In 1993, Ritu Kapur and her husband, Raghav Bahl, founded Network18, an Indian media and entertainment company that stretched across television, print, film and other businesses. After Network18 was acquired by Reliance Industries in 2014, Kapur and Bahl were left wondering what their next venture should be.
"While we had focused on broadcast for so many years, digital was now the future of communication and storytelling," Kapur told Journalism.co.uk.
"And it was clear to us that it was about younger audiences turning to consuming all their news content on hand-held devices.
"From that presumption, we travelled around to see how this was working outside of India – we went to Vox, Mic.com and other newsrooms and we discovered how the vocabulary of content creation was changing to connect with younger audiences."
By November 2014, they had started putting together their first team for Quintilion Media, a new media enterprise that combined The Quint, a digital-only outlet providing news in both English and Hindi for the younger generation; and Quintype, the technology arm powering The Quint's digital publishing operation, run by chief executive Amit Rathore.
Being only on Twitter and Facebook for a while sensitised our journalists and helped them understand how and where our readers consume content and what's getting ignoredRitu Kapur, The Quint
The one-year old company has since grown its editorial team for The Quint to more than 95 people across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, divided into teams such as video, social media, enterprise reporting, graphics and breaking news. The publisher is careful not to "break people up into silos" but rather encourage them to try their hand at anything that interests them.
The Quint was included in NewsWhip's biggest Facebook publishers for the month of April, with 3,351 articles posted on the platform. Eighty per cent of the outlet's social media referrals come from Facebook, Kapur said.
At the moment, about 50 per cent of the outlet's content, which spans multiple verticals including news, entertainment, technology, business and LGBTQ issues, derives from newswires and social media.
The other half is made up of original content from The Quint's reporters and cross-country contributors, who often write commissioned work, columns and blogs on relevant topics, although the aim is to increase the share of original output to 70 per cent in the future.
The Quint first launched on Facebook in January 2015, before its website came to life two months later. Facebook has remained its "biggest playing field", with almost 5.3 million likes on its main page.
"Launching on Facebook was a good exercise for us, because being only on Twitter and Facebook for a while sensitised our journalists and helped them understand how and where our readers consume content and what's getting ignored.
"It did help us build initial reach and our brand, but the biggest value was that it encouraged us to listen more carefully to our readers and viewers."
The Quint's strategy is mobile-first and social-first and while some of its content is cross-posted on the website and social media, "we keep a lot of [the content] for individual platforms."
"For example, we don't post as much news and straight text from wires on Facebook, we use it more to push our original content, especially videos and news videos.
"But on Twitter, we distribute more opinion-driven content and we also use it as a news alert service, because that's how people are using it, for breaking news."
The publisher is also experimenting with Facebook Live, broadcasting at least one or two videos a day and then curating the "higher points" of those streams into posts for its website. This has been a mix of on-the-ground reporting from news events, interviews with experts and foreign news correspondents, but also livestreaming The Quint's editorial meeting to ask people's input on stories.
"We get a lot of questions on Facebook Live and we have about 10,000 viewing them concurrently, but we find there is a lot of activity even after the live has finishes, so we have journalists monitoring those streams."
About 75 per cent of The Quint's traffic comes from mobile browsers, so even though the outlet has a card-based app powered by Quintype, that product has not been a main focus for the publisher so far.
According to research conducted earlier this year by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ), internet use and digital advertising in India have grown quickly in recent years, particularly as a result of the spread in mobile internet use.
The report highlighted that Indian news start-ups are prioritising mobile-optimised websites and apps more than desktop and using social media to build reach and engagement, while still facing competition from legacy players when it comes to news and content. Other digital native brands, such as BuzzFeed, Quartz and The Huffington Post, have also established a presence in India.
What we have been doing as a newsroom is a lot of experimenting. The idea is don't be scared to fail, but be scared of being complacentRitu Kapur, The Quint
The Quint's traffic comes mostly from India, from people aged 18 to 35, although its readership also extends to the United States, Dubai, Malaysia and the UK. Its monetisation strategy is mainly ad-driven, made up of display advertising, native and sponsored content and programmatic ads.
According to an article published by Nieman Lab yesterday, the key for Western news brands looking to set up camp in India might consist of forming partnerships with local outlets. Vice is just the latest media company to expand into India through a new joint venture with the Times Group, the publisher of English-language title The Times of India.
In April, The Quint announced a new partnership with Bloomberg to form BloombergQuint, a venture that will cover broadcast, digital and live events across India, "serving business and financial news to one of the fastest-growing economies in the world". The BloombergQuint team currently has a staff of 50 and counting, as more are set to come on board, Kapur said.
"What we have been doing as a newsroom is a lot of experimenting. The idea is don't be scared to fail, but be scared of being complacent," said Kapur.
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