We need magazines more than ever in the digital space: Kalli Purie

Changes are afoot at the India Today Group. The media conglomerate recently saw a change in guard with Kalli Purie taking charge as Vice Chairperson. Prior to this, she was Group Editorial Director (Broadcast & New Media) of the India Today Group. 

The Indian media landscape is changing with ever changing content consumption pattern in the society. Driven by broadband services at affordable rates and technology improvements, the number of internet-enabled mobile phones is growing very fast and the number is expected to touch 700 million by 2021. Consequently, approximately 99 per cent of Indian language internet users access online content on mobile devices and over 60 per cent of the Indian language internet users prefer to consume regional news. The most used content on mobile phones is video. Video is expected to represent 60 per cent of the overall mobile data traffic and is expected to grow to 78 per cent by 2021. 

Realising this new trend, the India Today Group has decided to enter the new age of mobile journalism and serve the users with customised news on different aspects of life. The Group has launched a new portfolio of 7 niche digital channels across 6 platforms under the umbrella of Mobiletak.in. The digital channels from Mobiletak.in include News Tak, Sports Tak, Food Tak, Life Tak Astro Tak, Tech Tak and Yoga Tak. 

This launch unleashes a new era for the Group in the mobile space, with a clear focus on video content made, especially for viewing on the mobile device. Mobiletak.in is an omniplatform channel and offers visitors an opportunity to know about what’s new, hot, trending, cool and interesting around the world. 

In conversation with Adgully, Kalli Purie, Vice Chairperson, India Today Group, speaks at length about her vision for the Group, the digital push, response from advertisers, the relevance of print media in a digital era and much more. Excerpts: 

Are you targeting only a younger set of audiences with MobileTak.in?
Well, it’s not exclusive. It’s targeted at the Millennials. That’s where we are looking at. This is the generation which is using phone as the prime source of entertainment and information. So yes, they are our prime audience, but we are not excluding anyone from the targeted group. 

How can advertisers leverage this platform?
I think that the online space and specially these channels offer a nice opportunity to the advertisers because these channels are on six platforms. For instance, if you are looking for a sport enthusiast, you are getting the sport enthusiast on YouTube and on all social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, it allows the advertiser to connect with their target audience in all of these different platforms. Secondly, besides offering them the normal kind of pre roll, mid roll or banner, we can also offer them something more. These are the original videos created by us as a chance to offer them placements. Let’s say in FoodTak, one says this olive oil is really good, and is really good for cooking and is built into the programming. We can say, for example, you are always cooking with that olive oil, so it’s a nice placement you can do with a brand, you can also skin the top of the player, let’s say for tech Samsung wants to skin all of it because it is good for them. Samsung can then skin all the ‘TechTak’ videos. 

And the third thing is native, if one advertiser comes to us and says I want to do a whole lot of videos on love that’s the space I am in and I am selling toffees created for love. You can create an entire Love series for them for the web in LifeTak.in. So, there are three new opportunities opening up for the advertisers over and above the basics which most people are anyway offering. 

MobileTak.in is a much customised platform. Why not consider regional?
It’s not like we are not. It’s something that we want to look at. In fact, one of our R&D teams is exploring because there are so many opportunities now to take something and convert it so quickly in different languages. It can be done by the translators and dubbers. We so far have not been happy with the technology. One technology we have seen is brilliant, which does the dubbing with lip sync. It is amazing. But that technology takes 6 hours. It can be done for the non-news segment, and we will be doing for it but since ours is a hard news based organisation we are also trying for it, that’s our primary motive. We are still exploring it. I think the R&D will come up with a new idea very soon. 

How much time was spent on researching for this?
We have been working on this whole idea for a long time. The Mediaplex building was actually designed for that space. You realise very quickly that you can grow with taking repurpose content with from broadcasting into digital but you can only grow to a certain level. You are not going to get that new audiences, you are not going to get phenomenal growth like lallantop is showing, because that video is not set for that audience. So, you need to do that to get it. Now we have been in the online space since 2000 and we are looking at the video since 2010. These things that we have come up these genres that we are doing, we are doing for last 6 months. These genres are doing well for us. And again you have to know that you have to be nimble enough to change very quickly. So, if you find that one of these seven for whatever reason is not working we would have changed it before. The initial experiment, targets and projection have been met by these first seven, so we thought it was good to go. 

