Video peaks, revenues stagnant!

WAN IFRA Digital Media India 2020

WAN-IFRA Digital Media India
Puneet Gupt, chief operating officer of Times Internet at WAN IFRA Digital Media India 2020. Photo IPP

At the 9th WAN-IFRA Digital Media India 2020 at Holiday Inn in New Delhi, Puneet Gupt, the chief operating officer of Times Internet shed light on the news genre as an attractive media for advertisers. He also touched on the challenges in digital advertising and ways to maximize the advertizing revenue pie in the sky.

Viewership plays a vital role in driving advertising revenue. “Display is just 25% of the total digital revenue. A large chunk of revenue comes from social media and paid search where publishers like us are not significant players. That leaves just display and videos for us to make amends to our business models. I’m sure many of us will agree that while our video numbers have peaked, our revenue has largely remained stagnant,” he says.

Need for publishers to up their game to gain revenue

The video revenues first come to You Tube, then to the OTTs, and finally to the short video apps. Hence, be it the overall revenue or the revenue in various formats, more news publishers are under pressure today. “If we fail to operate in some of the available formats, we will lose out on the money that we get from a certain set of industries altogether. There is a pattern that industrial advertisers follow to double down on certain formats. As publishers we need to now up our game and ensure our presence across all formats in order to gain from the sectors we are missing out on,” explains Gupt.

“The last few years have been great in terms of how we’ve measured the success of our businesses. We talked about Jio and how hundred dollar devices brought new users to our ecosystem. But again, the engagement growth actually went to OTTs and short video apps. Despite all the growth we claim, the quantum of growth compared to that of engagement are extremely contrasting. Today, newsrooms no longer need to focus on increasing their content but must ensure the production of content that is more engaging so that our revenue streams expand and we tap different sectors,” he adds.

There is a reason why most of the publishers fell into the trap of creating more content because most of them have a false notion of being number one in the Comscore ratings. Instead, the approach must be to become number one on consumer perception. “In the last few years, the social media revenue and short video revenues have grown tremendously. We now have to figure out whether pure display or the kind of content we are creating is actually going to benefit us,” says Gupt.

Direct digital ad and sub sales

More effort is now needed for direct selling of ads and digital subscriptions. But few companies actually talk about directly selling ads. Though it has largely remained ignored, it is the most important thing to talk about right now. “Because, when you sell directly, you understand the needs of the customer, not just about the campaign. Publishers often tend to lose out on upsell and cross-sell chances. Hence, it is important to go out on the field and create relationships with the customers.”

Need to grow reader revenue

Reader payments have started to grow. After years of discussion, some of the publishers have done a great job in building one or the other form of reader payment. “At Times Internet, we have two products built on reader payments right now, one is ET Prime and the other is Times Prime. While ET Prime is special content that is not available to general readers, while Times Prime has a membership model. If you are a member of Times Prime, you are also given access to other relevant or connected platforms.

“When one thinks about a reader payment strategy, one needs to focus on what will work for the country’s audience. Unlike publishing in Europe, Indian news publishing is extremely varied. A model that works for Times of India may not work for Nav Bharat Times or for Economic Times – even for products within the same publishing house. One should not expect that works for me will work for another publication in another region. I would encourage all of us to try to create an ecosphere where reader payments are given as much importance as advertising revenues,” Gupt concludes.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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