United Kingdom-based Mail Online has inked a deal with Zirca to help sell advertising for the popular website in India. For James Leaver, General Manager, International, Mail Online, it was an “obvious decision”. Leaver has had a working relationship with Zirca since many years. He aligned with them even during his last stint at Microsoft.
“Zirca are the best independent sales operation in the market. They have got very good coverage and management. They have also got a very good approach to working with both publishers and agencies,” Leaver told exchange4media.
He insisted that Mail Online had made “very small” revenues from its operations in India. The tie-up with Zirca is aimed at accelerating revenues. Within a month or so, Mail Online intends to sign advertising deals with organisations that Leaver met over a series of meetings in Mumbai and Delhi recently.
“I am starting to get a view of how the business can develop here but it is too early for me to talk about that,” he said. India happens to be the fifth biggest online market of Mail Online after USA, UK, Australia and Canada. Since Mail Online has clients like Netflix, it is primarily looking towards advertisers from the automotive, fashion, film, health and television space in India.
Working out of newsrooms in various countries including in cities like London, New York and Sydney, the British newspaper’s website has grown into “the world’s largest English language newspaper website”. It uploads over 19000 photographs, 1600 stories and 650 videos on a daily basis.
The website has claimed that it attracts a traffic of 238 million unique visitors every month, about 7 million of who are from India. However, Mail Online’s critics refuse to call it a news website accusing them of perpetuating vulgarity, obscenity and misogyny.
Brushing aside the criticism, Leaver stated that he had never heard of it. Since the website has a loyal, engaged and decent sized audience in India, the country is one of the focus markets for it. It has pinned its hopes on a “sticky user base” that is said to be “receptive to engaging advertising as well”.
While India’s internet population of 300 million is a huge asset, revenues from digital advertising are not yet that high. “At the moment, the majority of the population here is not online so it makes sense that the majority of the advertising revenue is not online too,” he mentioned.
But he asserted that digital advertising revenues would explode with growth in internet usage. The trend that has been witnessed in the west is expected to replicate itself in India. Leaver argued that he would be surprised if it didn’t happen.
“Every country has its unique differences but essentially the world is moving towards digital,” he said. According to him, increase in internet users would be powered by mobile technology. Local language users would play a key role in that.
Mail Online is well aware of local language issues not just in India but elsewhere too. Though offering content in Indian languages is not on their radar presently, they are interested in exploring it. “As we drive the revenue, we will look at the audience and see what we can do with the audience from a localization standpoint,” Leaver added.
They are also keen on video advertising. “Our experience is that video advertising is fairly impactful,” he said. The other big opportunity lies in doing branded content. As an organisational policy, Mail Online clearly labels branded content to distinguish it from editorial.
“Even if it is sponsored, it still has to be an extremely engaging article. In many ways, it has got to be a more engaging article,” Leaver asserted. The company is hopeful of a positive outcome owing to its recent efforts. “We are at the starting point now. There is definitely opportunity to grow,” he said.