'Let's get phyigital', says TOI as bingo craze taps under-30s

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English-language giant the Times of India created a new word with a unique version of an old favourite.

In an INMA post, Sumeli Chatterjee and Alexander Valladares tell how a 'phyigital' bingo game - called Times Housie Plus - piqued the interest of youth with its gamification cues and personalised messages.

Chatterjee, the group's brand vice president, and Valladares, who is national marketing lead for TOI's metro supplements, said popularity of the game - now played on mobile screens - increased among youth during the pandemic.

"Many got hooked on e-game versions of classic games like ludo and housie, and we looked for an opportunity to leverage its attractiveness to drive younger readership of newspapers."

Times Housie Plus was a print-linked digital game, surprising and rewarding readers as they prepared for the festival celebrations of Dussera and Diwali. "TOI added a twist to the classic age-old game housie by reinterpreting it with digital gamification codes like live games, social badges, referral codes, a leaderboard, and pop trivia quizzes," they said.

Readers had to solve daily trivia questions from the paper over 22 days, numbers from which were entered on readers' unique digital tickets, available on the game Web site.

Readers were required to register with their own mobile numbers, which were OTP and reCaptcha validated to weed out bots.

"We added to festive cheer with daily prizes and vouchers up for grabs by guessing the right answers to the questions printed in the newspaper. Basically, the more someone read the daily newspaper, the higher their chances were to win prizes."

Readers stood to win home appliances or shopping vouchers to prep their homes for the festive season.

Daily readership of the print edition was strengthened with 95 per cent of registered players logging in to play the 'phygital' game, with the game registration skew highest among young adults. Almost 60 per cent of players were aged 30 years or younger, and almost 20 per cent of the database were new subscribers of newspapers who shared a willingness to subscribe after registering for the game. "Most importantly, the game backend provided us data to understand the daily reading habits that could be analysed by age, gender, and city," Chatterjee and Valladares said.

"Cross-referencing the game login details and prize claim timings, Times Housie Plus gave us valuable reader analytics data, especially related to timing and frequency of newspaper readership. The game also enabled newspaper advocacy by readers, and more than 15 per cent of the players invited their friends and family through referral codes and social shares."

The game UX was personalised so TOI could send customised messages to reader cohorts to engage them more with game updates, news stories, and/or subscription offers.

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