News aggregators are dominating Indian digital news distribution

Trends in digital media

Ramanujam Pobbisetty of Comscore India at Digital Media India 2019.

The Indian digital news distribution is being led and dominated by aggregators such as Dailyhunt and their reach is growing, said Ramanujam Pobbisetty, director, Comscore India at the recently concluded Digital Media India 2019 that was held in Mumbai.

Comscore is an American media measurement and analytics company that offers marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. It has more than 3,200 clients worldwide in more than 70 countries.

Bengaluru-based Dailyhunt is a mobile application with the highest reach and is the only news application among the top 50 applications downloaded. Dailyhunt (earlier known as Newshunt) is a news and local language content discovery application which offers pieces of content every day in 14 languages licensed from over 2000 publication partners.

“Dailyhunt tops the combined reach of its seven competitors,” said Pobbisetty.

Highlighting the comparison of consumption of digital news in India and the world, Pobbisetty said as of December 2018, India had more than 278 million unique visitors compared to more than 1.8 billion worldwide. This reach was close to 95% of India’s total digital population, much higher than the global average which was a little over 80%. India has the maximum news penetration among the large digital populations, he said. Against India’s 95% penetration, USA had almost 90% while Brazil had close to 93% and China was low at 68%.

Vernaculars were leading the growth; as against 38 page views per visitor for English, vernaculars have an average 53 page views per visitor, he shared.

Challenges and opportunities

Despite a large digitally connected population accessing news online, the level of engagement in India continues to be very low compared with global average. In India, on an average every visitor spends about 150 minutes on the website or the application, while in Finland the figure is 600 minutes and over 300 minutes in USA. In China, the figure is over 500 minutes and in Taiwan over 300.

“The reach needs to translate into engagement,” said Pobbisetty.

Active engagement is a challenge for news publishers, but a pocket of opportunity that is emerging is in the digital video segment. The number of unique visitors has increased significantly for all major news service providers in India. For instance, India Today has seen the number of unique visitors increase from 45 million in January 2018 to 77 million in December 2018, according to Pobbisetty.

Similarly, ABP News Network has seen the number of unique visitors jump from 25 million to 60 million during the same period; Network 18 saw its number of unique visitors soar from 25 million to 51 million; Times Internet saw 22 million unique visitors in December 2018 compared with just 3 million in January. For Times Network, the number of unique visitors increased from 12 million to 19 million in the same period.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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