The founder and CEO of The Quint narrated what it has been like to start up in an unfamiliar medium, at Digipub World 2018. Her talk was laced with candour and humour.
Ritu Kapur, founder and CEO of The Quint, took the attendees of Digipub World 2018 through an anecdotal, serendipitous journey of how she and Raghav Bahl (co-founder, Quintillion Media) set up their digital-first media venture - and what they learnt along the way.
Here are some highlights of her talk; watch the video for details.
"I didn't know digital - I had no idea," Ritu admitted, harking back to the early days, "but I knew the potential for digital in India was vast... back in 2014, it was still all about print - even in the US." Ritu's self talk at this point was something like: "I am not legacy media anymore; I am now new-age media!"
"I had a real chip on my shoulder about being a 'content' person," she said, before going on to share one the first lessons she learnt while starting out: "When it comes to digital, you've got to have a very good understanding of tech and what tech does for content. If it's 55 per cent content, it's 45 per cent tech. Tech enables content. The word 'tech' wasn't part of our inquiry at all, then." A lesson that followed soon after was: building tech capabilities takes a lot of time.
Other lessons include: Diversity of talent in the newsroom is important. Publishers mustn't prototype their target readers; while it's okay to have a few basics in place, hard prototyping doesn't work. When it came to finding her feet around online video content, Ritu had to unlearn all her video tenets acquired over more than two decades in the broadcast world, because on digital, video is consumed very differently.
For instance, there are no 'weekly shows', the content has to be very short, it may be consumed on silent mode, the first five seconds matter disproportionately, and most importantly, "unlike broadcast, video content on digital needs to be very honest, raw, transparent... you've got to let the warts show..."
Also, journalism on digital is not about truth-holders dipping into their repository of information and dishing it out to passive minds. Publishing on digital is a conversation. "This was a humbling exercise for some of the senior journalists who were with us," Ritu said. On the content distribution side, one of the first lessons was - compared to broadcast, the distribution game on digital is a slightly more level playing field, notwithstanding the algorithm related challenges it comes with.
"You've got to be where your audience is, without being cynical about it. Each platform has its own audience, its own way of interacting with them, its own tech and design... We realised that while content is still king, the user is a superwoman/man who is, in partnership with you, deciding what she/he wants from you," Ritu said, pegging this as something one doesn't even think about in the linear world of television.
On the design front, the lesson is: It's disastrous to shelve ideation on the site design, UI and UX fronts for 'later'. Design affects content discoverability in a huge way, something Ritu and team learnt the hard way.
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Other interesting takeaways:
"Digital is not just video stolen from TV and articles stolen from newspapers. Digital has its own language, its own vocabulary, and its own tech that affords a certain kind of storytelling."
"Don't let page views and other such numbers dictate your content. It's important for publishers to build their own brand."
"Do something decent and meaningful and see where that takes you." (Context: In the universe of digital journalism, activism works).
"Unlike TV channels that are extremely competitive, there is an unstated collaboration between all new-age, digital news media services."
Event partners - Timesnownews.com (platinum partner), Akamai and Facebook (silver partners), and Freshworks, Vidooly, comScore, Quintype, Times Internet and 24 Frames Digital (bronze partners).