New Delhi: Online newspaper Huffington Post of the US is close to signing a deal with The Times of India Group to launch an Indian edition, according to two people familiar with the development who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group, first mentioned her plans to enter India at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June last year.

Chief executive officer Jimmy Maymann said the company was “working very hard" on the Indian edition, PTI news agency reported on Friday. “We are in negotiations right now and we hope to launch it in May," Maymann was quoted as saying from Davos, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum annual meeting.

Asked about bringing Huffington Post to India, Puneet Singhvi, head, Times Local Partners Group at Times Internet Ltd, a unit of Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (BCCL), said: “Times Local Partners has helped launch seven Indian digital properties in the last year such as IGN, Gizmodo and Business Insider. We are evaluating a number of potential partnerships and we have great respect for The Huffington Post, its powerful editorial voice and rapid disruption and growth globally."

Times Local Partners is an initiative by Times Internet to partner with global digital companies. BCCL publishes The Times of India and The Economic Times newspapers. Hindustan Times and Mint, published by HT Media, compete with BCCL’s The Times of India and The Economic Times in several markets.

“We should be ready to announce details, including partner and date soon," Perri Dorset, Huffington Post Media Group’s senior executive director communications, said in an emailed response.

Huffingtonpost.com, the online news and blog site founded by Arianna Huffington in the US in 2005, branched out globally and was acquired by AOL Inc. in 2011 for $315 million. It has several international editions that include websites in Canada, Germany, the UK, Spain, Japan and Italy.

This year, apart from India, it intends to launch an edition in Brazil as well. The site gets 95 million unique visitors every month. Apart from international sites, it also has a Spanish language version in the US and a French language version for consumers in Quebec, Canada.

Asked if the Post would mean serious competition for Firstpost.com, the online paper of the Network18 group, R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief at the Indian online news site, said: “Online (journalism) is the way to go."

“If there is added competition, it will only improve the ecosystem that we operate in," said B.G. Mahesh, founder and managing director of Oneindia.in, a multilingual news website. He said the demand for content online is pretty clear and the new entrant proves the trend.

To be sure, there were several media companies in the race to sign up with Huffington Post. A top executive at another media firm that had approached Post, said the company was not keen on diluting any equity in favour of the Indian company it would partner or sharing editorial control. “They were rigid about their conditions. It remains to be seen how their partnership in India pans out," he said on condition that neither he nor his firm be named.

At Davos, Maymann told PTI that his firm will start with an English language edition in India and eventually offer news on other languages. Asked about the areas its India edition would focus on, he said these would be four broad categories—politics, lifestyle, entertainment, and business and technology, which are also the key focus areas of its US edition.

Close