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Public app aims to cross 100 million active users in the coming years: Abhijeet Ranjan of Inshorts Group

Having a vernacular daily inventory of over 40,000 hyper-local videos with a monthly active user base of more than 60 million people, the app now aims to appeal to the next 500 million internet users in Tier II and III cities, as per Ranjan, Chief Revenue Officer, Public app (Inshorts Group)

Abhijeet Ranjan

Riding on the popularity gained from Inshorts, the Public App, since its launch in 2019, has focused on users in tier II and III cities who are more comfortable consuming hyper-local and vernacular content in short-video format.

Quite similar to Inshorts, the Public App also runs on an ad-based monetisation model wherein a variety of ad formats ranging from static interstitial ads to quarter-page banner ads, to two-in-one video ads and other innovations leverage the functionality of the smartphone.

“The interface of the app is such that we have the videos playing on the top, followed by the headline and then there’s either another video that’s cued in to play or brand advertisements in the bottom half,” elaborated Abhijeet Ranjan, Chief Revenue Officer, Public App (Inshorts Group).

He also went on to add that because the bottom half banner is a 100% viewable ad space, the performance and the Click Through Rates for the option is quite promising.

“Since we are inherently a video news platform, it feels only right to test newer video ad formats starting with bumper ads in the pre-roll and mid-roll and out-stream ads between the video feed which would go live next month,” he said.

It should also be noted that while the pilot launch of the Public App took place in five cities of Rajasthan in 2019, the nationwide rollout happened in 2020.

Commenting on how they offer personalised ads, Ranjan said that because the platform already has DMP (Data Management Platform) partnerships in place like the ones with Lotame and BlueKai, it also has the ability to opt for and cater to cohort and affinity targeting.

At the moment, some of the brands that advertise on Public, as per Ranjan, are GSK, Amazon Pay, Skoda, TVS, Amazon Prime video, etc.

“Because the audience behaviour on the Public app is very similar to that on a television channel, we work very closely with brands to bring up the scores of upliftment and consideration. We’re a very top-of-the-funnel medium for brands and thus we will continue to partner with brands and improve their scores on the aforementioned two parameters,” Ranjan added.

The Why’s, Who’s and What’s for advertisers on Public app

In the views of Ranjan, anyone who has a smartphone understands native languages and is looking for any local information update is the app’s primary audience.

“The core target group that we’re currently addressing is - GenZs and Millennials in the age group of 18-35 years across Tier I, II and III cities and towns of India. In fact, 72% of our audiences are in the age group of 18-35 years, while around 90% of our audiences range between 18-44 years, which is the target group that appeals to almost all the brands,” he said.

However, with reference to the location as well, almost 60-70% of the Public’s audience comes from Tier II and III cities, as per Ranjan.

Furthermore, he also went on to state that app has a brand solutions team and a brand studio which can help design relevant creatives in different languages which also enables brands to have a different kind of strategy for their various sub-brands in metros, Tier II towns and even rural areas.

In his view, Inshorts’ Public app is different from the various short-form video apps which run on the internet because it solves the need for getting local information and updates, unlike any other video app whose content is mainly tailored to satisfy the entertainment needs of the users.

“In fact, when we launched Public also, we had done a lot of research on what should be the ideal positioning of it and decide how similar or how different does it need to be from that of Inshorts, the first insight for us was that the audiences in the target areas would rather consume more native information and updated content in video format than a short-form textual format, which is why we opted for a 100% video and local updates format,” he pointed out.

Moreover, while throwing light on some of the objectives that the vernacular short-video platform aims to achieve in the coming years, Ranjan said that because people look for local information and updates on the app, the company plans to constantly work on making the experience better through technology and other interventions.

“In the last two-and-a-half years, the focus was to get the user experience and content right on the app. But now we are focussing more on the monetisation side for the Public as we have already reached a monthly active base of more than 60 million users and the idea is to keep growing on the same spurt and cross the 100 million users benchmark in the next three-five years,” opined Ranjan.

Commenting on the average engagement rate, Ranjan also pointed out that because the content is quite unique, it is reflected in the time spent per day per user on the application.

Sharing his views and throwing light on the USPs of the app, Ranjan stated that the amount of ‘credible’ video content that is rolled out on the short-form hyper-local video content network and the 60 million user base helps Public stand apart from the rest of the players in the news video content space who emphasise more on national news and thus don’t have a very large daily news video inventory for regional news.

“While Inshorts mainly appeals to the top 100 million internet users in the top eight metro cities who are English speaking and are interested in news consumption, Public App looks at the audience beyond this and aims to appeal to the next 500 million internet users who are more comfortable in consuming news in their native or vernacular language,” added Ranjan. 

What need-gap problem does the Public App aim to solve through ‘credible’ yet ‘hyperlocal’ video inventory

“In a country as diverse as India, people residing in Tier II and III cities were deprived of credible sources for local information. We observed and identified a glaring gap in the market when it came to informative apps that deliver localised content in vernacular languages,” said Ranjan

In fact, in the views of Ranjan, this has been the biggest differentiator for the Public App for the past two years and is precisely something that the company plans to double down on in future.

“We then focussed on how we can source credible content across levels. At the first two levels, we’ve tied up and partnered with the national aggregators for news along with their regional counterparts. At the third level, we have content creators, for which we tied up with local journalists across different districts and sub-districts of India,” he emphasised.

Furthermore, he also went on to point out that at the fourth level, they have has also tied up with government ministries like the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Petroleum, etc. who have verified official accounts with a blue tick on Public and are regular posters of relevant yet vernacular content which seems to be of use to the audiences in Tier II and III towns of India. 

Ranjan also stated that in the past two years, the Public App has been able to tie up with over 6,000+ journalists who are either TV or press reporters for churning out credible news updates regularly. 

“We’re now getting over 40,000+ credible videos for our local news updates on a daily basis. When compared to the leading newspapers in the Hindi belt, the individuals at max might get exposed to 50-60 news stories for any state and that too on the next day owing to the limitations of the print medium. Similarly, TV channels also provide a comparatively lesser number of news videos state-wise,” he said.

Commenting as to how  the Public ensure the ‘credibility’ quotient in its video inventory, Ranjan said that there is a very stringent mechanism when it comes to the content creators who can post videos on the Public App.

“We do a KYC check of every content creator that we have and to ensure that this is accurate, we also ask the individual to send a 30-second video calling out his credentials so that the details can be matched,” he mentioned. 

Additionally, Ranjan also went on to add that in a bid to ensure that the videos uploaded on app by any verified content creator is authentic, it also picks the geo-stamp and timestamp location for every video that is uploaded from a verified account.

“This helps in finding out whether the video was shot at the same time, date and location as mentioned, which further helps in curbing down the nemesis of fake news on the platform,” he said.

As Inshorts claims to be a tech app and not a news platform per se, the strategy for the Public App is also similar to that of the parent company - as it leverages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning mechanisms to recommend and throw up more relevant news videos and updates which are in tune with the audience’s interests.

“We look at the browsing history of the user and depending on the time spent or consumption pattern of the particular individual while consuming content across categories within local, hyperlocal, regional and national amongst other interest categories, the AI throws up further recommendations,” he said.

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