Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Educational institutes raise online presence

Educational institutes in India are strengthening their online presence and boosting the share of Internet advertising in their overall ad budgets to reach out to students. “The online advertisement budget percentage of many educational institutes was about 15-20% in 2008 and now it is around 30%”, said Narasimha Jayakumar, Google Inc.’s India business head. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), 65% of Internet users in India go online to search for educational content. IAMAI estimates India has 71 million Internet users. On Google, the world’s most popular search engine, nearly 36% of its users trawl the Net for educational content. The rapidly rising reach of the Internet makes it a potentially powerful tool for schools and colleges to reach out to students in a country that has a plethora of educational institutions and examinations, but no single point to access information about them.

Apurv Pandit, editor of http://www.pagal-guy.com/, a management education information website, says the traffic on his site is rising at least 25% yearly. “We are in a niche segment but on an average we get 600,000 unique visitors every month”, he said. “The number increases by 15% during peak season for management education – September to March”.

The Union government website goidirectory.nic.in/education.htm has several links for government educational institutes, but several of them do not work or have inadequate information. For example, Patna Science College in Bihar, Dhenkanal Autonomous College in Orissa and Jorhat Engineering College in Assam as well as Tagore Govern- ment College of Education in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, were inaccessible from the central directory. “We are working with hundreds of educational institutes in this sector and place their ads on a network of over 40,000 web- sites and blogs”, said Jayakumar. “This is helping them reach the target audience”.

According to a report by IAMAI and market research firm IMRB, the online display advertising market size was Rs. 325 crore (Rs. 3.25 billion) in 2008-09, up 38% from a year earlier. A break-up for the spending by educational institutes wasn’t available. Institutes such as NIIT, which offers courses in information technology, are among the prominent online advertisers. “NIIT Imperia, the management segment of our institute, is majorly into this and the response was encouraging”, said a spokesman for NIIT. Lovely Professional University, a private varsity in Punjab, said it was upbeat about online advertising. “We are bullish on tapping the target audience through this medium”, said Deputy Director Aman Mittal.

Education-related search is substantially high these days because of the upcoming admission season. On Monday, of the top 10 search topics on Google, nine were related to education. The top searches included results of the test conducted by the Kerala commissioner for entrance examinations for admission to professional courses such as engineering and medicine and the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board exam results.

Google says that among the most searched items in the education sector, professional education is number one followed by content for preparation for competitive exams such as GMAT and GRE. Universities in the US, the UK, Australia and Canada are also popular search subjects in a country that sent 100,000 students to the US in the last academic year, according to figures released by the Ministry of Human Resources Development.

In India, even the state-run Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), which was earlier relying on traditional print media for advertising, has taken its ads online. “A huge pool of youngsters are going online and here IGNOU cannot stay behind,“ said Ravi Mohan, chief spokesman of the university. “We have started going online for advertisement in the last one year or so. Recently, we gave an ad on a job portal and the response was very good”.

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