The Indian Express introduces 'Express Shorts' catering to growing demand for bite-sized news content.
The publication will be leveraging GenAI for story summarisation, becoming the first product to use AI.
Focus on mobile audience; 'Express Shorts' aims to engage younger users while promoting long-format content.
Strategy involves enhancing user experience, with future plans for monetisation and subscriber retention.
As consumers seek instant gratification today, in everything from grocery delivery to content consumption, many brands are bringing out innovative solutions to cater to this growing need. As readers’ average attention spans also decline, content creators are increasingly creating shorter formats of content to keep them engaged. The Indian Express is the latest to jump on this bandwagon with its offering ‘Express Shorts’.
The platform is offering readers bite-sized news content at their fingertips. The news is presented in small slides that can be easily swiped. Each swipe reveals a new story. One can simply sift through the headlines, read the brief story, or click the link to dive into the full story.
“In today's fast-paced world, everyone craves instant gratification, especially the youth. Recognising this trend, we saw the need to revamp our content delivery, particularly for time-strapped audiences. So we created a convenient, user-friendly platform facilitating rapid content discovery and real-time updates. It is similar to television news bulletins,” says Sanjay Sindhwani, CEO, The Indian Express Online.
The news publication has launched it keeping in mind the growing mobile audience base. With almost 85%-90% of the news platform’s traffic coming from mobile devices, this new format caters to their needs.
“We were not catering to the need for short-format. It was long overdue and we have plugged that gap now,” he says.
Express Shorts will also be The Indian Express Online’s first product to make use of GenAI in content creation. It will be making use of the technology to summarise the news stories into brief pieces for Shorts.
“Summarising news stories can be a very mechanical task. GenAI does it well. This is our pilot project using GenAI,” he adds.
The team is putting in efforts to ensure that the AI engine is well-trained. However, Sindhwani says it still needs human intervention.
“We have to do a lot of tests and trials to ensure that there are no errors in the content. We still need to have human supervision of the content, because the AI mechanisms can be biassed at times or can imagine things. I don't think we have reached the state where we can blindly allow the GenAI engine to take the final call,” he says.
The Indian Express is widely recognised for its in-depth and long-format news stories. In fact, it is this content that drives subscriptions. Sindhwani says that typically readers will not convert to short format.
“As we moved into subscriptions, we increased the long-format content. When people pay for content they want more long-format stories. But when it comes to consuming news, short format works very well. At different points of time, based on interest, people will jump from short to long format,” he adds.
Currently, the publication is not focussing on monetisation through the product. Instead, it is using it as a tool to increase engagement and acquire a new set of young users who are not very keen towards the long format.
“We want to make sure that the product gets adopted and used by consumers. In the next two to three months we will focus on improving the experience of the product, bringing in more elements into the product and growing discovery and visibility. Once we have the engagement and the eyeballs, monetisation should not be a challenge,” he adds.
As one reads the short news pieces, one can also head to the long-format stories by clicking on the attached link. In that sense, Shorts is also a promotional tool for longer news content. Eventually, Express Shorts will lead to higher engagement, which will help the platform retain more subscribers.
“We will be able to draw in more users into the subscription fold because more users will start hitting the paywalls which are metered on the site. Moreover, page views generate inventory for ads,” he says.
Inshorts, launched in 2013, is a pioneer of the short format in the news genre. The app aggregates news, infographics, and blog posts from other news publications and offers them as a 60-word summary. Recently, The Hindu also launched ‘Shorts’. However, unlike Express Shorts, it offers short videos.