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Investment in technology will help Firstpost grow upwards of 50%: Azim Lalani

Digital news platform, Firstpost,part of the Network18 Media conglomerate, has been growing in a market teeming with news portals as well as traditional news platforms. 

With a digital newsroom powered by expert writer-editors across the country and the globe, Firstpost has a competitive edge in breaking views on real-time news. With a strong focus on politics, sport, business, technology and entertainment, it has now transformed its image from a niche portal to a more youthful, social, opinion-led destination, with considerable strength in social and shareable content. 

Firstpost reaches more than 33mn+ unique users on Mobile and Desktop. The portal is also planning to follow a subscription based model by putting the content behind the paywall. 

Speaking to Adgully on Firstpost’s growth in 2017, Azim Lalani, Business Head, Firstpost,informed that the news portal had registered an almost 10-fold growth in revenues in the last 5 years. “Our investments in technology will help achieve our business goals and a growth of upwards of 50 per cent,” he affirmed. 

Going forward, he said that content remains the key focus. He further added, “We balance reach and quality. We are building a legacy. We want our archives to tell a story.” 

In conversation with Adgully, Azim Lalani spoke about the news portal’s content strategy, the paywall model, regional Expansion and more. Excerpts: 

How is Firstpost strategising to stand apart in this competitive market?

The USP of Firstpost as a platform is that our content doesn’t pass verdicts on any issue in any category, in fact, we consistently aim to only share perspectives of experts and opinion makers, thereby offering a 360-degree insight. The reader can then pick and figure which opinion they find relevance in, on any topic in question. This approach has been supplemented by original content, captivating formats and innovative styles to deliver news to our audiences, which has been highly appreciated by our audiences. 

How are you planning to attract more viewers, as well as retain the existing ones?

Our strategy to deliver original content in compelling formats and looking at more niche categories has borne good results for us. We consistently aim to ensure that every piece of content that is put out there is of a certain value to the reader and aren’t putting out slapstick content just to drive traffic to the platform. We also set our sights of bringing in innovation in our delivery of content, which makes it interesting for our existing viewers as well as attracts new ones. 

Do you think the paywall model is the way to go forward in the digital news genre?

Paywall models are still evolving in India. Many subscription models already exist in the market, right from freemium to complete paywall to a hybrid plan. Whether paywall model is the best way forward truly depends on the platform and its offerings to the audience. As for our platform, I would say our research continues and we aim to bring a unique proposition soon. 

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Do you think people who consume news are willing to pay for the premium content?

The evolution in consumer behaviour is turning out largely as predicted few years ago. People who actually care enough to read an entire article will surely not mind paying for that if they get even better and much more information to read. We have come a long way from just newspapers to digital news platforms. In today’s digital world, where news is just one click away, it’s likely that readers won’t mind paying for the news. 

How you see the growth of digital in a highly fragmented news media environment?

We are in an era where the audiences are smart, they can’t be fooled. There is outrage over how fake news gets circulated. In the days ahead only genuine news providers will survive, viewers can differentiate and decide what they want to read or watch. 

Could you tell us about your regional expansion plans?

Firstpost Hindi, which was launched about a year ago, now clocks about six million monthly viewers. It features content that viewers find value in; it is rich and engaging. There is a dedicated team of 15-20 people in Noida, who helm the Hindi content along with looking after the sales for the same. 

What are the innovating advertising opportunities that brands can explore on Firstpost?

Every quarter, we work with over 100 brands and deliver branded solutions and content. We do everything from – content, events, creating intellectual properties (IPs), brand solutions, content syndications and display too. We work so closely with our clients that people assume that we are handling their digital mandate, which is not the case. We chalk out a fine balance between display ads and branded content.  

What is your plan of action for 2018?

You can expect a lot of action from Firstpost. We are moving fast with our technology and expansion. We are focusing on content delivery, tech, new content formats. We were the first to launch a web series which has never been done on TV or digital earlier. We are breaking new barriers and continue to remain on that path. 

What would be your content strategy for the year ahead?

We have an innovative product line-up. Since we are open to all kinds of content and across genres, our focus on Sports, Lifestyle, Tech, Health, Food, Music, Bollywood has increased manifold and has seen a lot of traction. We will build on our verticals and continue to engage audiences. We have launched Firstpost Studio, an IP division, and created ‘9 Months’, an untouched niche that showed brands how to market to that set of demographic. 

What are your growth expectations as far as advertising revenue is concerned?

I am expecting spends to shift to digital from other mediums. The market is growing at an average of 30 per cent, news genre is still soft. Only because of our content offerings I am confident of the numbers I mentioned earlier.

 

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