Tarana Khan

‘India Today’ plans to get back on online track

The magazine giant will launch a general interest portal within eight months, with content from its print and TV portfolio

The ‘India Today’ Group is planning to launch a general interest portal in six to eight months, which will feature free content from its print publications, television channels and events.

In a conversation with agencyfaqs!, Ashish Bagga, CEO, Living Media India, said, “We are putting our content assets together for cross-media platforms, including a horizontal content portal.” This portal will be a common gateway to content across ten verticals, including business, news, lifestyle, education, travel and health. There will also be retail elements on the portal, basically subscription bookings for its magazines and its book club.

Bagga adds that the portal will be the “last word in horizontal content and depth”. The company will also offer mobile services – not value-added services (VAS) products, but news alerts, polls and m-commerce.

‘India Today’ plans to get back on online track
Ashish Bagga
Interestingly, the content from all ‘India Today’ sources, including the magazines, will be freely available without any subscription charges. Special and custom-based reports will, however, be available at a cost. This could be in the form of customised health advice (the group has health magazines such as ‘Men’s Health’ and ‘Prevention’) or other detailed reports and analysis. Web-exclusive content will also be developed.

A team of in-house developers is working on the project, led by Sanjoy Narayan, editor, ‘Business Today’ and Shailesh Shekhar, who is former editor of HindustanTimes.com.

’India Today’ revisiting its not-so-happening online strategy is certainly going to spark interest in the industry. After all, the group’s repertoire of content spans English and vernacular magazines, television, radio, music and events. And, given the group’s high credibility, it’s surprising that it has waited so long to get its Net offerings in shape. Bagga admits that ‘India Today’ has a “restricted online presence”, but adds that he wants to develop it as an active, rather than static, brand.

Check out some recent indications of this intent: The group has re-launched the website of its magazine ‘Money Today’ and put up websites for ‘Men’s Health’ and ‘Prevention’ at the time of their print launch.

The group burnt its fingers with its first foray online, when it launched the e-newspaper, thenewspapertoday.com, in 2001. With the slowdown in the Internet already underway, there were no takers for the website’s video and custom news options.

The company then tried to move to a paid model, but the traffic crashed (Bagga says there were only 200 subscribers). Subsequently, only offline subscribers of its magazines had access to online content.

Speaking about the e-newspaper, Bagga says, “It was ahead of its time, but we felt that the business was not sustainable then. We are ready to revisit our online strategy now.” He reiterates that focus will be only on content, and not on e-mail or mobile wallpapers and ringtones. For its television content, which will be available on the portal as video, the company is also in talks with IPTV providers.

The company also entered into a joint venture with the UK tabloid ‘Daily Mail’ in March to publish a national newspaper in India. Bagga said that a separate website would be created for ‘Mail Today’, too.

By all indications, the magazine giant is planning a comeback with a big bang. With the dearth of original content publishers in India, ‘India Today’s renewed online focus will be a welcome change. And about time, too.

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