The next few years for Firstpost will be all about evangelising: Azim Lalani, Business Head

In the last six years,the website has done exceptionally well, according to Lalani. In a chat with exchange4media, he reveals future plans for the brand

e4m by Ronald Menezes
Updated: Sep 21, 2017 6:48 PM

In the last six years, Firstpost has done exceptionally well, according to AzimLalani - Business Head. He also says that it is the only brand to survive, sustain and grow in comparison with its competitors.He also shared that the site has grown 10 folds in revenue in the last six years and from the past three years is consistently growing 50-60% year-on-year. In a chat with exchange4media, he reveals future plans for the brand.

Edited Excerpts:

What has Firstpost been doing terms of marketing the product?

Since content is king, our strategy on marketing is completely different. We don’t believe in doing brand marketing; instead we have an organic approach.Firstpost is known as an opinionated digital publisher.We curate news based on our reliable sources. We don’t position ourselves as breaking news digital publisher but believe in providing quality analysis by giving multiple opinions because of which our engagement is high through organic traffic. Hence, the need to market ourselves is on the lower side since we are able to achieve the numbers and highest engagement. Also, Firstpost has been able to reach a milestone by achieving highest engagement numbers in the month of July, according to the comScore MMX report.

How has the site been performing over the first twoquarters of the year?

It is delightful to see our portal be the top digital-first news publisher in India. However, when advertisers plan a campaign they don’t have a different bucket for digital-first websites etc. because they consider us in the same news bucket. Hence, we are bound to be compared with NDTV and TOI which are legacy brands but having said that we are able to give them a tough fight since our engagement is extremely high. The news site has an excellent reach despite being niche.

How important do you think content marketing is today?

Channels like The Viral Fever (TVF) and All India Bakchod (AIB) are doing good work with fictional content. In earlier times, the integration was planned after the content was created which looked like a forceful fit. But today, the market is so evolved and fast moving that we can create content while simultaneously integrating a brand. While deciding on a storyboard we sit with the client along with the agency and do the integration so that it all syncs well.‘Caraoke’ is one such example of the concept wherein integration is very seamless. Mercedes is the sponsor for it and the integration is so subtle that the promotions don’t appear forcefully integrated.I think the future of content marketing depends solely on innovation and ideation.

Which sectors are spending more in terms of advertising this festive season?

Ecommerce and consumer tech clients will be spending well because good product reviews will fetch them good sales. Post December, we see growth in the financial category because of theunion budget and investments being planned in that quarter.Also, we see growth in automobile sector which was stagnant from the past few months due to the doubts and non-clarity on GST.

Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered content marketing be a game changer?

AI is the present and not the future. Today, whatever we consume digitally is pushed to us through machine learning and AI; all the feeds are algorithmically served to the consumers. For Firstpost, AI is important but it is a complimentary factor. Our prime focus still remains in providing quality opinionated content and of course, AI complements our whole plan. Our core still remains to deliver curation, trends and opinions on time complimenting with AI.

What is your take on fake news and how does it affect the credibility of good news sources?

I agree that there are a lot of things going on with fake news. There is content which is constantly bombarded to common users and it’s difficult to identify which is true or fake. Hence, relying on credible news is must and that is where Firstpost comes into picture.We are a credible source because we are not a breaking news platform. We curate content from our reliable sources when the news is out in the industry due to which fake news doesn’t affect us because we handpick our news and based on that we write our opinions. It’s on users to decide to stop or cull out fake news.

What is in store for your product in future?

We need to plan for the future, but two or three years is long in the digital space. This year, we predicted that content consumption through laptops and desktops will reduce and video consumption on mobile phones will increase. However, themigration of users to mobiles happened in a short period of time. Having said that, we are the only player to grow in difficult times in the industry and that’sbecause we balanced revenue through display and branded content together. This year, we launched Firstpost studio which is a production arm of Firstpost wherein we do anything or everything from branded content, brand films, creative work, execution (360 production shop) which has worked very well for us.We are working on an app strategy where we are coming up with new ideas to bring in micro-transactions into play,which is specific to the Indian users. In the next two or three years, AI and bigdata management will alsogradually come into play with programmatic automation in picture. It is all about evangelising to get an engaging content strategy in place, while maintaining our place as the most credible digital publisher in India. 

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