Advertising is just 47% of my business: CEO, Times Internet
Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet, on Artificial Intelligence, subscription-based model ET Prime and the art and science of acquiring customers for life
After its inception in 1999, Times Internet has gone on to become one of India’s largest internet networks. Be it news, music, videos, personal finance or even cricket updates, Times Internet has had a dominating presence over the years, catering to a rather large audience base.
This digital venture of The Times of India owns around 55 key properties including 14 news brands, 12 digital first brands, 3 classifieds and 14 global partners.
“We started off as a media company because of BCCL’s more than 100 years history. We began with The Times of India, Economic Times, Navbharat Times and so one but over a period of time we realised that what we are actually good is not at just informing but engaging, entertaining and servicing the user,” Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet told exchange4media while explaining the company’s transformation from a traditional media company to a technology company.
Times Internet and its strategy
“In today’s world not only the content but its distribution is also important,” said Sinha, adding, “Media is a very important property. It allows you to aggregate users. It is a free property, people come and read content that you put out. Once you have the users it is up to you what you can do with them.”
Times Internet deals with over 232 million unique visitors per month whom, according to the company, collectively account for 10.4 billion page views and 10.0 billion minutes spent across web and mobile.
Talking about the strategy to keep these users engaged, Sinha said, “Times of India has over 110 million monthly active (visitors) and that gave the concept of what all services could be given to the same visitors."
“If you look at news Times of India, Economic Times, Navbharat Times etc, we have a lot of news properties which is where we have a fairly large share of market. In sports we have cricbuzz and Willow, Cricbuzz on the mobile phones takes probably 85-90% of the total market share, dominating the space. In music, we have gaana which has 65 million monthly active (users); very dominating in its core space and we have a property in video which we acquired which has 65 million daily active users today,” he said.
On being asked the need of having a purely subscription-based platform, Sinha explained the need to cater different people who expect different level of details and said, “ Not all users are the same. The need for ET Prime came from readers who are looking for in-depth articles."
“There is a lot more research, lot more originality, a journalist writes probably just one article a month because that’s the depth of research that is required. There is a certain amount of audience who wants that information and are willing to pay for it,” he remarked while speaking about a subscription based model in India.
“Not everyone will pay for it but there is a niche audience. It is not an “either” “or” situation. Economic Times is still available. We are just giving a choice to people who want to read in depth articles or research pieces on a particular topic by well-known journalists,” he said.
The Content Trap
“I think technology and content will continue to be produced. The graph will be straight up. We are all producers of content. What I put in social media, I am the producer, I don’t need a Times of India to produce that for me. Now, everyone in this world is a producer of content. Whether it’s audio, video, text, it’s going to be pervasive."
“Artificial Intelligence will have a significant impact both in creation of the content as well as personalisation of the content for the end user,” Sinha said.
“Machine learning allows you to learn all these behaviour; it is no more one size fits all, that’s where machine learning is very important,” he said, further adding that The Times of India today produces 5000 articles every day, of which most people only read the homepage. "Now if there are consumptions that you can personalise, you can potentially change the homepage for everyone. Everyone sees their own personalised homepage.”
“We are already live on Newspoint with the personalised features. If you are reading from Chennai, you will have a different headline based on what you have been reading, what location you have been logging on from," he added.
“We have always had a 40% plus growth trajectory but our ambition is larger. Advertisement is just 47% of my business,” he revealed to exchange4media.
“Advertisements, classifieds, transactions, subscriptions- these are my four revenues,” said Sinha.
“Any digital business is based on if Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is greater than Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). So if you have one Customer Acquisition Cost and five Customer Lifetime Value, you are already sitting on a significant advantage,” he said explaining how by merely spending some amount to get a person on one of its properties, Times Internet engages the customer on its other properties as well.
Speaking about entertaining users and keeping them engaged, Sinha explained, “On an India vs Pakistan match day, it is easier for us to acquire an audience. Once we have our audience on cricbuzz, I can take that user and make him use five more services, which he wants.”
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