Kerala’s media behemoth, Malayala Manorama, has every reason to feel encouraged by the performance of its online initiative. In end-March, Manorama Online hit the eighth rank among global news portals/websites and was first among websites of Indian newspapers, according to rankings put out by Alexa.com. It logged 180million page-views in March 2007. Indiatimes.com/Times of India Online was next at No. 9.
Said Mariam Mammen Mathew, COO, Manorama Online, “This is the first time we broke into the Top 10 list. This high ranking can be attributed to the fact that our website caters to a very specific and niche audience comprising the Malayalam speaking population in India and abroad who want to know about Kerala, its locales, its social activities, etc.”
Interestingly, Manorama Online is available in both English and Malayalam. Set up in 1997 as an HTML offering, today the website is state of the art and even offers Malayala Manorama as an e-paper free of cost.
Mathew explained, “With advertisers wanting to reach out to a more targeted audience, it becomes essential that we address a niche audience. The implementation of the IP geo-location technology has helped us offer geographical advertising targeted at specific countries. At the same time, our audience can choose any of the editions of the e-paper they want. Currently, we have around 20,000 subscribers to the e-paper.”
Manorama Online today is a full-fledged portal offering over 22 channels in English and Malayalam, bilingual email, chat rooms, diverse sections on Kerala ranging from travel to culture, photo galleries and video clips, as well as shopping and subscription services.
“The segmentation of the website has led to a greater appeal among the diverse Malayalam speaking audience,” Mathew said. “When we upgraded our technology in April-May last year, we saw an impressive rise in the number of page views. This is mainly because we incorporated technological changes whereby we could handle traffic better, as well as made the site more interactive. But since December last year, our page-views have been increasing phenomenally.”
The group was the first to have a short code in Kerala in order to reach out to the younger audiences that is more mobile-savvy. Speaking more about the innovations on the site, Mathew said, “We also have discussion forums on various topics and are keeping our readers enticed with various programmes. For example, when it was singer Sujatha’s birthday, we had a mini-site dedicated to her, where the audience could download ringtones of her songs, interviews, and more. We have such special features -- about two to three of them every week -- on various sections of our site.”
Mathew informed that close to 40 per cent of the page-views come from Keralites in the US, while 28 per cent are India based. The Middle East, with a strong migrant workforce from Kerala, accounts for 18 per cent of page-views.
To provide a direct link with these audiences across the globe, clips from the Malayala Manorama TV (MMTV) television channel are provided on manoramonline.com. Mathew said that there are plans to have more content from MMTV but refused to divulge more on this.
But Mariam Mathew is not complacent. “It takes just a click by the audience to change preferences and, hence, this makes this domain all the more challenging,” she said.