Mobile, AI Propel Times Internet’s Digital Domination

“Experimenting with genres and formats is key to finding out what consumers like and what they’re willing to pay for,” says Puneet Gupt, COO, news, for the Times of India’s digital subsidiary.

Mobile, AI Propel Times Internet’s Digital Domination

by Rashi Bisaria

Posted on 09-17-2017

This article is part of CMO.com’s September series on the state of media and entertainment. Click here for more.

Times Internet of India, the digital subsidiary of Indian media giant Times of India, has become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to understanding and keeping up with technological and consumer trends.

With its user-friendly interface and integrated offering, Times Internet dominated news consumption across all devices in April, according to comScore. In doing so, it garnered a huge 51% market share of all online news content, while Times of India sites collectively reached over 69 million viewers.

Little wonder: The majority of the company’s marketing budget is dedicated to digital, allowing it to experiment and ultimately dominate the space with a multitude of offerings, according to Puneet Gupt, chief operating officer, news, for Times Internet.

Gupt, who joined Times Internet Ltd. in March 2012 and became COO for news a little over a year ago, spoke to CMO.com about how digital news and infotainment has taken over the viewing habits of Indians.

CMO.com: What is currently most interesting to you about India’s digital consumption?

Gupt: Digital services are growing very fast and are likely to reach close to 730 million users by 2020, from a current base of about 450 million users. While urban, English-speaking audiences led the first phase of India’s digital growth, the current phase is being driven by mobile-only Indian language users in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and rural areas. Young people across all regions prefer the digital medium to access information and entertainment at a time and place of their choice.

Content is also becoming increasingly personalised to the consumption pattern of the user. Understandably, entertainment is the primary choice for users in rural areas, while there is a greater diversity of digital needs in urban areas.

CMO.com: What is the catalyst behind this huge projected increase in digital consumption?

Gupt: The rapid growth in the popularity of digital services is led by three main factors. [First], 3G and 4G bandwidth is now available at affordable prices, especially following the launch of Jio, the mobile network operator from Reliance Industries, and the competitive pressure on other telcos to match or better Jio’s plans.

[Second], smartphones, which are less than US$100, [also are more affordable]. [Third is more] content availability in Indian languages, which has significantly improved from just a few years ago when it only covered news. Services now cover entertainment, TV shows, music, sports, and content created for digital-first audiences such as web series.

CMO.com: Can you share some example of how Times Internet has innovated to maintain relevance in a growing digital economy?

Gupt: NewsPoint is a personalised content platform that brings together the best of content in 15 languages from hundreds of publishers in India under one app. NewsPoint recently won CMO Asia’s Best News Mobile App award.

We have extensively used AI, machine learning, and NLP [natural language processing] across a few of our products, including our conversational commerce platform Haptik and ad tech platform Columbia, which understands and automatically processes user queries, provides answers, and personalises content and ads to user preferences.

Through our startup accelerator, TLabs, we have invested in companies that are leveraging AI and computer vision in insurance, transportation, and voice-enabled home security equipment.

On our publishing side, we are closely evaluating consumer and technology readiness for VR and 360-degree videos so we can adopt them at the right time.

CMO.com: What key learnings can you share about monetising content in the digital space?

Gupt: Experimenting with genres and formats is key to finding out what consumers like and what they’re willing to pay for. We are focusing on a lot of video content, in line with most of the publishing industry, where advertising yields are much higher than text.

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