The digital media landscape of Nepal consists of four distinct types of news websites. The first are digital versions of the printed newspapers or radios or televisions which archive and distribute the content from those outlets on the Internet. The second type are online news portals of the newspapers or radio or television stations which utilise the resources of the media to run the online news outlets. The third are independent news portals which just have digital outlets; and fourth, which is rare in other countries, are a considerable number of news websites run by Nepalis living abroad.
Nepal’s media began the adoption of Internet technology early. The Kathmandu Post, which went online on September 1996, was the first newspaper in South Asia to have Internet presence. However, since then the development of digital media outlets has been slow, only picking up speed in the last few years.
The Department of Information (DoI) has a voluntary register of the digital media outlets, which are otherwise not regulated by media laws. By the end of 2017, the list consisted of 976 websites. No Nepali digital outlets use paywall or subscription systems and are offered free of cost with revenue coming in from advertising. The majority of newspapers offer epapers – digital copies of the newspapers – on their websites for free. The advertising revenue share of the digital platforms is not available but advertising agencies claim that it has increased significantly in the last few years.
According to the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), Internet penetration stands at 65 percent of the population and around 98 percent users access Internet using mobile phones. For many users, Internet is equivalent to Facebook and thus the majority of them access news on digital news outlets news through social media.
Popular and impactful digital media outlets include Ekantipur and Nagariknews – the online portals of popular daily newspapers; and independent news portals such as Onlinekhabar, Setopati, Ratopati, Bahrakhari, and Deshsanchar. Many digital media outlets also have free mobile apps for browsing contents. Some of these popular independent news portal are owned by well-known editors who have switched from newspapers to digital; and because their opinions matter among the elites, the impact of digital media is increasing and they are slowing gaining space as agenda setters.