Modi’s Killer Media Strategy

The real show stealer is his use of Twitter

Modi successfully turned the tables on the media
Modi successfully turned the tables on the media

Modi has created an alternative media resource

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]t is no exaggeration that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the one among the select band leaders– probably a cherry picked few among Indian politicians in recent memory – who have been hounded by the main stream media (MSM) – both print and electronic. In that sense, he shares a common experience and can empathize with President Donald Trump of the US. But their similarities probably end there.

Prime Minister Modi’s response to an offensive media, on the other hand, has been totally different. He has not publicly uttered angry remarks or expressed his frustration on Twitter

The two leaders are upright public figures who take their responsibilities and public duties seriously. Both have been repeatedly pushed to the wall by the media. But their responses and how they handled MSM has been vastly different.

The all-powerful President of the US has often taken to social media – and particularly Twitter – to vent his anger against the media. He has gone so far as to brand them liars and peddlers of ‘fake’ news. His huge Twitter following -32 million followers and counting – have keenly followed every minute of these exchanges.

But Prime Minister Modi’s response to an offensive media, on the other hand, has been totally different. He has not publicly uttered angry remarks or expressed his frustration on Twitter. Yet Modi’s stealth, yet killer media strategy seems to have sapped the very life out of the main stream media in India. This can be vouched by discerning insights gleaned over the last few years by piecing together publicly available data on declining readership/viewership, as well as the prime-time space yielded to new players like Republic TV in the tough Indian television and entertainment market.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]E[/dropcap]ver since Modi came to the limelight as the Chief Minister of Gujarat state and started making waves, the media and his political opponents have been after him. In hindsight, they were probably the first to correctly identify him then as a future prime minister material and set in motion their game plan to stop him. Hence his hounding by the media and his political adversaries who often, worked for hand in glove.

Modi has not simply stopped at building a huge following. He has engaged them creatively to sustain and retain this massive following

As a shrewd politician, Modi never had illusions about the role of the press. He had experienced first-hand how a press that was ‘friendly’ to his political opponents had almost destroyed his political career. But that was when they held complete sway on the media outlets and network infrastructure. On becoming the Prime Minister, he sought to marshal all available resources and deploy a clever strategy to gain a toe hold for his own view of the world. He embarked on one of the most comprehensive overhauls of the information dissemination machinery, rebuilding it from scratch, one brick at a time.

As with his anti-corruption drive, Modi relied heavily on technology. The range of tools he has used is mind boggling – from social media to mobile apps and everything in between. But the real show stealer is his use of Twitter. With over 30 million followers, he has one of the biggest Twitter followings in the world. Every tweet from the Prime Minister will reach an audience that is more than the combined weekly viewership of all major English news channels in India. See table below, courtesy Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC). Most importantly, he is assured of a distortion-free transmission to his target audience.

Modi has not simply stopped at building a huge following. He has engaged them creatively to sustain and retain this massive following. For example, there is a two-way flow of information as he often seeks to crowd-source ideas from them. Many have contributed topics and discussion items for Modi’s monthly radio broadcast program, Mann KI Baath. His radio address is a runaway success particularly in rural India where large numbers gather to listen to him.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he biggest coup d’état of sorts is his use of YouTube. Videos of every public event addressed by Modi, his foreign travels, visits of dignitaries, election campaigns – all are posted to his YouTube channel. The Narendra Modi channel with over 650,000 subscribers is another huge captive viewer pool he has meticulously cultivated. This platform by itself has helped Modi take on the biased electronic media, obviating the need to commit time and resources to fight and fix distorted versions that the media in India has been dishing out for so long.

The Narendra Modi mobile app is equally powerful. With nearly 10 million downloads just of the Android version, it delivers his messages directly to the mobile phone and tablets.

Modi’s personal familiarity and comfort level with information technology has been central to the evolution of this alternative media resource. In India’s political spectrum there are very few who can match or even come close. The Prime Minister’s media strategy reveals a shrewd awareness of the ingredients for success – India’s high Tele density (84%), high broadband subscription (192 million) as well as a huge younger ‘demographic dividend’ of the population. His personal political acumen knitted all this into a killer strategy that now dominates the discourse in India.

[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]n totality, Modi has created an alternative media resource, a complete information dissemination platform and infrastructure, that has bypassed and even ignored the mainstream media. He has successfully retained the audience and slowly over the years has changed the narrative and now controls it. Modi successfully turned the tables on the media.

There are important lessons for both the media and politicians in a technology driven century. With new technological innovations popping up regularly that can disrupt existing business models or the way things ‘used to be done’, it is imperative to not take things for granted. A determined leader with a clear vision, riding on the back of disruptive technologies can usher in changes in any sphere of human endeavour – faster than many can imagine. And that could be a daunting challenge for the media. The media can no longer have a free run in pushing an agenda driven spin, for the hounded can now strike back. The spin doctors may have to pay the ultimate price of becoming irrelevant, as the Indian experience testifies. Therein lies a media lesson for President Donald Trump and other political leaders of the world.

1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.


