Or are they part of a bubble?
Digital has been changing the face of journalism, what with the new breed of news websites like Scroll, Catch News, Quartz, Quint, and The Wire, becoming popular. Sites such as these are like 'multimedia newspapers'; they cover a range of topics and also carry opinion pieces. Growing internet penetration and the need to sample news on-the-go has fetched these alternative news sites their fair share of readers.... and loyalists even.
But, getting good ad rates continues to be a challenge. How financially viable are these sites? Do alternative news sites have a bright future in this market? We spoke to a few industry experts to find out.
Samir Patil, publisher, Scroll
Two opportunities attracted us - we felt there was room for a more analytical approach to news and entertainment, coupled with smart phone adoption, in the last three years, which made it possible to reach an audience of 125-150 million truly connected to the web. This was not the case a few years back.
We do not believe the app-only strategy is right for content business. We do think apps are crucial for they offer users far more in terms of alerts, personalisation, and speed. Ours is a mobile-first but not an app-only strategy.
Sidharth Bhatia, founding editor, The Wire
The ad industry is still a bit skeptical and waiting to see how these sites turn out. And, there are no reliable metrics of readership, demographic profiles, and therefore, bang for the ad buck. Nor will readers pay for content, given that they get so much for free. So, everyone is trying to find that Holy Grail.
Sukumar Ranganathan, editor, Mint, HT Media
Companies like HT Media, which have large marketing teams and existing relationships with advertisers, are better placed to monetise the output of their newsrooms, provided they do the right things. For instance, over the past few months, we have seen some big names offering advertisers solutions that marry print, digital and events.
The continuing relevance of print to advertisers, combined with the fact that the medium is not going to die in the short-term - (although its share of overall advertising revenue will continue to shrink) - means newsrooms such as those run by HT Media will remain well-funded and are able to invest in resources, both technology and people, required to succeed in the new media business.
What we are seeing in the Indian media environment now are instances of virality and valuation masking issues related to viability.
B G Mahesh, founder and managing director, OneIndia
In the US, newspapers are struggling; in India it is not the case. But, the ad market from print will slowly but surely shift to the digital space. Big corporate houses could buy small newspapers, but I doubt the big brands in print will be acquired by individuals in India.
Alternate news sites in India will be driven by what has succeeded in the West. The moment something succeeds in the US, someone here will want to try it out. But, these days, US ventures themselves want to try out their Indian edition on their own.
With inputs from Ashee Sharma