How is Mint doing?”
For much of this past year, I would typically respond to this oft-asked question by saying: “You tell me.”
After all, it mattered less what we at Mint believed how we were doing than what our consumers—readers and advertisers—thought how we were delivering on our early promises.
But as Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” and our first anniversary today seems as good a time as any to pause and reflect.
We launched a year ago saying Mint will try and fill three clearly stated needs:
• The need for authoritative, credible, and timely news and analysis affecting business and finance, primarily in India.
• The need to save you time, through careful selection of essentials, to spare you from wading through torrents of unevaluated words each day.
• And critically, the need for trustworthiness. Webelieve that the only information that is useful is information that is accurate and unbiased.
We said our Views will be distinct from our News and that, as an institution, we will proudly stand for the power of free markets and clear ideas to transform India and free its people from poverty and ignorance. And, in all this, we said we will serve as an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian Dream.
A year later, we feel pretty good about the values based on which we try to publish Mint every day. And our belief that we are on the right path has been validated by our growing reach—at last count, 119,698 copies every day, of which 89,495 go to individual annual subscribers—in the three cities that we publish from, having added Bangalore to our initial New Delhi and Mumbai editions. Our website (www.livemint.com) has had at least 10.5 million page views in January alone. As a result, in terms of our readership, Mint has been the fastest growing business news brand in India, and we thank all of you for your faith in this start-up and your support for its kind of journalism.
In terms of advertising, we began with almost no advertising, as is perhaps the norm for a start-up newspaper. We remained constrained by the fact that new newspapers in India can’t easily get into widely accepted third-party counts—of readership and circulation numbers—until they have been around for at least a year, a legacy of rules that try to create moats around established players. And yet, we are pleased that paid advertising accounts for about 12-15% of our total space on any given day. We see it climbing steadily to around 25% of total space available as we continue to attract relevant readers that advertisers will want to reach through Mint.
If you are wondering why an editor of a paper is concerned about these business matters, it is simply because a typical reader is asked to pay only Rs2 for a copy of a newspaper that costs much more to produce—Mint costs about Rs7; I am talking of just ink and paper costs. So, the better Mint does on the ad front, the more resources I will have to spend on bringing quality journalism to you.
Speaking of quality journalism, we were delighted to win the CNN’s Young Journalist of the Year for 2007 Award, which went to Priyanka Narain for her series of articles on the Sethusamudram project. Amit Varma’s Thinking It Through column on our Views page also won the 2007 Bastiat Prize for Journalism. For a young paper, these awards as well as our growing readership are a valid-ation of our belief that even as journalism lite, with its emph-asis on gossip and entertainm-ent, seems to be increasingly becoming the norm, journalists who offer real substance, accuracy and even-handed reporting will have a firm place among Indian readers.
At Mint, being even-handed doesn’t mean we shy away from doing stories that deserve to be told. Be it our year-long series on the government’s inaction over fake drugs; the need for transparency and an open debate about the impact of organized retail; the troubles with India’s patent offices; the corruption and inefficiency at AICTE, the regulator for business and engineering education; our focus on how taxpayers’ money is wasted in unproductive Parliament sessions—we have provided unique and exclusive coverage aimed at taking a critical look at India with a view to making our policies and practices better.
And we have been prescriptive whenever we have had ideas—of our own or as a platform for ideas of others. Our Sixty In Sixty series, which highlighted individuals who are working to improve India, was an example of showing readers what can be done by ordinary people with extraordinary determination, and our Indian Century series carried essays by prominent experts on challenges that lie ahead and how to overcome them.
Because we have invited you to tell us how we are doing—every story in Mint carries an email that you can write to—thousands of you have written to us this past year. And we are grateful for your feedback, suggestions, complaints and compliments. We have tried to respond individually to many of you, especially when the feedback has been about errors. And I apologize if not every suggestion has been implemented.
You can be sure we remain very reader-focused in everything we do and will remain so, even though as a one-year-old we have to remind ourselves that we need to walk before we can run.
As regular readers of Mint know, from Day 1, we have had a clearly stated policy of correcting any errors we make in the paper. In the early days of Mint, some people would look at our daily Corrections & Clarifications box on Page 2 and wonder if Mint makes a lot of mistakes. My response was and is to say: “Not really. We are the only ones that own up to our mistakes.”
The number of errors we made and how we made them (Graphic)
So, how have we done on that front?
Just as bartenders are likely to break more glasses because they handle so many more such glasses, journalists who work with data and facts are bound to get some facts wrong. We have had our share of them.
Through early 2008, we notched up 258 errors, all of which we corrected in both print and online. You can see from the accompanying chart the kind of errors we have made and who made the errors. We are not particularly proud of this statistic, but we won’t promise that we will be an error-free paper, because journalists will make mistakes. What we can and will promise you is that we will learn from our mistakes, try not to repeat them and watch out for behaviour that causes mistakes to creep in. And, we will continue to promptly correct all our errors in print and online. Much like Mint’s Journalistic Code of Conduct on our website is there for you to hold us accountable, please do tell us when we make mistakes. Otherwise, in this digital era, uncorrected information will also live forever.
On our very first day, I had noted that we have a young news staff—smart, eager and keen to prove themselves and guided by veteran editors. The group has grown significantly, from 89 to 146, and I am proud of its diversity—they range from Kochi to Assam and California to Kenya—and of the fact that about 47% are women, as well as of how hard-working they all are. That they choose to work at Mint and thus live by a strong ethical compass even when journalism as practised by many of their peers continues to dumb down is the real reason why we believe Mint is a clear and credible alternative to what is out there. It isn’t always easy to focus on the larger picture in the very demanding newsroom culture of Mint and sometimes, as editors, we have to make sure we are not focused on the finger that is actually pointing to the moon. But it helps and reinforces our belief that we are on the right path when readers such as yourself tell us you appreciate what is put in front of you every day.
So where does Mint go from here?
We want to go from early success to significance.
For starters, our goal is to be available in more cities across India. We will also significantly enhance our online offerings as we have been doing all year—if you haven’t been to www.livemint.com recently, I would urge you to check it out, especially our MarketInfo section. You will also see more Mint stories in video form this year, initially on our website.
We will do this by retaining our seriousness of purpose and increase the amount of substantive coverage of important business, economic, financial and social issues—even if others continue to go down a different route. We will continue to better even those offerings, such as Lounge, which you tell us you already love. In doing all this, we will maintain a clear barrier between news and views, as well as between our journalism and our advertisers. You must be able to trust that our news, analysis, perspective and interpretation are honest and not guided by hidden agendas. And we will build on the trust you have reposed in us so far.
Behind Mint is the simple premise that newspapers need to be for and about what readers want and need. So tell us what you like in Mint and what could be different in the weeks and months to come. We mean to make it better—for you. Please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.