  1. NDTV & NEWS18 will not die for they are funded & owned by Reliance through black money. BJP govt has no balls to take on media houses, for there is no punishment for fake news or its originators, nor they mention their informatio sources. Media’s protection from legalities that umbrella should be taken off, they should be made accountable for every news they print / publish or transmit. Then invite all legal minds to launch legal cass against them daily to tire them out. Make the media to apologise publicly & impose penalties including automatic cancellation of their trade licenses for undertermined period, Apology, self admitting, penalties, withdraw of trade license, removing protection from law in disclosing their information sources should see the media houses fall in line automatically.

  2. Excellent write up on contrasting styles of Trump and Modi in using social media to propagate their views.I think their styles relate more to culture of the countries they come from.Indians are generally devious in taking on their enemies, they will never take them on frontally but use subterfuge to undermine them.In the case of Trump, it is not surprising that he has taken on his detractors bluntly without usage of subterfuge.I think both have succeeded in their respective support base.I have a feeling hardly any of their detractors have been won over as it appears at the moment.No denying fact that main stream media will die a natural death over the next 10 years as their current business model makes them toad vested interests.All these years they got away because the so called liberal media which dominates MSM almost to an extent of 100% in many countries including India have succeeded all these years to limit space for alternate opinions.Now these crooks are getting their comeuppance.

  3. I enjoy reading Pgurus articles. This one is also good and informative. Great job Pgurus, keep it up.
    BTW, what does name ‘pgurus’ stand for ?

  4. NDTV is counting its last days. Hope the so called MSM close shops soon and more genuine, unbiased , truly secular media like Pgurus emerge.

  5. lol. Typical so-called bhakt article praising all over as if author is blind to what is happening in real world.
    Is he aware of abusers/online trolls of BJP (sometimes it appears that they are home-grown deliberately) that many like Arun shourie have time&again pointed out that PM should not be following etc?

      • Above is a prime example of my point. i stand vindicated. (name calling,abusers part of unofficial killer media strategy visible on pgurus without explaining any valid datapoints etc)

        • Dear Mr. Kishore, I’m against name-calling, by everyone.

          By the way, will ‘bhakt’ qualify as name-calling or not?

          • i mentioned so-called (initially thought of avoiding fully and infact i hit the stop button on my browser but then alas it got submitted). thanks for pointing and i would avoid it.

    • I have tried to present available data and built inferences on it.
      Online trolls is irrelevant here to the article

      • It is surprising that when you write an article on media strategy how can you not mention a single word on events such as online trolls,name-calling,abusers who most of the time seem to be supporters of ruling party in some form. i have seen lot of datapoints from several independent sources as well as myself experienced it many times wherein some people with opposite views as a last defence call names or start abusing..
        Anyway i just put my opinion as a comment and you can refute it.

        • Trolls are not confined to any party; there are sponsored trolls by all parties, and ‘suo moto’ unsponsored trolls by supporters of all sides.

          In social media, by nature, this is unavoidable. Each side blaming the other is pure politics.

          • You cannot disown like that simply. That is pure escapism,opportunism if not hypocrisy. The very fact that this article showers all praise on a person holding highest office in the country and few of them bein followed,many followers etc for so-called killer/highly effective etc media strategy simply ignorin all such real killer events is highly unacceptable in my opinion.IMHO

          • Mr. Kishore, What is not acceptable to you? You mean the author of this article has no right to say what he wants to say? Right or wrong are subjective. Are you not able to disagree right below the article? I don’t agree with some of the points made in this article, FYI.

        • I have suffered trolls too and some of the most vicious and abusive of them appear to be the ones who affect Leftist/communist party positions.

          One of the most commonly used descriptions they have for those who don’t appear to agree with them is “Sanghi trolls and goons”.

          Another jie they hurl at writers, bloggers, comment posters and anyone else who appears even remotely to take a position that they can’t tolerate is “bhakt”.

          The abuses I have cited above are the milder ones; the most vicious ones are better left unmentioned.

          As for troll army, I have yet to see a more formidable (or bad-mouthing) one than AAP’s.

          I personally know some of the members of AAP’s troll army, such as the guy who posted the tweet below.

          AAP supremo himself was a notorious Twitter troll until he was silenced by the revelations of his own scams by one of his own party colleagues.

          And I have worked inside media newsrooms to know how senior journalists have been mischievously amplifying the inappropriate social media messages of their favorite politicians, thus turning themselves into trolls too.

          I am inclined to take the view that all parties seem to have contributed to turning social media into a vituperative war zone.

          To contend that only one party is doing it as a strategy and the rest are the victims would be to continue the vicious troll game.

  6. Respected sirs,
    I reside in madurai and just recently happened to visit passport office in Kochadai. Earlier I had gone to p p office in thamaraithotti. … I don’t know if it was a central government building or not….but this new building belongs to a christian institution I believe and is private I guess…. This change was done in congress period. I have my doubts if the congress head gave all passport offices to be managed in private Christian institutions which will give a lot of rental money. During congress period even khadi s had Christian people in big posts. Can you please work on this and give a report?


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