago, Victor, the admin and the founder, started the page in 2011 with the simple aim of letting people know about bandas so that they could be spared of some inconvenience.
“I would call traffic police and inquire about the road’s situation, whether it was safe to travel or not. After confirming with them, I provided the updates on social media so it could be easy for the people,” says Victor, 26, who wants to be known by his first name only.
Cut to now, a time where bandas are not so common, the page has now transitioned into an information centre disseminating news, photos and updates. And while many blindly trust their content, many online discussions have emerged that question the page’s format and credibility of the news and information they disseminate. But Victor assures that they—meaning him and three other team members—strictly follow multiple gatekeeping processes, like that of mainstream media, and only upload news and information that is verified.
And as the page practises citizen journalism, according to Victor, it’s not only the team who is constantly seeking news and information. The followers of the page equally provide content, he says. “We receive more than 100 messages on Facebook daily from our users who update us about many events happening in their localities. If we find anything interesting we share the news by confirming it through various sources,” he says. Registered as an online media, the team also has a subscription to the national news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS).
The page also only circulates information in snippets, mostly in Roman Nepali or simplified English, which they disseminate to their audience through their Facebook status and Instagram stories and posts. Victor says that the reason why the page prefers writing news and information in Roman Nepali is to make people feel they are receiving information from someone who is like their friend, as they interact in the same style with them, and to connect to a wider audience base.
“We normally type in Roman Nepali when we are chatting with our friends on social media as well, and that is why we opted for this style, hoping it would make our audience more comfortable and engaged,” says Victor, adding choosing to disperse news in snippets is also a conscious choice because of people’s decreasing attention span.
And while there’s no hard-and-fast rule regarding what news they will cover, the page normally publishes positive news at the beginning of each day with the intention of starting the morning of its followers with positivity, says Victor. “We intentionally give priority to positive news so the audience could get a break from the gloom-ridden and negative news widely circulated at the front pages by the mainstream press on a regular basis,” he says.
As for selecting personalities to cover, the page features everyone—from a Guinness world record holder to an everyday man. Due to this decision, they have been trolled by many internet users but that doesn’t discourage them, says Victor. “Not every mainstream press covers the achievement of everyone. By writing a few lines and uploading their photos, we are letting more people know about their talent and work,” says Victor.
And there’s certainly truth to what he says. After being promoted on the page, many aspiring artists have indeed gained recognition. “Because of them posting about my work many are showing interest in my initiative of peaceful cohabitation of snakes and humans,” says Rohit Giri, a young snake conservationist and an aspiring photographer. According to Giri, his followers on social media increased swiftly after the page wrote about him.
But it’s not an easy job for the admins to run a page that engages more than 3 million people on a monthly basis. “Sometimes we have to be alert 24/7,” says Victor.
The reliance of people on social media pages like Routine of Nepal Banda for news and information has changed the way people consume news in Nepal. While traditional media still holds significance, according to Sudhamshu Dahal, assistant professor of media studies at Kathmandu University, new media like Routine of Nepal have the power to sway people’s ideology and thinking.
“Many Facebook users easily trust the information they receive through social media. They rarely question the credibility of the news due to lack of media literacy,” says Dahal.
At a time where social media is held responsible for creating bubbles leading to political and social polarisation—by reinforcing ideologies and promoting confirmation bias—pages like Routine of Nepal Banda, which have a huge number of following, calls for a proper monitoring, says Dahal. “Their single post can have a deep impact on their audience’s mindset. They should be accountable to their position and work responsibly,” he says.
For this very reason, Victor says that the team wants to remain anonymous so it can be as neutral and credible as possible. “If people know who we are, they will try to contact and even influence us. We want to stay free from such restrictions, so that we can produce content that benefits the larger society,” says Victor.
But this doesn’t mean that the team shies away from featuring advertisements from corporate houses to sustain their page. However, their way of advertisement is different from mainstream media, he says. “We take advertisements regarding offers and events mostly. They are mostly crafted in such a way that it could also be information to our audience who could benefit from it,” says Victor.
Considering the changed purpose of their content, the admins of the page are thinking of changing the page’s name from Routine of Nepal Banda to just Routine of Nepal, which the company is officially registered as. “We want to remove the ‘banda’ from our name because the name is not relevant anymore. We have developed more as a platform of information gaining and sharing than what we initially started off as,” says Victor.