Noel D'souza
Jun 29, 2022

Aim to build a brand voice of news and not noise: Smriti Mehra

The CEO of business news, Network18, media and investments, shares insights on the effects of news ratings on the channel, its marketing strategy and more...

Aim to build a brand voice of news and not noise: Smriti Mehra

The pandemic compelled many companies across industries to sit back, evaluate and reform. 


To connect with its consumers, Network18's CNN-News18 followed this media trend of reformation, by striving to break out of the traditional mould and aiming to move into a space where its news content would be platform agnostic. 


Campaign India caught up with Smriti Mehra, CEO, business news, Network18 media and investments, to comprehend the initiatives the company is taking to reform the news genre space, explore the resumption of BARC ratings, and their marketing strategies to garner more advertisers. 


Edited excerpts:


How has CNN-News18 leveraged itself for brands, since BARC resumed its news viewership ratings? 


The news genre saw a huge amount viewers during Covid, due to its timely relevance and language options. Viewership also increased because a lot of genres were not able to churn out fresh content. This led to the creation of relevance for advertisers on news channels. The resumption of BARC ratings can put some amount of objective metrics into play as well, with marketers able to evaluate the spends, percentage and quantum that they want to achieve. 


CNN-News18 has bounced back after a dark period, which is a celebratory moment. And we were able to do this by evaluating our content strategy. 


Even with ratings not being around, we were pushed to start looking at social content. We listened to our consumers and factored in their consumption habits. Through this evaluation, we made a massive effort into content diversification and took our content to the masses. 


We have gone back into storytelling and layering of content, so that we have something for all the cohorts. We want to be relevant to all our audience cohorts, at various parts of the day, not just during prime time slots. We have put the consumer at the centre and built strategies around it. 


Advertisers are taking notice of the reformation and diversification of our news content. With human interest stories, we can work on a social voice. Thus, advertisers feel assured about putting out contextual content in a brand-safe environment.


What is your marketing strategy and how do you garner more viewership? 


The marketing strategy of CNN-News18 is pretty much the content strategy of our channel. 


When we come up with new shows, with storytelling from every part of the country, when we publish content on sports, entertainment and startups, opinions, etc, we are putting the consumer at the heart of it. In the end, marketing is all about engaging with the consumer. We aim to ensure that our strategy constructs the voice that we want to build.


What are the current challenges of the broadcast media space, especially in the news channel genre?


The challenge would be interwoven between content and advertising, especially if the content doesn't evolve. As an industry, we need to take a step back and see how to break the mould that we have built over the years. The news industry has built the kind of discourse that is happening, with the formats that are running today. 


For our channel, we have tried to break up all the loud interactions on the everyday news feed and aspire to source stories at the grass-root level to bring about human interest news pieces. 


It is time for the industry to do some amount of soul searching and not chase the standard mould. The audience has evolved, and we need to start evolving with them. If we don't, we'll be left behind, and if the viewer leaves, so will the advertisers. 


What is the future roadmap for CNN-News18 and the digital plans for the channel?


The roadmap for us is to continue on the path of diversifying our content and build a voice of news and not noise. The philosophy on which News18 was launched was 'to be on your side' and we want to stay on the viewer's side by continuing to evolve. We can't just confine ourselves to a single type of format or screen. 


This is why we have short-form video, long-form video, on-ground and audio and aim to further proliferate the audio offering we have. The time for converging media into a single screen has passed. We need to be at multiple touchpoints, where the consumer is, stay relevant and work in tandem with the changing times. 


Trends that will take flight by the end of 2022...


Firstly, news content from outside the main cities will take centre stage. Every story from every corner of the country will be gaining relevance and will be given a voice. Secondly, the convergence of multiple platforms into the newsroom will serve that need of the viewer beautifully.

Campaign India

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