How Inshorts is wooing news readers & advertisers with its 60-word format

English News App Inshorts has been helping advertisers engage with their audience in a creative and unique manner with its innovative and non-intrusive ad formats, one of which is the 60-word ad content format. 

Inshorts was conceived with the vision of keeping up with the barrage of news stories every day without getting bogged down by the rhetoric. Today, that simple vision has transformed into a value proposition that caters to millions of users who consume news genres like sports, entertainment, technology, business, politics and national stories. 

Azhar Iqubal, CEO and Co-founder of Inshorts (formerly News in Shorts), embarked on his entrepreneurial journey after dropping out from IIT Delhi, where he was pursuing Mathematics and Computer Science. The idea for Inshorts germinated from his personal struggle to stay abreast with current affairs around the world, as he did not like to read long form news stories. Thus, along with his fellow IITians Arunay Arunav and Deepit Purkayastha, Iqubal conceived Inshorts in a TLabs incubator in 2013. A group of angel investors, including the founders of Flipkart and Times Internet, saw the potential in the company and funded it in the first seed round. 

More success followed, when in 2015 Inshorts raised Series A round from Tiger Global and Rebright Partners, followed by Series B within 4 months from Tiger Global again. Since 2015, the app has garnered a rating of 4.6, 10 million+ downloads and more than 3 billion page views per month on Android. 

As CEO, Iqubal oversees the company’s operations, content generation and partnerships. Under his stellar leadership, the company touched new heights and became profitable in a record time. In conversation with Adgully, Azhar Iqubal discovers how the platform continues to provide innovative ad formats to advertisers, creates value for its readers and its marketing strategy that made it the No.1 news app on Android. 

Read More: How Artificial Intelligence is transforming the retail and service industry

What brand categories advertise on your platform?
Premium and new-age brands who look for innovative ways to connect with consumers find Inshorts to be a suitable platform to advertise. Currently, we are working with almost 300+ advertisers and we add around 10 new advertisers every month. Our client list includes brands like Vodafone, Oneplus, Netflix, Mercedes, and Myntra, among many others. 

What is the duration of the campaigns and how do you justify RoI to your clients?
Most of the brands today have recognised the strengths and importance of native advertising to reach relevant young audience. This is why Inshorts is a platform of choice for advertisers. Duration of the campaign depends on the requirement of the client and advertising solutions they opt for. If they choose for impact properties on the App, the duration would be 1-2 days, but if a brand is associated with us for a brand building and sustenance campaigns, the duration is more than a month. 

The campaigns on Inshorts are designed to help the brands connect with their audience through innovative and engaging ad formats like Motion stories, Vertical videos and digital magazine. And since millennials like to share interesting and relatable content among their peers on social media, the brands have seen fantastic results in the past. 

How many active users use the app on a daily or monthly basis?
Inshorts is the most read English news App in India with more than 10 million downloads on the Android and IOS. Inshorts users are active for an average of 15.4 days per month and 4.5 days per week. According to App Annie data, Inshorts users are active for the highest number of days in a month among the top 10 apps in the News & Magazines category on Android phones, ahead of the most downloaded apps in the category like Twitter and DailyHunt. 

We have seen other interesting trends from the perspective of user engagement on the app, such as Open Rate and Average Sessions per user per month. As per App Annie data, when ranking the top 10 News & Magazines categories by MAU by Open Rate, Inshorts has the highest open rate of 82.43 per cent in News & Magazines category. 

Are advertisements on your platform targeted? If yes, what are the parameters for personalisation?
We have added a layer of personalisation to our content using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Our intuitive content recommendation engine learns from the user preferences and behaviour and accordingly provides a personalised array of shorts in the ‘My Feed’ section of the user. Along with AI, we are fulfilling the growing demands of an entitled consumer to deliver a deeper level of intuitive personalisation. 

Inshorts uses this personalisation engine to target advertisements. Analysing the behavioural pattern of readers and looking at the previous history of the type of content consumed by them, Inshorts serves relevant ads to its users. 

What are the challenges and opportunities you have encountered and explored in the vertical video format?
Inshorts was one of the few players in India to have vertical video format on their platform after few app developers such as Facebook, Insta, Snapchat. Having the first mover advantage in the space, Inshorts has observed an increased demand for this ad format among advertisers. Vertical Video is a full-screen video ad in which ads appear in portrait mode instead of the traditional landscape one. While other publishers provided Vertical Video as a branding opportunity, Inshorts provided its client with performance over the top of the premium branding option. 

