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Manish Maheshwari, CEO Network18 Digital and Santosh Menon, CCO of Network18 Digital interact with e4m

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Manish Maheshwari, CEO Network18 Digital and Santosh Menon, CCO of Network18 Digital interact with e4m

Manish Maheshwari, CEO and Santosh Menon, CCO of Network18 Digital interact with e4m

Advancement in technology has not only changed the way news is consumed these days, it has also transformed the way news is served to the readers.

Every traditional news organization now has a full-fledged digital presence and the atmosphere is more competitive than ever. There is a tough fight to bring traffic on websites and every media house wants to be ahead of others.

exchange4media interacted with Manish Maheshwari, Chief Executive Officer, Network18 Digital and Santosh Menon, Chief Content Officer, Network18 Digital to understand how Network18 keeps itself relevant in such competing environment.


How has the digital medium changed the consumption of news?

Santosh Menon - Digital has spawned nothing less than a revolution in the access, consumption and experience of news. It has shrunk boundaries of time, space, price and languages, while allowing for an ever richer experience in consumption. The combination of digital and mobile has spawned a fresh revolution in recent years. While conventional, traditional media platforms have inherent limitations of form, shape and size, digital has none. It can take as much content you want to throw at it. And in all formats – text, pictures, audio and videos. Increasingly, it allows for much richer news consumption experiences with technologies such as VR and AR becoming mainstream.

What would you call the three differential factors of your digital strategy that helps you stay ahead of the competition?

Santosh Menon - Intensity, exhaustiveness, exclusivity & presentation are the cornerstones of our strategy. These apart, we are constantly experimenting and innovating with formats and experiences.

With many news websites producing similar content, how do you keep Network18 websites relevant?

Santosh Menon - We focus on our brands being destination sites and for that we put a premium on populating them with exclusive content, stuff you can’t read anywhere else. Even on commoditized news, our focus as far as possible is to look for exclusive, unusual angles. Basically, do interesting stories that surprise, stuff people can’t find anywhere else.

How do you think is the digital marketing changing for news websites? What do you think is its trajectory going to be like in next 10 years?

Manish Maheshwari – With growing awareness about fake news and data privacy, things have turned in favor of brand name news publishers such as us. Audience wants to get its news from authentic source and therefore even when they are on social platform, they have started paying attention to the source of news and the brand that stands behind it. In addition, at the top end, more and more people are becoming open to paying for news as we have seen in the US with New York Times. This opens up a new and recurring source of revenue in the form of subscription and allows us to invest in authentic and high-quality reporting. I see this trend continuing.

Another long-term trend I see is growth in voice-based interfaces for vernacular news in video format as more and more non-English speaking audience comes online for the first time.

How important is the role of social media for bringing traffic on a website? Do you think if such dependency could be challenged in the coming years?

Santosh Menon - Social media is an important tool for us to discover new audiences for our brands and their produce, but we are not handcuffed to it. We use social media for discovery of information (considering that news also first breaks on social media these days), transmission of our stories and engagement with audiences, but our accent is to build our brands. We will use social platforms opportunistically guided more by the philosophy that our brands will be wherever audiences are.

It is well known that teams in digital news portals are under tremendous pressure to meet keep traffic high on websites. How challenging is it for you. What is the number of unique users, unique page views and page views are you dealing with?

Santosh Menon - Many of our digital properties are among the top market leaders on several parameters. Firstpost leads the pack in engagement, Moneycontrol in page views among financial sites. New18 English is among the top 3 English news sites while News18 also has the largest breadth when it comes to languages. It’s present in 10 languages now and will be in many more before the year-end.

Network18 is the No.3 digital network with 61mn UVs in Feb’18, up from No. 6 digital network with 46 mn UV’s in Sept’17.

What kind of trends will dominate digital ad revenues for media players in the coming time?

Manish Maheshwari - At macro level, more money will flow from tradition to digital media. At the same time, ROI expectations from Digital advertising will increase significantly along with compliances on hygiene issue such as brand safety, measurability, data privacy and ad frauds. Within the Digital ads, pure vanilla display Ads will continue to see headwinds, while growth will be in video ads, programmatic, branded content and digital IPs. With proliferation of platforms, publishers with original and differentiated content with have a negotiating advantage and will be able to extract better returns.

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