Today, we stand tall at 40 million users: Bharat Gupta, Jagran New Media

The CEO of Jagran New Media tells us what it takes to survive in a competitive online market

by Nishant Saxena
Published - Jul 6, 2018 8:59 AM Updated: Jul 6, 2018 8:59 AM
With a rapid increase in internet penetration, especially in the Hindi speaking belt, regional language publishers are trying their best to capture the new market. At the same time, more publishing platforms and content aggregators are entering the market now, thus making the competition more difficult. exchange4media spoke to Bharat Gupta, CEO, Jagran New Media (JNM), to understand what it takes to survive in such a competitive online market and how has JNM been performing.

Here’s the edited excerpts of the interview:

How would you rate the performance of Jagran websites over the years?

It has been a very interesting journey. If we go back to 2015, we had just 8 million users on our website and around 3 million on mobile. Since then, our users on mobile have increased at a CAGR of 50%, although the desktop growth is worrying. Today, we stand tall at 40 million users.

We have grown our revenue to about Rs 37 crore, which is a growth exceeding 30% CAGR. So, both in terms of audience and revenue, it has been quite an interesting journey.

However, the most interesting part of the journey began last year when we asked ourselves: With so many websites entering the domain, how does one establish a differentiator for our site? Most of the top websites largely offer the same kind and the same genres of news. We then carried out a research to understand what this new online consumer is looking for in terms of information and news. The insights were really brilliant and now these insights are helping us to strengthen our differentiator strategy. We implemented it for some of our products and we saw great traction.

Do content aggregators help you get more traction or have they become competitors for you?

It is an interesting question and everyone has been talking about it. There are two sides to the coin. My personal belief is that publishers and aggregators will always co-exist. The real question is: What is that unique service or experience that each of these platforms are all about’?

For example, a user surfing a social website may consume content in a snacky way. From a short-term perspective, third party platforms like Facebook, UC or Google are interesting because they have a mass of audience which gives publishers a great chance to increase the visibility for their content. But in the long-term, these new users converge into a tighter-engaged funnel.

Also, if the ad pie in India is around Rs 7,000 crores, 28% of that pie goes to ‘Search’ and about 26% to ‘Social’. So while devising our strategy, we also view the impact on revenue. This helps us to decide how much content we should display across these platforms. We do not share everything with them.

What about the increasing internet penetration in Hindi speaking areas? Has Jagran been able to capture this new market?

This is the most brilliant opportunity that lies before us as a regional language publisher. It was estimated that India has 400 million internet users and the number is likely to increase to around 750 million by 2020, and the highlight is that 5 out of these 10 users will come from the Hindi heartland. Of these, 9 out of 10 users will consume content in specific languages, with Hindi having a share of 40%. Also, most of these consumers will come first on mobile, which is yet to penetrate in tier 2 and 3 towns. And that’s where the opportunity is. Between January and May, our user pool has increased by around 31%. So if I just talk about Jagran.com, we have about 17 million users. But the interesting thing is that my new user base has increased by 68%, which gives us a hint of the potential. All the figures that I have mentioned here are from comScore.

So while my overall base is increasing, my return base is also increasing. And it is heartening to see this increase in new user, as it shows that the new users are adapting us. And for this, we had to get more of local content published on our website.

Jagran recently launched a campaign, MyCityMyPride. What is the objective of this campaign?

MyCityMyPride came from a thought about introducing a sense of positivity amongst the citizens and getting them together to bring a change. A change that impacts the environment around them, a change that makes them feel good. We are trying to give scores to cities in terms of five pillars-- health, infrastructure, economy, education and safety. Then we will marry those scores with the amenities that the government has created in those cities.

Many people are shifting to metros and moving away from tier 2 and tier 3 cities because there are no jobs in smaller towns. But big cities are not equipped to handle the growing number of residents and give them liveability standards. So while everyone is moving to cities, there has to be some kind of a drive that improves the condition in cities. Everyone complains that the government has not done this or that, there are some changes that citizens can introduce at their level.

What happens to the data collected during the survey?

We match that data with the infrastructure that is existing in a particular city. We have divided it into three parts-- Awareness, Collaboration & Prosperity.

At the end of the whole exercise, we will come out with City Liveability Survey, for which we have partnered with KPMG. We will present these survey findings in an interesting way and give ranking to these cities. There will be overall ranking and ranking on the basis of the five pillars. Next, we will start collaborating with influencers who have actively worked on ground. So we will get them to a forum and come out with solutions to the problems plaguing the cities through public participation.

Are you planning to engage the government at any point of time during the whole process?

The government or the local administration will come in the picture in the last part, which is Prosperity. The objective of the exercise is to identify the problems, find their possible solutions and find out the measurable things that can be done. That’s where the government or local administration comes in. We can form an actionable plan and hand it over to the administration for implementation.

As a media organization, we are the voice of the people, and so we want to converge the ideas of the audiences.

What are the new things in the pipeline for Jagran?

Jagran New Media aspires to provide meaningful content to the consumers through data-driven journalism that informs, educate and helps them take better decisions in life. Also, we have planned a lot of different products. We have already launched some of these products and will be bringing the others very soon.

We recently launched Her Zindagi, a website for women. For online female audience, the penetration is only about 30%. We realised that the percentage is low because there is no content specifically for women. All the content that was available for women was largely around e-commerce or lifestyle and fashion. Her Zindagi has brought serious content for women, and in just 4 months, we were able to build a female base of around 1.5 million.
There are several other initiatives in the pipeline. But I can’t talk about them right now.
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