Online content consumption has seen a drastic shift in India. There are 243 million active Internet users in India out of which 200 million are active on mobile, 118 million are active on social media and 100 million are active on social media via mobile, as per We Are Social’s new Digital, Social and Mobile in 2015. Digital revolution and the thrust of consumable content on the go, got international publishers interested in India. From Huffington Post, Quartz, Mashable to the popular listicle site BuzzFeed, the trend is growing with every year.
When it comes to content consumption, India has been dominated by TV and Print. However with the digital revolution led by the mobile growth in the country, traditional publishers have started investing in building digital assets to cater to the millennials and convert them into regular readers. “About two years ago, we started building specialist teams in the areas of Digital products, Mobile and Digital Ad sales,” informed Arpan Chatterjee, Sr. G.M. & Business Head, Digital Content at Kasturi & Sons Ltd (The Hindu Group of Publications).
“The Hindu was one of the earliest movers in the online news publishing space in India. This year, we enter our 20th year of disseminating news digitally. The journey has been very encouraging, and we have adopted best practices over the years including multiple design revamps and creating a robust content management platform,” he added.
Content curation, packaging and user engagement
In addition to the publication websites of TheHindu.com & TheHinduBusinessline.com, the publication has been investing time in curating content. Elaborating on how it works Arpan explains by citing an example of the latest breaking news – Arvind Kejriwal is stepping down from his post as National Convener of the AAP party. “This is a big news that is going to come on the print but in addition to this on web we will be curating a lot of latest developments on the news, Arvind Kejriwal and his party. These curated content shared on the web are in the form of tweets, videos, photos, etc.”
Right now all the curation for the web is carried out by the online editorial team, rather than depending on third-party apps such as Rebelmouse and others. However, international publishers say they like using Rebelmouse for specific events and its monetization through the curation page like it did for Time Inc. Perhaps this could get The Hindu thinking.
The other interesting development has been the creation of packages around big events. With the ICC World Cup on, The Hindu has created interesting content package for readers. Highlight reel is a section on the web that provides a look back to some of the performances that have lit up the tournament. A similar activity was also carried out during the Budget 2015. “We created an interactive timeline for finance ministers starting with the our first finance minister R. K. Shanmukham Chetty to the latest one Arun Jaitley. These are the content packages that we are only able to do on digital due to our strong archives.”
Apart from the content curation and packaging, Hindu has invested its time and efforts into user engagement. Live Chats on digital over burning issues is one example, like it is doing over the debate on beef ban in Maharashtra. “We do such chats during any mega events, we invite readers to discuss over serious issues along with our inputs. For this dialogue we are using Facebook so that more and more people can participate in the discussions,” Arpan said while informing that the live chats saw a great response in the recent Budget.
Mobile – a boon for Hindu
Along with digital, mobile has also been a boon for Hindu with a user reach now 80% of the web. “Our Android app has been featured as the best app during couple of occasions. Last month our iOS app stood at the second position, on an average we trend in the top five,” he informed. All the apps have a good user rating too, he said.
The reach of web and mobile has exploded for Hindu after its dedicated focus on vernacular medium. “In mid 2013 we launched our vernacular initiative with tamil.thehindu.com. The site today is one of the top five Tamil sites and our WAP gets ten million pageviews. We are all waiting for the inflection to happen in vernacular medium, right now we are already seeing very encouraging returns by having a reach of close to 20 million including web and mobile.”
The initiatives on digital have started showing up – according to Comscore data for Jan to Jan period in 2014, Hindu has witnessed a growth of 12% in total unique visitors and 31% in pageviews. “While we are seeing positive results, going further along with our understanding of usage of the traffic we are also trying to work on how users are reacting to stories. We are doing this via heat-maps across folds, center pf the page and sidebars and across sections. The final bit that we are trying to work on is to understand our users by building an Audience Profile Management,” Arpan informed on how analytics in the publishing house has moved from usage to user.
While he refrained from sharing any of Hindu’s future plans on digital, he sees no threat in the growth of listicle sites like Buzzfeed, ScoopWhoop, etc. He believes that listicle sites have in fact created an environment by which news consumption has increased in the millennials and Gen X (17-25).
“Out of the 10 guys reading news on such portals, my belief is that 2 will come to us to check the authenticity and great more details on the news. So there is no competition and in my mind, this actually helps reputed news publishers, particularly those known for their equity of value-based news offerings and a distinct flavor of news & opinion delivery.”