The eight-month-old mobile-focused news venture, The Quint, is on a roll. Quintillion Media Pvt. Ltd, in collaboration with Da Vinci Media GmbH, has recently launched Da Vinci Learning, an HD educational channel. The channel will offer knowledge programming and documentaries to Indian audiences, with a special focus on young minds. The Quint is also the youngest among five Indian media publishers to be on Facebook’s Instant Articles platform for Android and iOS users. IA is being touted as a revolutionary step in online publishing and will help display stories instantly instead of the standard eight seconds wait required to load pages. Raghav Bahl, co-founder and Chairman, Quintillion Media Pvt. Ltd and Ritu Kapur, the company’s co-founder & CEO, share their journey so far. Excerpts:
What do you hope to achieve for your brand, The Quint, with this partnership to launch an educational channel with DaVinci Learning?
Ritu Kapur: We look at entertainment as not just news and information. We are trying to have a fully diversified company in terms of content. We already have an investment in Youth Ki Awaaz, which gives us access to the youth community; even in Sheroes, which is a women’s community vertical and this takes us to kids. The Quint itself is extremely diversified. It is not just a news site. It is just as focused on technology, health, women’s issues, LGBT issues, entertainment, food, music. It is all of that. So that’s the plan. This partnership takes us one step forward in our vision to have a fully diversified content space.
Content in the kids’ sphere has seen a lot of stagnancy. What is your strategy to differentiate?
Raghav Bahl: Just the fact that this channel is totally different from the other 10-15 kids channels that exist. That by itself is the first innovation that you’re not trying to go down the route of dumbed down almost adult kind of sub-context that has crept into children’s programmes. This is positive, bright, doesn’t try and do language which children shouldn’t be getting exposed to. Its entire ethos and soul is different. We believe it will stand completely apart from other children’s channels.
Ritu Kapur: The other experience for us has been a positive response from advertisers. Increasingly, brands now are kids-focused. They want to be only partnering with content that is clean and not profane. Currently in India, all the kids’ channels are doing whatever they can to grab eyeballs and almost Bollywoodifying the content. Our USP is that we are positive and offer clean content for younger kids, around six years old.
If you watch our programmes, you won’t even feel you’re studying. It is not related to the syllabus. Most educational shows and channels are marks-oriented. But this content is outside your syllabus. It is learning without feeling that you are learning. Quietly, the learning process happens while you’re being entertained through clean, fun compelling characters. There is no pressure for marks in our content. It is enjoyably disseminated knowledge.
You were recently chosen by Facebook to partner its launch of Instant Articles. What are your expectations from that partnership?
Ritu Kapur: Before we launched our site, we worked for almost two months just on Facebook, because it gave us an immediate access to a huge audience. We were able to test what kind of content works with that audience. It gave us a great experimenting, sampling platform. We worked very closely with the FB team over the last 6-8 months. We realized that the whole consumption is moving towards mobile phone - 70% of our current content is on mobile. Instant Article takes the whole mobile phone experience to another level. You can be listening to content as you’re watching it; as you drive home and don’t have time to read long texts. IA gives you a completely interactive and gimmicky experience, but the whole gamut of visuals. You can just tilt the phone and see 360-degree aspect of an image. The quality of video play is fantastic. There is a revenue stream there.
Raghav Bahl: FB is open for publishers of Instant Articles. They allow you to research your own advertising which you can’t do on FB posts otherwise. It is a very sensible revenue share. If you bring your own advertising, you take 100% of the revenue and if FB places the ad, then you get to keep 70% of the revenue. It is a very progressive, positive move.
How has Quint fared so far since its launch? How do you assess it?
Raghav Bahl: We are certainly ahead of our expectations on several parameters. Our app has done very well. Launched only six weeks back, it has already got more than 10,000 million downloads. We feel the influence of the brand in the 7-8 months that we have been around. Today, people reach out and want to be featured. The quality of our contributors is excellent, be it people like Shashi Tharoor or others who write for us. So in every way, we are tracking ahead of where we thought we would be in eight months. The very fact that FB - which has globally partnered with the likes of NYT and National Geographic, and in India with old and pedigreed publishers like Indian Express - tied up with The Quint, only eight months old, gives you evidence that it has created an impact much above its weight.
What makes Quint different from other similar digital platforms?
Ritu Kapur: We are the only people creating content for formats which are meant for the mobile phone. The other digital properties are creating content for the web and making it responsive for mobile. We work the other way round. Our audience is only 18-35 years old. We also have older audiences, but we know we are converting those audiences to consumer content on mobile, and I have actually seen that in analytics for the last few months.
We are careful to be visual, easy, understandable and accessible in the way we write or produce our pieces. We do a lot of data visualization. People just pick up data and visualize it. We pull out the value and story from data and then visualize it. We play around with all formats that are visual. Video is our big differentiator. We decided to make video on mobile and digital one of our USPs. We had to do a lot of unlearning. Video on digital and video on mobile are very different from any other platform. It has to be short. If you think about people consuming content in their offices or on silent mode, how do you play on auto play? Now Instant Articles will push us to do video more innovatively. We have an edge there. We were able to jump into video much faster as compared to a publisher from Print. We covered the Bihar elections by recording on mobile phones, which we discovered was fantastic. The minute you approach a voter with a camera, camera-person, producer and reporter, it is intimidating. But we are taking selfies of each other and photos on mobile all the time.
If you watch a reporter with a cellphone, it doesn’t come between you and me. It is not intrusive at all. It was a great learning and we got access to voters in interior Bihar this way.
What are your priorities, going forward?
Ritu Kapur: The Quint just launched its Hindi site, so getting into Hindi and creating content in that language is definitely one of our areas of focus. We are going to build much more on our video strengths within Digital. We want to move towards news and pure entertainment content for Digital.
Raghav Bahl: We are very clear on our strategy that we are a fully diversified digital platform. When I say fully diversified, we will certainly lead with news and entertainment, because they are the two biggest components of digital content or even TV networks. Additionally, there will be lots of verticals – children, youth, women’s issues, health, technology and auto... All our moves in the last eight months have been led by this strategy.