From niche content to premiumisation, Mishra talks about the erstwhile Zee Digital's plans to scale growth and revenue.
Earlier this month, IndiaDotcom Digital (IDPL), formerly known as Zee Digital, launched an entertainment portal 'ScreenBox.in'. A video-first platform, it will cover showbiz news across various genres, including world cinema, Hollywood, Bollywood, regional cinema, OTT, TV and music.
The launch is in line with IDPL's strategy to amplify its digital-first properties and strengthen its presence in niche content. It has launched 'Techlusive', a website that offers tech content. It has also soft-launched 'My Lord', a legal website. The content caters to the common man, and not the legal fraternity.
"Our plan is to get into niche genres, where there is enough scope and growth. Although revenue is still a far-fetched dream in these spaces, we are investing to develop engagement and make our platforms a primary destination for most of our users. Every third Indian somewhere is consuming Zee content in some form," says Shridhar Mishra, chief revenue officer, IDPL.
IDPL owns over 32 digital properties, including Zee News, Zee Business, Wion, Zee Hindustan and DNA. But the primary focus this year, will be on india.com. It will be investing more into the platform and build it as a one stop destination for anything to do with India. Beyond news, it will offer infotainment and information. From places to go to utility services, it will cater to every need.
"We have already done a soft launch, but will ramp it up over the next one year," Mishra shares.
These initiatives are a part of IDPL's plans to scale the business, and generate new avenues for growth and revenue.
The two years of COVID-induced lockdowns, were good for content businesses, especially on the digital front. With people locked up at home, they were consuming all kinds of content. However, post-lockdowns, the consumption has reduced.
"Post the market correction that happened last year, our effort is to scale up our growth and revenues," Mishra adds.
This year, the focus will be on vernacular, voice and video.
From a news genre perspective, IDPL closely follows Zee's linear strategy. So just as Zee has regional TV channels, IDPL has built its digital assets around it. With this, it has platforms specifically catering to different regions, including niche languages like Odia and Urdu.
"Zee has identified a huge opportunity with vernaculars. If we want to target first-time users, we need to speak in their language," Mishra states.
However, advertisers still have a higher affinity towards English or Hindi content, and have not yet opened their purse strings for vernacular content.
"Advertisers are still recreating or dubbing their national content for vernacular audiences. That does not help to get the complete RoI. Roughly, India has around 700 million-plus active Internet users. Out of that, 520 million-plus are vernacular users. We are investing, but the advertising fraternity is not reciprocating similarly," Mishra says.
He admits that the rate of migration is slightly slower than what was anticipated. Yet, he is confident that the mindset will change soon.
On its part, in a bid to provide better RoI to its clients, IDPL recently partnered with Google to get deeper insights on customer data. It has created almost 200 audience cohorts. While mapping a campaign, it has seen better click-through rates (CTRs).
"The CTRs for vernacular campaigns are already 30-40% higher. But when you map this against first-party data, we have seen that it further improves CTRs and the conversion rate. This helps our advertisers. Better conversions mean that they will buy space in vernaculars," Mishra explains.
While it has a platform for almost all the regions, there are a few gaps it aims to plug. So, this year, it plans to launch a platform for Northeast India. It is also attempting to add hyperlocal coverage.
"Given our regional coverage, we are, perhaps, the only digital conglomerate to cover almost every state in India. It is one of our biggest advantages over our competitors," Mishra mentions.
With five state elections scheduled this year and the general elections next year, IDPL is planning to launch 'election microsites'. These will be small platforms hosted on the main sites, and each state will be given its due importance. It will make them an attractive destination for parties to run their campaigns.
It also plans to convert all its properties into video-first platforms.
"A majority of the vernacular audience, are mobile-first, and prefer consuming short-form video content in their native language. We are seeing better engagement with video. Zee has the largest video inventory on the vernacular front, because most of our competitors are from print background. So, they do not have a legacy in audio-visual content," adds Mishra.
In a bid to gain subscription revenue, IDPL is also mulling over introducing a paywall this year.
"IDPL will offer premium services that will coexist with free services. People can still access our news, but exclusive stories and features will be premium," Mishra shares.