As I have mentioned, our target is 10 genres. We still need to come up with two more genres. 

How does the newly launched platform operate?
MobileTak is live. But it is not an app, it’s a VAP. There’s been so much talk about how people don’t want to download app. A lot of people install an app and after watching what they want, they uninstall it. You just have to log on to Mobiletak.in and it gives you the option to create as a launcher in your phone, you have to click that button and it will act has an app that you can share, save offline, do audio only and more. 

Now that you have stepped into a new role of Vice-Chairperson, what is your vision for the Group?
When the India Today Group was launched, the idea was that we wanted to have special interest in niche magazines, which is what we went out to do with India Today. There were Business Today and also women’s interest magazine, luxury magazine and car magazine. The vision was to do the same thing in TV. And I feel that I have come in at that juncture for the Group where the external environment has come together to make this vision possible on the TV side. We are now able to launch an entire portfolio of niche interest digital channels. We could not do that in broadcasting. Because in that the cost is too high, especially for distribution. 

We could have done this earlier in digital, but the audience wasn’t there because there was no bandwidth. In a way Reliance Jio has changed that. Bandwidth is available and it is at a reasonable cost and the video consumption is through the roof. In fact, Facebook is talking about how consumption is changing because of the bandwidth changes in India. So, it has been brought to a place where we have everything in place and we can go. That’s why we have been able to do this so quickly, because this is something we wanted to do for ever. So, you will be able to see a lot more from us in this area. 

What is your strategy to maintain print’s relevance in the market?
We have not taken India Today just as a magazine, but as a brand that stands for credible content. So, today it’s a magazine, it’s a website, it’s an app, it’s a television channel – it’s a mega brand. That is one of the things that is going to help the brand stand the test of time. Where other magazines fail, India Today will be the magazine that will pass that benchmark and will be a case study. It has different ‘avatars’ in it which will support it and it will survive in the co-dependence with all of it. 

I also think the redesign of the magazine was phenomenal. This redesign is not just a design innovation, it is an innovation of substance, how have they completely changed the content. I think in a way it is under average and under marketed and we need to correct that. In the coming months you will see the corrected version. 

I think the main issue for India Today as a magazine is advertisers. I don’t know why the advertisers feel that magazines are not relevant. In fact, in an age where there is so much craziness going on and there is so much content, you need a magazine. You don’t know where to stop. At the end of the day and at the end of the week, I want a product which is finished. Okay, I know the news of the week, I close the magazine, I know it. You can’t close a TV channel, you can’t close a website. It goes on and on, which looks like an advantage, but actually it’s a disadvantage. We need magazines more than ever in this digital space. The loss of confidence is not from the consumer’s side, but from the advertisers. I don’t know why the advertisers are falling just for the buzz words of digital and broadcast and have forgotten the fact that engagement comes from magazines. I don’t see too many people reading a magazine and doing something else at the same time. But when you are watching something on digital, you are doing something else as well. Magazine is a focused one-on-one medium where one is really engaged. That is the time when the advertisers should be talking with their customers, but they are not. So please, through your medium tell them to support magazines. 

How has the current fiscal been for the India Today Group?
It is very good. It didn’t get affected by GST. I think you will find that for leader brands, when there is turmoil in the market place – whether it’s to do with the ratings or with confidence – advertisers’ revenues are concentrated on the leader brands. So, having leader brands we were okay. 

What is the roadmap ahead?
The road ahead is very exciting. We have found ourselves at the right place and at the right time. These are the buzz words that you hear for our industry – video, vernacular, audio and Millennials. We have all four of these. As Vice Chairperson, I will be focussing on the group energy, because we can do all of it. But we have to think – should we do all of it or should we focus on something specific? So, it’s a great place to be. I am in a position where I don’t have to search for what opportunities I should find, or should I go and scope things. It is such an exciting space for the media to be in, so much is going on, every day we get a new platform. We have Facebook now as a platform; Twitter is now coming and saying that they will monetise; Snapchat is just opening up; Whatsapp is talking about news feed. All of them have brand new opportunities for media brands.


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