Digital journalism in India – how these 6 start-ups are re-thinking content, distribution and business

Digital journalism has seen several new players enter the fray especially in the last two years. On one hand international players such as BuzzFeed, Quartz and Huffington Post have been ramping up their presence – creating own teams or entering into content partnerships. On the other, Indian legacy media brands have been trying to extend their empire to the digital world launching their digital editions or new products (Daily O by India Today, Catch News by Rajasthan Patrika, FirstPost by Network18 among others). With social media and mobile providing potent streams of distribution, the last few years have seen an emergence of a few interesting start-ups in the space of digital journalism.

I came across an excellent analysis of this landscape by the Reuters Institute for the study of Journalism and I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the space of digital media. You can download a full copy here.

There were several facts and statistics that I found pertinent, example:

  • “From 1995 to 2010, internet use in India grew from almost nothing to a mere 8%, even as global access reached 30%.5 From 2011 to 2015, the Indian figure grew to over 30%, and the bulk of that growth is from 2014 and 2015. In absolute numbers, it took 15 years to get the first 100 million Indians online, three more years to reach 200 million, one more year to reach 300 million, and then another year to reach 400 million.”
  • “The Huffington Post was launched in 2005 and reported its first profit in 2010. After it was bought by AOL in 2011, millions more was invested in expanding the site’s global reach, and the site only reported a profit again in 2015. BuzzFeed, launched in 2006, reported its first annual profit in 2013. Politico, launched in 2007, announced its first profit in 2011. All of these sites have pursued a path of ‘users first, profits later’ that requires significant investment and patience from their backers. All have first carved out a distinct niche in the United States and then turned to the pursuit of a global audience to reach the scale necessary to break even. All of them have been launched by people with strong networks in other media companies, leveraged for visibility and investment, confirming the wider point that innovators are rarely young, new entrants and more often are people who bring confidence, business knowledge, and social connections accumulated from prior experience at existing organisations to a new venture.”

The report builds up case studies around six start-ups in the space of digital journalism in India , “content based (the Quint, Scroll), aggregation-based (InShorts, DailyHunt), and  nonprofit (The Wire, Khabar Laharirya) ”  and analyses their content, distribution and business strategy. For my understanding, I have summed up their models in the grid below, in case you do not get a chance to read the complete piece,  you could use it for a quick reference:


What’s your take on the space? Will we have our desi Salon or Slate or are we a market too distinct for such comparisons to hold any meaning?



About amita

Professional trajectory - Literature. Public Relations. Social Media. Personal - learning to cook, hopefully drive, figure whether to renew HBR and discipline myself into focusing on important and not urgent.
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