Kedar Gavane, senior vice president of Comscore APAC, led INMA members through a look into reach, news, growing sectors, and research to gain a better insight into the future regarding the growing South Asia media landscape.

INMA’s Wednesday Webinar took a deep dive into South Asia data and analytics with Comscore, which tracks news sites in India with a relatively high reach and keeps on top of regional news trends. In particular, local news sites such as Times Internet Limited, Network 18, India Today Group, and The Indian Express Group have good reach.

“The reach has grown significantly over the last 12 months or so,” Gavane said.

Video also pays a critical role when it comes to entertainment in India, with BroadbandTV, VEVO, and Viacom 18 taking the top three positions. With the rise of video on demand in the country, key players such as VOOT.com (from Viacom 18) are also breaking through the ranks.

“The way that the market trends are, the way that advertising properties are getting bought and sold, it’s very interesting to see how daily users or monthly active users are being used by various players who create a module or segment that becomes resellable.”

Sports reach

Gavane used the Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket for Hotstar, the largest premium streaming platform in India, as an example. “There are certain peaks and drops in the daily active users. The peaks were mostly for days when there was more than one IPL match. So the actual incremental reach that each of these days had for a second match is way higher compared to a single match date.”

The daily user numbers ranged between 30 and 40 million, including traffic from Hotstar’s non-IPL content.

“The interesting thing that happened during the IPL was there was also some of the advertisers like Swiggy participating heavily with Hotstar, and the correlation between the growth in Swiggy’s traffic versus the overall traffic at Hotstar had a massive scale.”

Swiggy, a food delivery app, normally reaches about three to four million users on a daily basis. But during the IPL, this number shot up to eight to 10 million, reaching as high as 18 million during the IPL cricket final matches.

“I’m sure it did reflect on the actual numbers of orders that they [Swiggy] got,” Gavane said, adding that Comscore does not track that figure. “It’s an interesting trend to see how an advertiser actually gained a lot, even though the advertiser here happened to be online.”

After IPL came the World Cup of cricket, when numbers on Hotstar shot up to nearly 60 million on a daily basis. Reach increased incrementally during the entire tournament.

The cricket World Cup garnered as high as 60 million in reach on Hotstar in India.
The cricket World Cup garnered as high as 60 million in reach on Hotstar in India.

Retail reach

Once cricket was over, focus moved to the retail sector, with Amazon and Flipkart both seeing a spike in respective sale days in July. Gavane pointed out that it was interesting to note the places where these retailers advertised to make their sales events more popular.

Retail advertising sales hit big highs in the post-World Cup time in India.
Retail advertising sales hit big highs in the post-World Cup time in India.

None of this came in the way of “regular stuff”

While all of these events were happening, users continued to flock to what Gavane called the “standard stuff,” such as YouTube and WhatsApp. “They continued to grow and continued to reach a significant amount of readers. Some of these offer advertisers properties, which can be leveraged throughout the day and can really help people in making the campaigns more effective. But at the same time, the event-led marketing can be very different.”

Use of everyday platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp remained strong during sports and retail surges.
Use of everyday platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp remained strong during sports and retail surges.

Gavane used these various examples to illustrate how media publishers can leverage their reach dependent upon their own content and strategy.

Reach is growing, engagement is shifting

The number of Internet users in South Asia is growing rapidly every year, so reach continues to grow along with that. However, when it comes to engagement, Gavane said some trends are shifting.

Social media has seen growth in both traffic and time spent.
Social media has seen growth in both traffic and time spent.

The first example he used to show this was social media. “Year on year there has been growth in the number of users, and the engagement has also grown correspondingly for these users.”

However, when you look at news media in comparison, the engagement numbers are different. “The reach has increased marginally, but the total engagement has gone up almost four times. There are many reasons for this,” Gavane said.

Engagement for news media sites has gone up by almost 4x.
Engagement for news media sites has gone up by almost 4x.

One reason is that the last few months in 2019 have been very newsworthy. “There’s a lot happening which is getting reported and getting a lot more traffic for the news information sites. But also, the way in which this news is breaking out today is way faster through social media, which is garnering good quality traffic to these sites.”

Engagement numbers are also in sync with the type of content, such as video and long-form content.

News is bigger and more engaging

News reaches more people than any social media or entertainment category, Gavane revealed. “Unlike many other markets, in South Asia we see this as a regular trend. In most other countries, social media still leads news information in reach.”