Could you elaborate on the Video/ Text format ads and the impact of such advertisements?
Inshorts has over time developed a lot of innovative concepts in advertising that help deliver the advertiser’s message in the most unique way possible. The Video + text (2:1) format is an advertisement format used by Inshorts, where two-third of the screen is used as a text/ image and the rest showcases a video ad. The ad formats in our platform are designed to be non-intrusive and for seamless consumption, thereby serving the interests of both readers and advertisers. 

What is the YoY growth for the app? Have you seen advertiser interest from categories such as FMCG, auto, e-commerce, digital payments, and other big spenders in advertising?
Inshorts posted EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization) positive growth throughout FY2018-19, with 260 per cent YoY growth in revenue. We have been working with global brands like Vodafone, OnePlus, Mercedes, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Myntra, etc., which have contributed in making Inshorts operationally profitable within 5 years of starting. 

What kind of traction did you see on the app regarding ICC CWC news?
Inshorts came up with a high consumer engagement campaign designed for ICC Cricket World Cup. As a major aspect of the World Cup battle, Inshorts designed fascinating creatives and intriguing content for its readers to be snared on to the game all through the season. The creatives were in short informative formats where the users got live score updates, interesting facts about past World ups and glorious players, while they scrolled through the customary news. Inshorts also conducted quiz on its app centered around the series of World Cup trivia. Also, Inshorts dedicated a separate World Cup Category for news related to the tournament, along with live score updates which were available on the bottom bar of stories on the app at a pre-designated frequency, making the reader’s experience of catching up with the World Cup more hassle-free. 

With all these activities we saw an upsurge in the user traffic on the App, which, in turn, prompted an expansion in ad inventories on our platform. 

You conduct surveys on the app – is this requested by advertisers or conducted on your own behalf?
We conduct two types of surveys on our behalf – #DailyInsights Poll and Pulse of the Nation Survey.  #DailyInsights are conducted every day on the app, which aim to seek prompt opinion of young millennials on present-day issues that are faced on an everyday premise. One can likewise observe the results of the survey in a split second and can share the outcomes through Whatsapp and email with friends and family. This consumer poll gives Inshorts readers a sneak peek into the minds of fellow citizens in the country. On the other hand, the Pulse of the Nation survey is conducted on a larger picture, which highlights topics of national interest. 

We also conduct survey for brands, where the brands can get real time user feedback on any product launch. The results of these Polls can further be used to amplify the brand value. 

Could you tell us about your collaboration with Netflix?
We have done multiple campaigns with Netflix for their web series like ‘Narcos’, ‘The Umbrella Academy’ and ‘13 Reasons Why’. Inshorts incorporated its new advertisement format, called Digital Magazine, for these campaigns, which has already helped Netflix get 3x more engagement as compared to text ads for its new series, ‘The Umbrella Academy’, within just 2 weeks of its release. 

Could you tell us about the demographic of users that use the application?
Our platform is targeted at the smartphone generation, users who are short on time and want to stay updated with the current affairs. Thus, a majority of our users are mostly from metro cities, Tier 1 and 2 cities. The top ten cities include New Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. Inshorts has generally seen the app getting traction across age groups, wherein 38 per cent of the users are in the age group of 18-24 years, while 40 per cent are in the age group of 24-35 years. Also, the app is quite popular among influencers like industry experts, politicians and CXOs across the spectrum. 

What is the way forward for the app in terms of content, UI/UX and brand partnerships?
Nowadays, brands are shifting towards more sophisticated forms of marketing, rather than pushing the products onto the consumer, they are now more focused on communicating values, building trust and customer loyalty through content and brand marketing. An effective content marketing strategy helps immensely with awareness of brands and key messaging and also with customer acquisition which is highly measurable. 

The audience today has evolved, their usage of applications, gadgets and screen time have gone up in recent years which makes it even more difficult and interesting to catch their audience attention and influence them. Only a few hundred ads live up to the notion of the audience. Inshorts has been able to understand that a disruptive and relevant visual, subtle yet strong brand identification and brilliantly integrated text strikes with young audience. 

Inshorts, with a number of innovative and non-intrusive ad formats, one of which is 60 words ad content format, has helped the advertisers engage with their audience in a creative and unique manner. Inshorts being a leader in the short form content marketing space, plans to provide holistic and long-term solutions to brands looking to stay connected to their audience throughout the customer lifecycle.


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