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Dipstick: Can news apps drive business in future?

As news apps strive to offer users a seamless and hassle-free experience, it is still a matter of debate if the model can become a major revenue earner. Industry veterans explain if they can drive business in the coming future

Technology has evolved exceptionally over the past few years and with increasing penetration of mobile these days, apps are gaining users and prominence.

Consumers use apps to plan a holiday, play games, watch movies, socialise, read news and much more. Keeping the demand in mind, marketers ensure their presence on a variety of mobile channels and develop personalised communication to suit the consumer’s interests.

Apps are also a major source for a large number of people who want to get news on their mobiles. News apps focus on one main point – offering a convenient way to consume news. Various apps offer different features to reach out to consumers. A few taps with your fingers is enough to know what is happening around the world. asked industry experts what they have to say about the increasing number of news apps and how they can drive business in the future.

Hemant Jain

Avinash Pandey

The new generation is being served fast and short news, and detailing about where God lies has become casualty in today's world. Short news by web aggregators is also working because news has become bereft of medium. Large organisations don't hold the monopoly of news delivery any more.  However, news aggregators picking up news from news gathering organisations must pay for picking up content. Media organisations too need to develop a model that works in consumers’ interest. More and more news aggregators coming to play is only going to strengthen the news industry and more consumption of news is good for everyone.

Hemant Jain

Hemant Jain, Senior EVP & Business Head, Digital, Lokmat Media Private Limited

As we step into the future, content is not going to be restricted to destination. For example, today there are close to 100 million monthly active users on UC Web and there is a large percentage of around 60 million monthly users receiving content in Hindi and that is the reason they have launched a Hindi news app. Similarly, you have large aggregators of news in the form of Inshorts, Dailyhunt, etc. and if you look at Times Group, apart from having their own apps, they have also created an aggregation model in the brand name of NewsPoint. In this journey, the consumer starts to value the content in terms of credibility and frequency. It is over a period of time that user has started valuing the content from a particular destination site. The credibility of content and how you meet the content experience relevant to the user plays an important role in installing the app. All in all, the whole case rests on credibility of content, quality of content and contextuality of content.

According to a research report, there has been shift from the whole journey of capturing page views to time spent. It has been observed that people who spend 3 minutes or more than 3 minutes reading an article on your site or an app, the probability of them coming back within a week is much higher. It has been observed that people who spend less than a minute on an article do not turn back to the app or site even after 30 days. The whole shift has to happen from page views to time spent. In the news also, it’s not very far away. It’s just that publishers need to be cognizant of the format and the position of the ad served, does not become intrusive into his experience of reading the article. Over the period of time, the advertisers would be able to value such publishers and in turn the publisher would charge premium value for the same. The first move has to be made by the publishers where he has to put a lot of emphasis on consumer experience, quality of content and focus on getting user to spend more time on the article.

Vivek Bhargava

Vivek Bhargava, Chief Executive Officer, DAN Performance Group

Content is the core of digital marketing. If digital marketing consists of three pillars – paid, organic and social – content acts like a catalyst and multiplier across all these pillars. It reduces costs of paid, increases organic and creates more engagement on social. As users shift to mobile, the core content strategy would not change and hence there is increase in content apps. Content apps also allow brands to create and own their content – so it builds a permanent conduit with their target audience. I believe that brands would become large publishers and content apps will be a great vehicle for this objective. As advertising options reduce, content apps will lead to monetization of the content as well as long-term sustenance of publishers.

N. Suryanarayanan

N. Suryanarayanan, Head of Business, Hungama Digital Services

News and other forms of snackable content have been on the rise for the last three to five years. Adding aggregators and language to the equation has caused a tsunami of news apps. What is happening here happens in all new markets and categories that are free and fair, where entry costs and exit costs are low or non-existent, there will be a lot of competition. This will be followed by a fight for relevance, market-share (share of space and share of mind). Once this is done, you will find a few top news apps and aggregators with differentiators and/or user base absorbing the others.

So am I worried there are too many apps: in short, no. There will be many more to come. People will vote with their time and installs.

As markets and users evolve, basic ad units fail to perform as well as new formats given the same message. To most people, standard ad units will become blind spots or worse still technology will allow users to circumvent all but the most sticky/ stubborn ads.

All content platforms and aggregators will have to evolve better ad units if they want the user’s engagement. We have already seen relevancy being increased by context like hyperlocal or weather or content. We will also see a lot of change with native and content marketing coming in. In the meantime, there will be other options like Magzter and Blinkist as well. Right now, we should just enjoy the choices and the benefits it brings us as users.

Venkat Mallik

Venkat Mallik, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Tidal7 Brand & Digital 

The content apps business, especially news apps, is likely to continue an upward curve in India, as per the trend across the world. App marketers are becoming smarter at managing sustained usage of these apps leading to a more loyal regular user base and growing user sessions (rather than just driving downloads – which is the first level of growth). Their growth is definitely here to stay.

The business model for these apps in India is likely to be ad revenue based. Therefore the entire model would tend to be balanced towards maximising user sessions and ad responses.

In western markets, some of these apps are able to command a price for specialised content as well, but in India this is likely to remain a soft revenue option as seen as across categories on digital.

Advertising inside these apps will continue to thrive. Brands already advertise in content apps and this will only grow bigger in the days to come. Apps may offer premium ad-free services in which event the user will have to pay for the content. But too many consumers may not buy into these services in the near future, so the ad revenue model should continue to grow.

Anil K Nair

Anil K Nair, CEO & Managing Partner, Digital Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi

With smart phone penetration and broadband connectivity increasing, it is inevitable that more and more people turn to their handheld device for information and entertainment. Right now it’s a battle for downloads and penetrations which will in time mature to become a battle for eyeballs and stickiness and it is also when the big ad monies will begin to roll in. Right now the onus is still on the social content aggregators to trigger consumption but in time I believe that habits will form and content hubs of the future will emerge what is interesting is the interactivity, content formats and sizes that this technology will support.

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