Realising the potential of Indian language publishing

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | October 12, 2017
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That Indian language publishing has huge potential is well known. What will it take to realise it? A panel of experts discussed this subject at Digipub World.

The moderator of this session, Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, columnist and writer, Business Standard, began the discussion with a few stats:

Times Now reached 1.7 million people a day in 2016, on an average.

Aaj Tak reached 48 million people a day in 2016, on an average.

That's the difference between the reach of English versus Indian (Hindi is the largest) language news.

There isn't, and hasn't been for the past three to five years at least, a single English channel in the list of Top 10 news channels.

In general, the top media groups - Star, Zee, Viacom, etc. - get about a fifth to a fourth of their revenues from non-Hindi languages.

Our love for consuming news and entertainment in Indian languages is known, but it doesn't show up as much online. That's what a panel of experts discussed at Digipub World.

Edited Excerpts of their points of view.

Pradeep Dwivedi, CEO, Sakal Media Group

Pradeep Dwivedi Pradeep Dwivedi

We believe the opportunity for regional, Indian language publishers is massive. And we haven't even scratched the surface yet. We get over a million page views on our social media handle and website, on a daily basis. We get between 3,50,000-4,00,000 unique visitors a month.

The whole logic of monetisation, revenue and outcomes... these are all output indices. Monetisation will come once publishers are able to hold their audience. There is too much obsession in the industry with putting a number on the table that says, 'We have arrived'. The problem is not limited to the way publishers are looking at this business. Publishers and media owners in India come from a very predictable business model... but the digital ecosystem works very differently.

Gyan Gupta, CEO, DB Digital (Dainik Bhaskar)

Gyan Gupta Gyan Gupta

The language story on the publishing side and on the user side is very real. Maybe the advertiser side is a little slow to catch up... but I am sure they will.

But monetisation anyway comes last. If you want to monetise, you need a product with scale. The challenge in monetisation is understanding the entire ecosystem and looking at all the creatives running on the site; it's funny... why would you run an English ad on a Hindi site? You wouldn't run an English ad on a Hindi GEC... so, all this has to be thought through. Content should be looked at in totality.

We get about 100 million unique users (two and a half years back, the number was 15 million) and three billion page views, on a monthly basis.

Anoop N, Chief Operating Officer - Digital, Asianet News Media & Entertainment

Anoop N Anoop N

We closed August (2017) with about 12-15 million 'uniques'.

The propensity to consume good content is far higher on digital down South. Look at the number of YouTube content creators in regional languages; Telugu and Tamil are the forerunners, followed closely by Malayalam and Kannada. That ecosystem of content creators exists. The challenge is - how do revenue and profitability follow and support the creators? Technology platforms like Google and Facebook need to pitch in and help...

The way a display ad in a regional language blends itself on the page is far different from the way it does in an English ecosystem. When it comes to a regional language product, the user experience goes for a toss.

Rahul Kapoor, Head - Strategic Partnerships, Google India

Rahul Kapoor Rahul Kapoor

Two years back, we realised that if we don't embrace Indian languages we'll be out of this market. We now have voice search in nine languages. Our Hindi voice search is growing at 400 per cent. Maps is (available) in four languages.

50 per cent of the total internet content in the world is in English. And shockingly, Hindi and Arabic, which have over 300 million speakers across the world, is barely a fraction of that. That's when we started investing in translation in a big way.

2014 was when 'Hinglish' content started getting created... all the TVFs of the world, (for example). In 2015 we saw a lot of content being produced in South India; a lot of content creators started coming from down South. 2016 was when Indian languages arrived, (take for example) - the story of Sharmaji Technical (YouTube channel which streams tech reviews in Hindi).

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