Points of View: What does the online news spurt mean?

By Devesh Gupta and Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | October 10, 2013
Indians have begun to consume news in dramatically greater measure online over the past 12 months. A look at the implications for those in the news business.

A recently released comScore report says that the online consumption of news in India has spurted over the past year. The average daily visitors to news and information websites has grown 34 per cent to 9.4 million during this time even as the total unique visitors per month has grown from 40 million to 45.9 million. And, mind you, these figures do not include consumption on mobile devices. What does this growth signify for Indian publishers as well as the news business?

Ravi Dhariwal

Rajiv Dingra

Sukirti Gupta

Shantanu Bhanja

Suresh Srinivasan

Anant Goenka

Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Times of India Group

In India, online as well as the newspaper readership is growing fast. The first piece of news is consumed in the morning from the newspaper while in the latter part of the day, Indians consume news digitally. The increasing online news readership is a positive sign for the industry as it helps the publishing brands get stronger.

In the coming days there will be more initiatives from publishing houses on the digital medium to connect with more people through better engagement. This will definitely lead to growth in terms of advertising in the future. We are attempting this by ensuring simplicity, easier navigation and better look and feel of the sites to ensure that the reader stays on.

Rajiv Dingra, CEO, WAT Consult

As far as advertising is concerned in India, digital will be eating into three kinds of media - print, OOH and radio. The one medium that digital will be complementing is TV and that is why Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are forging some kinds of tie-ups with TV firms. Top advertisers will keep investing on TV. Movies have already gone digital and politics is also taking that route. The cultural fabric of the nation has already moved to digital.

As far as print media is concerned, it has lost its significance over the time. Data suggests that the average time a reader dedicates to reading newspapers in a day is around 15 minutes, whereas on Facebook, for example, a user spends four hours a month. Moreover, the core spenders on print such as classifieds and call-to-action advertisers have moved online. However, large ticket advertisers like luxury brands will continue to advertise on print but brands from the FMCG and the banking sectors will find digital a more ROI-driven medium. Social media has made brand building possible on the internet. The trend has taken off but it is yet to be there at the mark.

Sukirti Gupta, COO, Jagran New Media

If one sees the list of the top seven properties, five are Indian traditional publishers. The top publishing houses already have established presence in the digital space and will continue to seek new opportunities as appropriate. We are prepared for the growth and it is just reinforcing our plans in the space. The environment will become more competitive and aggressive.

We have seen great growth in vernacular content readership, especially in terms of engagement. We expect to outpace the readership growth in English. We are constantly improving our properties in terms of new content, engagement and features. This strategy has worked well for us. In terms of specific areas, we will focus on news, education and health.

Shantanu Bhanja, Business Head and VP, Marketing, HT Media

For Hindustan Times, which is at the core a news brand, this is great news since it revalidates that - even as times change - more consumers are consuming more news digitally. The comScore numbers show that consumers are choosing to get news from trusted media sources: seven of the top 10 websites belong to leading Indian publishing houses). Therefore, those publishers who are investing in content are at an advantage. For example, LiveMint has doubled its page views in the last one year following its re-launch in September, 2012.

There will be more initiatives both in terms of multimedia front-end offerings and also in terms of integrated news processes to support this. The 15 per cent growth (in unique visitors) as well as the 31 per cent increase in average monthly time spent per user takes the business model closer to the inflection point of commercial viability.

Our efforts will be in the direction of making our print and digital properties complement each other's growth.

Suresh Srinivasan, VP, The Hindu

This is welcome news because publications are in the news/media business and not just the newspaper business. Fortunately most have online editions that complement their print business. There will be more initiatives online to address readers both within but mostly outside their print coverage areas.

Apart from their online editions, many publications also offer e-paper, e-books and podcasts. The growth in this direction will foster newer business opportunities. Integrated print + digital offerings will rise in heavy internet user markets.

With the rise in internet usage in Tier II and III markets, which have higher share of vernacular literacy and readership, there is bound to be a significant increase in consumption. At The Hindu Group our online initiatives are helping meet reader expectations.

Anant Goenka, Head, New Media, Indian Express Group

It's very much on expected lines. In fact comScore's numbers aren't even half the picture because itis yet to establish systems to measure Indian internet traffic from mobile devices and from cybercafes. Our mobile traffic has grown from 8 per cent to 27 per cent of our total traffic of 75 million page views a month within one year. A lot of this mobile traffic has come from our strong presence on social media, especially twitter.

So far the initiatives we have seen from publishing houses have largely been gimmicks. Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the many useless gimmicks newspapers have resorted to at this nascent stage of the digital process. Until two years ago, of the 14 big national English dailies, I'd say only four really had a consistent digital strategy. Today, nine do and I am sure by next financial year, all will have an attractive web presence.

Advertisers are finally waking up and taking the medium seriously. The threat is that while newspaper publishers command 90 per cent of the print ad spend, of the digital ad spend, we command less than 40 per cent. Most of the digital display advertising money is spent with Google Adwords, YouTube, larger portals and/or other niche, specialty websites.

The prize, in terms of monetisation of vernacular content online however, is largely in targeting NRI audiences. Because over 35 per cent of's readers live abroad, our real estate and travel advertisers were ecstatic with the response they got from ads on our site, especially during the time the dollar was its strongest.

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