News18.com, the recently launched regional news portal by Network18 (Network18 launches local news portal, News18.com), will soon be covering even more regions as the media conglomerate wants to completely leverage its first mover advantage in the local news space.
Speaking to exchange4media, Lakshmi Narasimhan, CEO, Web18 (Network18’s digital arm) said, “We will be adding two more regions in the coming three months, with the aim being to cover four additional regions at the end of six months.”
At the time of launch (on January 26, 2014), the company announced that it planned to cover all the Indian states and territories over the next 18 months. Currently, the states covered include Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The main target audience of News18 are locals and non-locals, who want to know about news from their home states.
The portal will also increase the amount of textual Hindi content that it carries. As of now, though videos are in Hindi, a lot of the textual content is in English. Narasimhan said that the initial aim is to have about 15-20 per cent of the textual content in Hindi, which will be increased over time.
“Right now, News18 covers almost the entire Hindi speaking hinterland, except perhaps Haryana, which accounts for almost 45 per cent of the country’s population,” he said.
News18 depends on ETV’s network, whose Hindi network covers these states for content generation. Network18 had announced the acquisition of 100 per cent stake in ETV News channels three days prior to the launch of News18 (TV18 shells out Rs 2,053 cr for complete acquisition of ETV channels). “We will be hiring a lot of content from these regions and are in talks with partners,” said Narasimhan, when asked about the plans for Hindi-speaking regions.
Network18 also owns 50 per cent stake in ETV non-Telugu GEC channels and 24.50 per cent interest in ETV Telugu channels. When asked whether News18 will also leverage ETV’s strength in these regions, Narsimhan replied that they were entertainment channels, whereas News18’s focus will be solely on local news. He did, however, say that the company will explore all opportunities when they enter a region.
Apart from this, News18, which was launched with a clear mandate of being available across all platforms and devices, will also be ramping up its mobile presence in the coming months. To create buzz around the new launch, promotions are being run across ETV channels as well as other Network18 properties.