The results of a ‘readers’ poll’ by a hitherto unknown website called ‘British Herald’, declaring Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the most powerful world leader, are being widely shared on Indian social media. Among those circulating the poll are BJP leaders and supporters, and a few media outlets, notably Zee News, Republic TV and Aaj Tak.

Union Minister Giriraj Singh shared the result, terming PM Modi the “supreme leader” of the country.

Zee News referred to British Herald as a “leading British magazine”. Its story further detailed, “In yet another proof of his image of a global leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been declared as the winner of a reader’s poll for world’s most powerful person 2019 conducted by a leading British magazine.”

Alt News decided to find out more about the poll that is being pushed so enthusiastically by sections of the media as a “matter of pride” for all Indians.

The ‘cover’ of the magazine featured the Indian Prime Minister was revived during the COVID-19 pandemic to suggest that British Herald declared him the most powerful man based on his handling of the pandemic.

Who owns British Herald?

The website describes itself as “among the world’s leaders in online news and information delivery.” It mentions “via Reuters” in its logo banner and carries a wide variety of world news stories.

Alt News found that the website is owned by Herald Media Network Limited, a company registered in the UK.

The company was incorporated in April 2018 by an Indian national, Ansif Ashraf. Ashraf owns 85% of the shares and the rest is owned by four other shareholders. Apart from Ashraf, the company has another director, Ahamed Shamseer Koliyad Shamsuddeen. Ansif Ashraf’s Wikipedia page describes him as an Indian businessman from Kerala who is the editor-in-chief of the Cochin Herald and owns British Herald.

A leading British magazine?

So, how popular is British Herald which is being projected by Indian media as a leading British magazine?

1. British Herald has a global Alexa web traffic rank of 28,518, which grew from 95,979 three months ago. To give a perspective, has a global Alexa ranking of 190, NDTV has an Alexa ranking of 395. In terms of traffic, British Herald is nowhere close to ‘leading’.

2. British Herald Twitter account has less than 4,000 followers. Contrastingly, Alt News’ Twitter account has more than 120,000 followers. Leading British media houses such as BBC and The Guardian have millions of followers.

3. British Herald Facebook page has 57,000 followers. In comparison, BBC’s Facebook page has 48 million followers and The Guardian’s has 8 million.

4. British Herald, at the time of writing, doesn’t have a Wikipedia page of its own. Every leading media organisation has one.

5. Not a single reputed international publication has carried the news of PM Modi having won a global leader poll by a ‘leading’ British website, only Indian publications did.

6. In fact, even the results of the poll announced on British Herald’s Twitter account has only been shared around 150 times at the time of writing.

7. Incidentally, British Herald had tweeted an image of the magazine declaring PM Modi the “world’s most powerful person” nearly a month before the voting ended. This tweet was made on May 23 and barely had 30 retweets at the time of writing.

From the above, it is clear that British Herald is not a ‘leading’ British Magazine. The company that owns British Herald and carried out the poll is incorporated in the UK. No details of methodology or the sample size of the poll are available, even though the website said that it experienced a sudden surge in traffic during the voting period.

BJP leaders’ response to the poll

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan, called PM Modi’s ‘victory’ a “matter of pride and honour” for 130 crore Indians.

The sentiment was echoed by a plethora of BJP leaders.

Cheerleading media outlets

The same was reported as “a big development” and a moment of pride for the nation by Republic TV.

Several other media outlets also caught with the theatrics.

While chest-thumping about the results by BJP leaders and supporters is par for the course, the role of the media in projecting the results of an unheard website raises eyebrows. Not one of the outlets that reported the news as a “matter of pride for all Indians” bothered to check the details of the organisation behind the poll.