Essential to give precedence to veracity of news content: Umang Bedi, Dailyhunt

Increase in number of users and time spent have led to ad revenues growing over 100% YoY, says Bedi, President, Dailyhunt

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: May 21, 2019 8:36 AM
Umang Bedi

Digital news has opened up new options for readers and provided a platform for advertisers to reach a vast audience too, says Umang Bedi, President, Dailyhunt.

Bedi talks to exchange4media about the Print vs Digital debate, the role of the digital medium during the elections and more.

Edited excerpts:

Today, there is a constant debate on the authenticity of digital news. Many print media organizations came together to run a campaign called ‘Print is Proof’. What is your take on this, keeping in mind the current election season? How authentic is digital as a news medium?
The campaign - ‘Print is Proof’- hits out at the critical issue of fake news and this stance must be respected. There is no denying the fact that most print media outlets offer verified news content due to the presence of a rigorous fact-checking process undertaken by the editorial team at numerous levels.

As far as my views on the authenticity of digital mediums during the election season is concerned, I would say that being leaders in the news aggregation space in India, we believe it is essential  to give precedence to the veracity of news content. For this, we follow a three-pronged approach.

First, we only work with well-established publishers; second, we only engage with professionally generated content providers. When the news content comes from such renowned publishers, the chance of news being fake is low.

Thirdly, we have developed a publisher rating system, based on views and feedback on accuracy of the content, along with feedback from our users. We then create a score, which is calibrated in real time and shared with each publisher.

The latest IRS data shows print readership has gone up. What about online? What is the reader base? Do you see an increase in numbers during the election?

The recently released IRS data for Q1 2019 clearly indicates a jump in print readership in India. While it explains how the overall readership of newspapers has grown from 407 million in 2017 to 425 million at the end of the first quarter of 2019, it also states that in terms of consumption of content the clear outlier was digital. The percentage of people who accessed the Internet has grown from 19 per cent of the total universe to 24 per cent, the data says. Hence, the online consumption or traffic is also simultaneously increasing.

The number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs) for Dailyhunt Group stands at 206 million and this is expected to cross 265 million by this June–by when the election season would be over in the country. 

This surge in user traffic during elections is not a new phenomenon for Dailyhunt. The fact that Dailyhunt has already evolved to be a trusted destination for India at the time of elections was reflected in the colossal spike in traffic on December 11 last year – the day assembly elections results were declared for the five states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana.

In a single day, the number of page views went up from 400 million to over 1 billion, increasing the number of time-spent per day per user from 25 minutes to 52 minutes. 

Our increased traffic during the 2019 General Elections has been attributed to three factors:

-A cutting-edge election product offering highly engaging, interactive, non-linear video feed tracking constituency level updates, holistic coverage of all candidates and multiple perspectives on important news events.

-A large marketing campaign titled 'Dailyhunt Chalao, #KhudKiSochBanao', which has encapsulated Dailyhunt’s core promise of being a provider of unbiased and impartial election news coverage.

-A potent mix of original and aggregated content amongst premier partners from all over the country across 14 languages.

With the increase in online readership is there also an increase in advertising revenue for digital news platforms? Tell us a little about your advertising revenue growth. What led to this growth?

At present, we work with the top 1000+ brands in India. Thanks to our explosive user growth and increase in time spent, our corresponding advertising revenues are growing over 100 per cent YoY. We are currently at a revenue run rate of $51 million and expect to cross the $100 million mark in a year.

The factors that are instrumental in our advertising revenue growth include:
-Focusing on brand safety: This is of top-most priority to advertisers while selecting a platform and Dailyhunt comes across as a perfect choice given our strict adherence to brand safety parameters.
-Giving precedence to the veracity of content in comparison to a host of other players entering the fray in India.
-Partnering with over 1,000 professionally generated content players and large publishers help us immensely in maintaining this growth.

Tell us about the importance of vernacular content for reaching out to Indians residing in tier two and three cities and towns during the elections.
I would start by saying that offering vernacular content to Indians residing in tier two and three cities and towns during elections is a must for acquiring new users and also for driving further engagement. The fate of this general election will not be decided by those residing in the metros, it will primarily be from tier two, three and four cities and rural areas. They will decide which party comes to power. 

Finally, what is Dailyhunt doing in terms of the Lok Sabha election coverage? 
We are constantly looking at ways to engage and excite our users. The 2019 General Elections has allowed us to take this to the next level.

From a product perspective, we launched Dailyhunt TV (DHTV) with the sole aim to transform election coverage in India. DHTV is the country's first election platform in 14 languages to offer Mobile-first 543 LIVE and local channels.

From a content perspective, we have aggregated content from studios, experts, stringers and aggregators to provide live and local coverage of the elections.

With regards to the AI/ML perspective, our algorithms show different perspectives on each of the key trending stories and this helps people form their own opinions, thereby delivering on the promise of the #Khudkisochbanao campaign.

This helps users get diverse perspectives to the same story and avoids echo chambers which is what a lot of personalised news content platforms have been doing. 
From a marketing perspective, we have launched a 12-week long breakthrough communication targeting voters of the country through impactful properties such as IPL, news and GEC.

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