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How Digital Media companies can leverage tech to engage the digital-savvy users

There are digital tools available for every aspect in the content delivery process, right from filtering out fake news to publishing personalized content

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The digital revolution has caused tectonic changes in the way news is produced, managed, delivered, consumed, and shared in India. Driven by an enormous growth in technology, media houses and publications have had to expand their scope and domain to reach out and cater to the new generation of consumers, who look for information in bite-sized, multi-media modules. 

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Intelligent content delivery 

The appetite for news has certainly not diminished but what has changed is the manner in which news is received. People now prefer to consume news in short bursts, spread throughout the day, unlike a few years ago when news was primarily sought after in the morning for longer durations, and at a much lesser frequency. Morning coffee with the newspaper may have been a regular scene in many households earlier, but now it is not uncommon to find people hunched over their phones, catching up with the news several times during the day, across shorter time spells. 

It is clear that online news and social media have outperformed the print medium as the main source of news for young Indians. 

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According to a recent Reuter’s study, India is a very strong mobile-focused market in the world, on the back of low data charges and affordable internet plans and smartphones. India has over 600 million active internet users. About 73% of the respondents said they accessed online news through smartphones. WhatsApp, YouTube, and Facebook are the most widely used channels that youngsters turn to consume news.

It’s a tough market out there and it takes a lot of effort and smart strategies to cut through the clutter and stand out. Media houses that have traditionally stuck to the print medium and television news channels too are now vying for a slice of the digital media market. Technology has also led to the emergence of many digital publications (e-newspapers and e-magazines) from existing media houses and emerging startups.  

Right from gathering information, verifying facts and filtering out fake news to publishing personalized content, there are technology tools available for every aspect in the content delivery process. 

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The digital trend has also prompted the proliferation of several formats like audio, short videos, podcasts, e-newsletters, snippets, and, of course, news breaks on social media—options that most media houses are dabbling with to deliver news intelligently to digitally savvy consumers. 

Content personalization

The biggest gain from technology is that it can be used to gauge audience interest to a fairly minute level using tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms. 

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Machine learning systems can pick up patterns that indicate the nature of users’ engagement with content. These hitherto hidden patterns can help media houses connect better with consumers. It enables news providers to map content to the right users and offer them relevant content and suggestions that are in sync with their affinity, interests, likes, and preferences. 

Like it’s the case with many online service providers, technology helps in hyper-personalization of content and helps media houses connect with users better, ultimately driving audience engagement and retention, much better than ever before. 

Aspects of personalization 
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User ingestion and data profiling: First-party data can be collected on apps and websites. This data includes what kind of news is consumed by consumers, what types of ads consumers interact with, what are the sources of news and what device is used to consume news. Once this data is collated, it is important for media houses and publications to unify all the data from different sources so that appropriate profiling can be done. 

Segmentation: Technology helps create user cohorts and segments in real-time based on what content consumers consume and what news genre they interact with. The segmentation has to be a continuous cycle to enhance personalization efforts and improve retention rates.

Targeting: With the help of technology, media houses can decide what news piece to recommend to users and what channels they can use to deliver these recommendations . Armed with information on when users are most active in a day, media houses can also decide when to target users with marketing communication and when to make nudges for subscription. Data derived using technology tools also helps publications optimize newsletter content and experiment with personalized subject lines. 

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Localization: Technology can also help dish out localized news content at scale (for example, Covid count in user’s city versus state or lockdown restrictions in user’s state versus the country). 

Building engagement campaigns

As discussed earlier, AI tools help collate information about user engagement. This data can not only be used to personalize content, but it can also be utilized to steer marketing and advertising operations. 

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Apart from offering personalized content, media houses can also devise appropriate marketing campaigns based on certain audience metrics. 

Source of acquisition: This tells the publication where a user is coming from—for instance from a mobile app, searching on Google, or by clicking on a social media link. This information will help media houses target the user with promotional material on their preferred medium. 

Content consumption: This pertains to data on how much content is consumed via one genre in one session, how many different genres are consumed, and how many different formats the user interacts with (audio, video, text, etc).

Frequency: It is useful to track the number of times (in a week or month) the same user comes back to consume content on a particular app or website and how actively they participate in the said medium—via comments on news pieces and other reactions to news stories and features. 

Monetization

Assuming media houses are interacting with consumers on various platforms and providing hyper-local, hyper-personalized content, what happens next? Is there money to be made?

Personalized content keeps users hooked to the publication, driving more eyeballs and traffic in the near future. This, in turn snowballs into monetary benefits for the media houses. Monetization is more granular now and has expanded to digital platforms as well. 

In 2020, print advertising revenue fell by 12.0% and print circulation revenue was down by 4.0%, primarily due to the pandemic. But digital magazine circulation and advertising revenue is set to increase from INR 231 crore to INR 358 Cr at a CAGR of 9.5%, between 2020 and 2025.

India is said to be the fastest-growing market in internet advertising in the world. Growth in mobile ad revenue overtook wired revenue in 2019 and it is expected to be 74.4% of the total internet advertising revenue of INR 30471 crore by 2025. In 2020, revenue from mobile internet advertising in India was INR 7331 crore and this will grow to INR 22350 crore in 2025, increasing at a 25.4% CAGR. 

Advertising revenue is still the best bet even in the digital model; it’s still much higher than subscription revenue for digital publications. However, this doesn’t mean subscription numbers will not grow. Historically, subscriptions weren’t considered a reliable revenue stream. But now, the audience has matured and media houses must start looking at expanding their subscriber base. This is a revenue model that can become comparable to advertising, sooner than later.  

News publications are trying out various methods to crack the subscription model, such as combo deals (news website + e-paper) and standalone e-paper/news website subscription. 

Publishers in India can offer consumers a gamut of payment choices, such as credit cards, debit cards, net banking, wallets, UPI, and micro-payment platforms. This will strengthen the subscription ecosystem and make access of news easy and convenient for the consumer on the go. 

Publishers and media houses can also look at associations that will strengthen their delivery system – by partnering with service providers for SaaS-based subscription solutions and firms like Facebook and Google, which are keen on content deals with news publishers. 

Paywall pricing strategies can also be developed in order to tap into the pool of serious news consumers—for earnest consumers may be willing to pay for well-rounded news stories, carefully researched articles, and special features. Technology can assist in this paywall strategy by letting media houses know who the frequent consumers of content are, which content drives most subscriptions, and which users are most likely to pay for news. 

Depending on the user’s interaction with a paywall, news publications can adjust the timing of showing paywalls or add a paywall at different stages for different kinds of content categories/news genres. A lot of experimentation is possible to see which method works best, and at what stage—in order to optimize the paywall strategy for maximum conversion.

A white paper published by the World Economic Forum in April 2020 reported that 25% people pay for news in India currently, against the global average of 16%. According to Reuters’ India Digital News Report 2019, Indians have indicated a strong interest to pay for digital news. About 40% of people surveyed are ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to pay for online news in the future. 

This piece of news surely hits a promising note for Indian media houses, doesn’t it? 

The article is authored by Raviteja Dodda, CEO & Co-founder, MoEngage

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