Dainikbhaskar.com, the flagship Hindi website of the Dainik Bhaskar Group, was recently adjudged the No. 2 news website in the country by comScore. According to comScore numbers, Dainikbhaskar.com has 24.3 million unique visitors and 378 million page views. It also continues to be the No.1 Hindi news website.
We caught up with the CEO of Dainik Bhaskar Digital, Gyan Gupta to find out more about how the DB Group is approaching the digital medium.
It must feel like a great achievement to become No.2 in the online news category despite being a non-English player.
Language (other than English) is going to become bigger and bigger in the digital ecosystem. We have been talking for a while now that the importance of content in different languages is going to increase and this (DB.com becoming No.2 News website) is an indication that this is happening. And I think it is important for content in different languages to increase, otherwise we are not going to be able to reach the entire country.
So, what would you attribute the success to?
I think it is a lot of stuff. One thing is that we have been doing a lot of work on the content, like having analyst discussions with the editorial team, understanding how digital and mobile audiences are different, how to treat the headline, the copy for digital, etc. We have also put in work on the product side. The websites are faster; we focus on a lot on the user experience.
What is the digital strategy for you?
The digital strategy for us is very simple. Everyone is trying to figure out their business strategy, but I think largely it is about understanding what the audience is looking for, in terms of content and information, and how do you give it to them in a nice intuitive and faster manner depending on the device he/she has. Beyond this we also look at how the advertisement and the user experience will play out.
Speaking of advertising, what are the challenges and opportunities that you see as a non-English digital publisher?
A couple of years back the story was very different. Advertisers would tell us that they are not looking at Hindi content. But if you understand from the advertiser point of view, it is very simple; they will go where the scale is. For them to make any campaign successful is not about the language (whether Hindi or English). If you look at print, if they want to go to a metro they will probably choose English, but if they want to reach out to a Jaipur or Bhopal they will choose Hindi. While TV marketers look at what gives them a mass reach. I think language is something that we overplay, but for the advertiser it is only about the audience quality and the reach. As and when vernacular language provides them the reach, which it should on digital; I think digital would probably follow the TV route rather than the print route, there is no reason why advertisers will not show interest.
When you say digital will follow TV, you mean in terms of reach?
Yes, in terms of scale. Also, I feel that in digital, other languages will have a major role to play rather than English alone. You see, digital is a mass medium but how does it reach 500 million? It will only happen if we get those 300 million who are speaking local languages online, otherwise the medium will be restricted. Today, if we are looking at digital being a 150 million audience medium, estimates suggest that 50 per cent of this audience speaks local languages and this percentage is only going to increase. The English audience, by and large, is already online. When we talk about adding new people to the internet, the growth will come from the local language population and Hindi forms about 60 per cent of this number. So, that is why I said that the audience spread of digital medium will be more like a GEC rather than print.
Can you tell us about the different properties in the DB Digital stable and the monetization strategy for them?
We have 9 properties with 5 being the most prominent----dainikbhaskar.com, divyabhaskar.com (Gujarati), Moneybhaskar.com, which is also the third largest business website, Fashion101.com and Dailybhaskar.com, which is in English. Then we have smaller properties like Bollywoodbhaskar.com, DBcricket.com, Jeevan Mantra, etc. As of now the largest revenue sources are dainikbhaskar.com and divyabhaskar.com. We believe that daiinkbhaskar.com is our flagship property because we want one website to have the most scale, which it has right now. The other websites are still new and are getting scale.
Videos are the latest craze. How do you leverage videos at DB Digital?
We have DB videos which we started about 10 months back. We have our own team, our own studios and we produce our own videos. We started with news bulletins, which are working really well for us. We also produce a lot of videos around specific content depending on breaking news, Bollywood news, etc. Video for us is very important, we are focussing on it and we feel video will be a great way forward. From a user perspective, bandwidth still continues to be a challenge but audiovisual is the way forward. This actually connects to my previous point of digital being more like TV. Once you go audiovisual, the whole language barrier goes away. Whether you read English or Hindi or any other language, you are completely comfortable watching videos in Hindi, so videos have lessened the language divide.
Coming to the mobile front, can you tell us how you are approaching this medium?
Mobile is becoming huge for us. Around 60-65 per cent of our entire readership is already from mobile and by end of the year it should be around 75-80 per cent. We are trying to figure out different monetization models on mobile and how we can create better user experience on it. A lot of our internal discussions are around these areas.
Are your revenues from mobile proportional to the traffic ratio between mobile and desktop?
What we are trying to figure out is how to give a brand solution to advertisers. Mobile is largely performance-led. Now for advertising to make sense, you need to have brand advertising. On the mobile you need to solve the brand advertising challenge without disturbing the user. This is the problem. Once we solve this and brand money starts coming in, then the mobile growth will get further accelerated. That is when the big money will start coming in. On the revenue side we still see advertisers preferring desktop and it also gives a higher ARPU on desktop. At some point of time this will balance out.
We are seeing platforms like Facebook wooing publishers to allow them to host content. What are your thoughts on this?
I think going forward the landscape is going to get very complicated with Facebook Instant Articles or Google AMP. There will be a lot of other guys who want to aggregate content. At the end of the day they are all trying to do a single thing, which is to provide a great user experience. I think the publishers should take up this challenge rather than relying on someone else to solve it. It would be naive for us to let someone else solve our problem.
Can you tell us about your business expectations this year?
We still have a lot of milestones to cross. Creating a stickier and better product for the consumer to give them a great experience is a very clear business objective for us. In terms of new product launches, we are working on a few things but I am not sure whether we will launch them this year. The larger focus for this year is to adapt to the mobile experience.