Mobile-first news publisher The Quint has targeted interactive advertisement as a potential new stream of revenue this year, hoping to improve its engagement metrics fivefold.

The Indian-based organisation has been creative on messaging platforms, using chatbots to increase traffic to its site, giving the consumer a new way to access stories and receive regular news updates.

Now, with close to one million monthly active users between all messaging platforms, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, Tushar Banerjee, head of product, The Quint, says the publisher has big plans for using these avenues as a new revenue stream.

In the coming weeks, subscribers will receive promotions and discounts as their location data is paired with nearby offers from partner companies.

“Users do not mind such interventions when they get some real value or utilities out of that advertisement,” Banerjee explains. “If someone is getting cashback or a discount coupon, the user may not punish the publisher for launching that pop-up.”

Screenshot from The Quint, directing to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger subscriptions

Compare the chatbots to interstitial advertisements — those full-screen mobile ads that yank the user away from the website — which have long been criticised for their bad user experience.

There was a time when The Quint were working with streaming services to promote trailers via interstitials. However, amidst mixed results and Google clampdowns, Banerjee is looking to other interactive incentive-driven options, such as polls and quizzes on the website, to address concerns with engagement of advertisement.

The native versus display advertisement debate highlights various strengths and weaknesses of both models. While studies show native advertising outperforms display in intent to purchase, Banerjee says that news publishers cannot forget about display advertising.

“See, for news, display is very important. For utility applications, you can have one or two landing pages for advertisement. If you use Uber, you may have one such display banner on one page, but there are only four stages in that user's journey within that application.

“It’s different for news publications. They have multiple pages and the consumption happens over hundreds of pages. You need something on all of these pages. To support you, you will always need display advertising, you cannot depend on branded content.”

Banerjee reasons that over time, consumers have developed blind spots to generic advertisement placement, such as banners. This has already raised alarm bells with publishers when thinking about their revenue models. However, he believes interactive advertisements present a potential solution with their immediate, practical value.

“What we are trying to do is educate the market, brands and agencies,” he said. “We have been getting good vibes and responses from brands that they want to start right away.”

So with the Indian election fast-approaching in this Spring, 2019 stands to be a big news year ahead for India. As a result, The Quint looks to capitalise on that anticipated traffic and tweak its marketing strategy according to how the chatbots are received.

From micropayments to crowdfunding, we will be discussing new ways to finance journalism in the digital age at Newsrewired on 6 March at Reuters, London.

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