The digital era has certainly made the fourth estate (press) more powerful than it ever was. Besides TV news channels and print dailies et al having their digital editions online, there are portals exclusively active on just one medium to cater to the voracious news readers. Rediff.com and Firstpost.com are two such Indian portals catering to news and views exclusively in the digital medium. Rediff.com, founded in 1996, is currently the 11th most popular online portal in India as per Alexa’s traffic rankings. Firstpost.com which was recently founded by the web18 group earlier in May this year, is ranked 423rd by the same tool. Numbers apart, the latter has been repeatedly compared with the likes of Huffingtonpost.com and has been the talk of the digital town of late. So what is it that differentiates exclusively digital news and views websites from regular online news portals?
1. They are like the traditional newsrooms only with a response time energised by the power of instant production. Durga Raghunath, executive news producer, Firstpost.com says, "We are responding to news, every minute. And we are thinking of angles, writing quickly and publishing around the clock. Things do go wrong. But the good thing about the web is you can go in and change typos, but use the update tab so readers know. When we write our breaking views, we use a few rules of thumb – how can we make something clearer, how can we place it in context, and when we can call out the good and the bad we will. Voice is important if you want to be read and shared."
Echoes Ajit Balakrishnan, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Rediff.com, “Content generation in a website like ours is done exactly the same way it is done in any other medium. We have reporters and we are also supplemented by feeds from news agencies like PTI (Press Trust of India) and Reuters, and columnists.” He adds that what makes them different from other mediums and websites is the discussions ensued thereof by the readers and the subsequent sharing on their social platforms.
2. Customising content to ensure advertising revenues at the same time is another element that can’t be overlooked. But Balakrishanan maintains that news stories aren’t picked based on advertising rather on what’s important and useful to the society and country at large. Likewise, even for Raghunath, editorial direction or choice is unlikely to be undermined for revenues. But she makes no bones about the fact that they want high-impact advertising for a high-impact product. "Therefore the bold templates and innovations like the #anythingforjetta campaign. We want to work with clients who think the internet is exciting, because we certainly do”, she adds.
3. Social media is the first outlet for breaking news distribution. Raghunath says that their readers are on it all the time. So constantly talking to them, getting ideas, doing polls and interviews seems pertinent. "We think in #tags as you can see all over our site”, she adds. Similarly, Balakrishnan says that rediff.com uses its own platform ‘My Page’ to enable social interactions on their site.
4. Localisation and regionalisation of content is terribly important since it’s the ultimate reason why a reader fully graduates to a publication. Despite the fact that there’s still considerably low internet penetration in India both rediff.com and firstpost.com are aiming at making their content both in-depth and one that caters to various regions of the country. Raghunath mentions the reason for the same and says, "Going into the depths of something is taking it local. It is becoming more and more about lifestyle. You might make local choices with food, but international reading choices about education or health. What is local for you at work is not local at home. There is also the reality that Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, NCR and Mumbai along with Pune and Chandigarh have the largest internet users. We keep that factor in our mind as well." To this Balakrishnan adds, "We have our mail in 11 languages and some of our sections like Money Wiz in Hindi and Gujarati. But these are still relatively early days for localisation considering we are at an early stage of internet development in India."
What it means for...
- Less investment cost
- Lower turnaround time
- Luxury of updating/editing in real time
- Active engagement with readers
- Multimedia content offering
- Contextual advertising
- Innovation in digital advertising
- More targeted engagement opportunities
- Easier integration of social media campaigns on the portal