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Indiatimes has to be the voice of Generation Y: TIL’s Angad Bhatia

Revealing plans for the future, the Business Head of Times Lifestyle Network at Times Internet, says that plans are afoot to start an in-house creative agency, add data scientists to the analytics team and more

Shanta Saikia | Delhi | September 3, 2015

Angad-Bhatia Angad Bhatia

Indiatimes underwent a brand repositioning a year back. The portal has been increasing its focus on youth content and steadily increasing its unique users. Now plans are afoot to launch an in-house creative agency, add data scientists to the analytics team and making strides in the editorial strategy.

Angad Bhatia, Business Head, Times Lifestyle Network at Times Internet, which includes Indiatimes, iDiva, MensXP, etc., speaks to about the key areas of focus for the portal, the growth strategy, native versus display advertising and more. Excerpts:

It’s been almost a year since the re-positioning of Indiatimes. How has the portal performed since this re-positioning?

The success has been surreal. Today, almost a year on since Indiatimes pivoted, the site has grown over a 1000 per cent. Indiatimes Lifestyle Network content now reaches over 25 million unique users monthly. It is perhaps the fastest growing news website in the country.

What have been the key factors contributing to the growth of Indiatimes?

We had a simple plan – turn Indiatimes into a youth media collaborative in the short form content space built around the social web. My team and I went through various studies and met a whole lot of influential people from traditional media that told us that if you wish to reach the youth, don’t focus on news. But our gut told us the opposite. Gen Y is absolutely consumed with news, it is one of their big passion points. But this wasn’t easy to do. We had to deconstruct the news room, where the listening tools changed from agency feeds to Facebook and Twitter streams.

In addition, we took a fresher approach to every building block of the business, from editorial strategy, product development and engineering, analytics to sales. We found that the core of this entire change was telling stories that matter to our generation and to ensure they do phenomenally on social media.

What do users want from online content today? What are the changing patterns of online content consumption?

Consumption habits change, platforms change, and products come and go, but a user’s need for good quality and meaningful content stays intact. Surely, ‘listicles’ seem to be the flavour of social media, maybe it will stay, maybe it won’t. Formats too will evolve, but the need for meaningful content will not change.

In terms of consumption, it’s mainly happening on mobile. The content needs to be packaged really well for the small screen, and it needs to be extremely gripping. I could go on here.

What are the ways in which content brands can thrive in this intensely competitive environment?

There’s a lot happening in the digital media/ content space in India right now, both in text and video. There’s a lot of focus on platforms, streaming services, aggregation apps, etc., but only a very few are focused on creating meaningful content for those platforms and services. As long as content brands continue to create and curate meaningful content and create great IPs, they will remain highly competitive.

Why is the focus increasingly moving towards native advertising as opposed to display advertising? Why Native Advertising?

It can be difficult to prove that display ads drive sales, however, it’s just as hard, if not more so, to do it with native.

Yet there are several companies that are rejecting display advertising and are focusing more and more on native ads. This is because they aren’t focused on just selling their product. With these ads, they are propagating their brand philosophy, creating a culture, and trying to be a part of the collective consciousness of their consumers.

At the same time, driving sales is equally important. And for digital marketers that are used to tying ads to sales results, they may choose in-stream advertising which is more result-oriented.

The demand at our end for branded content has been overwhelming. This is now our leading revenue driver.

How long have you been associated with Indiatimes? How would you describe your stint here?

I started out at Times Internet (TIL) back in November 2012 when MensXP (a site I found) was acquired by TIL. I took over back in June 2014 as an additional responsibility. Here at TIL, I now run the Indiatimes Lifestyle Network – India’s biggest publisher network in the youth and entertainment space.

The journey has been amazing. The sheer scale and the exponential growth that we’ve experienced has been enthralling to say the least. From here on, we’re setting our sights much higher, our ambitions global.

What is the road ahead like for Indiatimes?

Indiatimes has to be the voice of Generation Y. All our strategies are singlemindedly focused towards that. We see ourselves as being India’s first, truly digital youth media company built around a simple mission of showcasing stories that matter to our generation.

We’ve re-structured every aspect of the business. In our teams today, there is a zest for experimentation. We are starting an in-house creative agency, adding data scientists to our analytics team and making strides in our editorial strategy – both with content formats and new content IPs. We’re also looking to make sizable investments into video content.

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