Quartz to join battle of foreign brands for India’s online news traffic
Guardian, Huffington Post too are eyeing India-specific online offerings
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New Delhi: Quartz, the US-based Atlantic Media’s popular online business news brand, is entering India amid a sharpening battle for online eyeballs among foreign media brands.
With more and more international companies launching their digital imprints in India, Atlantic Media, which publishes a mix of magazines and owns online news brands, will launch Quartz India in June, according to the company.
Quartz, which started in 2012, will publish its India edition in partnership with Scroll.in, an independent news, information, and entertainment website with India-specific content launched in January 2014.
Quartz claimed five million viewers in January 2014.
Apart from Quartz India, British newspaper The Guardian is also keen to start an India-specific website. However, the newspaper has not announced any plans yet.
“Senior executives from The Guardian have come to India exploring opportunities for some kind of future projects. They have met with media, technology executives as well to explore the market here in India,” said a person familiar with the information, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to comment on the subject.
The Huffington Post, the US online newspaper, has been in talks with the Times Group in India, Mint reported on 25 January, although the two media firms are yet to make an announcement.
This appears to be the second rush of online media brands into the Indian market. Between 2009 and 2012, US newspaper The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) launched its digital imprint in this market, and The New York Times started a blogsite. In 2011, Network18 launched Firstpost.com even as the UK’s Financial Times started an India home page on the FT.com website.
The online business in India interests global media brands for several reasons. For a start, online media products do not face any restrictions in terms of foreign direct investment in news and current affairs, unlike newspapers, which have a 26% cap. In addition, India is home to 169 million active Internet users, according to a report by lobby group Internet and Mobile Association of India.
“Entertainment is observed to be the main purpose of Internet access. Majority of the users like to access music, videos, photos and movies apart from online news and social networking,” said the report published in November 2013.
More than 40% of Quartz’s readers are outside the US, a level that has been consistent since its launch in September 2012.
Quartz’s publisher Jay Lauf believes news readers in India are hungry for coverage of Indian business news and how it fits into the global economy. “This growing population, like everywhere else in the world, is adopting the mobile devices and social mechanisms that give them ready access to information they need, and Quartz is built for those conditions,” he said in an emailed response.
Total unique visitors to news and information category websites grew by 7% from 43.6 million in January 2013 to 46.6 million in January 2014, while time spent grew by 47% to 2 billion minutes in January 2014, according to digital marketing and research firm comScore Inc.
Quartz will collaborate with local news partner Scroll.in’s team of reporters and editors in India to produce region-specific content for Quartz India. It will feature business, markets, and technology news and analysis, along with access to content produced by Quartz’s journalists globally. “With Quartz, the idea is to focus on business news since Scroll.in is focused on culture and politics,” said Samir Patil, founder and chief executive, Scroll Media Inc. that operates with a small team of 10 people.
In terms of content and coverage, the site will replicate its global model to follow “obsessions” rather than “beats”.
“A lot of foreign correspondents make the mistake of coming to India and focusing on difference,” said S. Mitra Kalita, ideas editor at Quartz. (Kalita was national editor at Mint from 2006-2008). “Quartz was founded on a belief that the global economy has actually created a lot of people who have a lot in common with each other—from Mumbai to Milan to Mexico City. So we will continue to connect the dots for readers—in India and globally.”
Globally, the business site generates revenue through a combination of ads (engage ads and sponsored content) and event sponsorship opportunities. For India, the site will be offering targeted native advertising in the region.
The entry of international websites is on account of the fact that the traffic generated by their parent sites in India is promising. According to comScore, international news websites nytimes.com, wsj.com and theguardian.com generated 978,000, 591,000 and 1,165,000 unique visitors, respectively, from India in January.
“There are an estimated 20 million smartphone users who access news apps while on the move,” said Prashant Singh, managing director at Nielsen India. “With online digital platforms, consumers also get a wider variety of news, which they can customize as per their subjects of interest. It will be interesting to see the impact of new entrants in the news aggregators and providers space for the Indian digital consumer.”