e4m Go Dakshin: ‘People are getting used to the concept of paying for interesting content’

Mariam Mammen Mathew, CEO, ManoramaOnline, during a conversation with Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder, exchange4media Group, spoke on how tech and innovation can help build sustainable online business

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Sep 12, 2020 10:14 AM
Go Dakshin

The latest edition of e4m Go Dakshin was graced by Mariam Mammen Mathew, CEO, ManoramaOnline. In a conversation with Nawal Ahuja, Co-Founder, exchange4media Group, she spoke about 'Building Sustainable Online Business Through Technology & Innovation'.

The chat started with exchanges around Onam celebrations and how Kerala had fared this year. “Onam season has been very good for digital. Kerala has been seeing ups and downs for the last few years but the incredible spirit of the people keeps everyone going,” Mathew shared.

Taking the conversation ahead, she was asked to throw light upon the vision behind setting the first digital wing and online business in the early days when digital was not everyone’s share of pie.

“Our products evolved around the Keralite mindset. We decided that users needed to have a stake in our products. We wanted to experiment and find the best fit. We looked at our users and wanted to have products that they could use across the board. We wanted to bring users closer to brands and products,” Mathew said.

Talking about her learnings in the early days of the digital endeavour, she said, "We learnt a lot of lessons in the earlier years. We were very cautious about how much we spend. We needed to find a balance between expenses and revenues."

Talking about integrating print and digital and finding a perfect balance, Mathew informed that the brand insisted that the editorial team was part of the decision-making process. “Good content is the key that differentiates us from others in the market. We have been very particular to our content.”

Sharing the recipe that Manorama uses to bifurcate itself from the outer space and its success in the regional space, Mathew spoke of the value of good content and authenticity of being niche. “Good content always brings customers back. We try to get most of our traffic directly. We want our customers to come back because our content attracts them."

"The readers of our brand are very connected to it. Thus, we are very careful about what we do and how we do it. We are a regional and niche brand,” the CEO further said.

Taking the conversation forward, Mathew spoke about the digital subscription revenue scenario and if OTT had proved to be a competition to television channels.

“We realised that people will pay for good content. With all that is changing in the industry, viewers are now getting used to the concept of paying for interesting content…We try out everything that makes sense to our business. We try to see what would work for our final customers. It is important to make an effort to try."

Mathew also spoke about publications going behind a paywall and how people were recognising the value of subscription-based products. More and more publishers will eventually move behind a pay wall, she said. “Like every business of ours, we made a small start in the field of OTT. It is very early to say but we have made good progress in terms of acceptance from customers.”

Sharing perspectives from the point of view of Kerala’s readers, Mathew said: "Malayalam readers are willing to accept a product if it is of value to them. They are willing to experiment but they need to be thoroughly convinced. Once convinced, they will be supportive of your product. So, one should always try to disrupt own business and keep on experimenting to know wider set of avenues. At the end of the day, you have to believe in your product. It is important to build your brand on the foundation of your own strengths to be able to survive in the current environment.”

Talking about the future of online news consumption, she said, “Online news consumption will move towards video and audio formats.”

Signing off Mathew said, “I have a great team of professionals working on Editorial, Marketing, Sales etc. The business exists because of the hard work put in by professionals who are part of each and every team.” 

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