Home >Industry >Can’t pin hopes on Indian ad market yet: Quartz’s Jay Lauf
A file photo of Jay Lauf, president and publisher at Quartz. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
A file photo of Jay Lauf, president and publisher at Quartz. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Can’t pin hopes on Indian ad market yet: Quartz’s Jay Lauf

Jay Lauf, president and publisher at Quartz, talks about the website's journey in India and the response of Indian advertisers to digital news brands

New Delhi: Quartz, the US-based Atlantic Media’s online business news brand, started its India journey in March 2014.

Mint spoke to Jay Lauf, president and publisher at Quartz, about the website’s journey in India and the response of Indian advertisers to digital news brands such as Quartz.

Lauf is a 23-year veteran of the publishing industry with stints on both the editorial and business sides at newspapers, trade and consumer magazines, and websites. Prior to joining The Atlantic in 2008 as vice president/publisher, he was the publisher of Wired magazine.

How’s the user growth been for Quartz in India?

Really good. In India we are over a million readers.

While there is a lot of curiosity and interest about India from global news brands like Vice and Vox among others, this year we also saw The Wall Street Journal downsized its Indian operations. What does that say about the Indian market from a global media standpoint?

I think it has less to say about the Indian market, and more to say about the western media market. I think you see the old guard retrenching, disappearing and shrinking in this market. You see new players beginning to come into the market. It is a rich and interesting media market whether you are Vice or Buzzfeed or covering less important cultural stuff or a brand like us covering more economic and development kind of thing.

I think the promise for these digital brands is to not do what a lot of legacy brands have done and over extend themselves on the cost side.

What differentiates your business model from those of traditional news media companies in the US?

I think its a couple of things. We are lucky that we are building from ground up, we were born in 2012 so we don’t have anything to tear down. So rather than opening up a shiny new office in lets say Mumbai or New Delhi or in Johannesburg and then populating that with a bunch of people which is what I think a lot of them have done, it’s to strategically place journalists who are much more independent factors in varieties of locations. That comes with its own cost advantages at some level. It’s really about building to the opportunity versus over building from the beginning. Also because we are built for digital and mobile devices right from the start. There’s not a lot of brands that are doing that.

What’s the advertiser response from India been like?

There are (new media) companies that have come in here and are hoping to attract advertising from the Indian ad market. I’m not going to try that game, at least not in the beginning. My objective in terms of a business model is to take ad dollars from companies that are making ad plans in Hong Kong, London, New York to do business here in India. So, Samsung, Rolex, GE are good examples of companies that are planning from outside of India but want to attract the Indian market.

Is the Indian ad market not evolved enough to adapt to digital forms of advertising?

Its not that I don’t want to do business here in India, I just think I can’t pin my hopes on it yet. There are probably two big hurdles, one is there’s already a very rich media market here and there are lot of relationships between advertisers and media publishers. Its going to take some time to break into that. You cant just come in here and say now we are going to be your new favourite! Thats one.

Two, I do think that the Indian market is just at nascent stages of giving into what we do, which is native advertising and sort of higher impact. That comes at a different price point that I think this market isn’t willing to pay at least now. My hope is that this will change and evolve over time.

Will we see this change soon enough?

I think there are some green shoots from this year. This is my fourth trip to India in one year. What I find interesting is most of the companies that we are getting from here want to advertise outside of India. Companies like Infosys, Tata are more interested in advertising outside of India than in India.

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