In India, news and information sites have more reach than social media and entertainment sites.
In India, news and information sites have more reach than social media and entertainment sites.

Video is driving the growth of digital news, as well. The largest TV news networks are also among the largest digital video players. Of the publishers that Comscore tracks, they have seen growth between 40%-160% over the last year.

Sports is also a high-growth content area, as evidenced previously by the cricket/IPL data. “The reach is increasing month to month, and we’ve seen a 1.7 times increase of the total traffic in sports content in India. The total views have gone up 10 times, which means there’s a huge engagement — almost four times the amount of time [minutes] that people are spending on sports.”

Gavane noted an important factor: the increase in reach and engagement of the female audience for sports has been larger than that of the male audience. “That is a significant increase compared to many other categories. We see an actual 2x jump on actual reach for women in sports, as well as the actual minutes spent has increased five times.”

Reach and engagement for female sports content audiences is growing faster than for male audiences.
Reach and engagement for female sports content audiences is growing faster than for male audiences.

The future is local

India is unique because there are more than 30 major languages spoken throughout the country, so local news is even more important. “For the first time, starting last month, we have actually created subgroups where we track all those sites by language.”

Hindi has the highest reach in terms of language content in India, although each of the other languages represented still reach a significant audience. Local languages are quickly finding their voice, and the shrinking of Hindi’s unduplicated reach along with the growth of other languages in news media shows a shifting of preference to local, or “mother tongue,” languages. Tamil and Bengali, for example, have both grown more than 200% in terms of reach.

Hindi dominates the languages in Indian media, but many other local languages have huge readership as well.
Hindi dominates the languages in Indian media, but many other local languages have huge readership as well.

“Today these languages may not have a reach in absolute terms on the Internet compared to their offline counterparts, which is television or newspapers. But this growing trend, given the number of Internet users in India, should surpass the offline reach of these languages very soon — maybe in the next six to 12 months,” Gavane said.

Aggregators lead the way for vernacular growth

“The other interesting trend in India — a very unique trend when compared to other markets — is that there are news aggregators who have a significant portion of the market in terms of viewers,” Gavane said.

In the last year, the unduplicated reach of aggregators such as Dailyhunt has grown from 92 million to 167 million. “For an advertiser who is looking to target regional content, aggregators really make sense.”

Opportunities in audio           

Audio represents another opportunity for brands to be heard in local languages. “Although these are the very early days of audio, we’ve seen that visual content for media really works,” Gavane said. Audio is the next opportunity for something like the massive reach of YouTube to take place.

Audio represents new opportunities for publishers to create and promote their brands.
Audio represents new opportunities for publishers to create and promote their brands.

Audio overcomes the barriers of literacy and attention, among others, unlike text or video. Audio also presents an uncluttered space to create new identities for brands.

“This is one clear winner I see coming out as far as content type in the near future for most of the media houses,” he said.

Areas of growth for news publishers

Gavane  shared several key areas that present opportunities for growth for publishers in South Asia:

  • Syndicating content led by measurement.
  • Video and audio content for increased engagement.
  • Monetisation, particularly in focused categories like sports, entertainment, and technology.

When it comes to monetisation, publishers can use audience data to improve targeting and campaign reach. Brand safety and viewability can be used to improve advertiser confidence and therefore ad rates. Beyond standard display formats, news publishers can also improve their call to action and lead generating formats.

Most users in India (90%) are accessing primarily on mobile, so concentrating on apps and other mobile-first platforms is important.

Q&A

INMA: What’s your view on monetisation of the audience coming from mobile?

Gavane: Because the traffic is on mobile devices, there is a huge inventory starting to come up on mobile. I have seen across markets that the standard display don’t work as well as they do on desktop. But we see some great native formats which have monetisation. Again, the lead gen or call-to-action advertising has also increased monetisation.

INMA: What type of content works for regional language sites?

Gavane: I would say very similar to what works for global or national sites. Hyper-local news also works for regional language sites, within the realm of that state or that city. Honestly, we haven’t really been able to analyse this at a deeper level.

INMA: Is there any trend in terms of content for which the user pays, as opposed to content which is free?

Gavane: This is a growing trend. Subscriptions, I’ve seen a lot of people try that, especially in finance and so on. The challenge is how you convince the user to subscribe. I have also seen comments from leading editorial teams saying that the news that is being put out may not be worthy for subscription. Yes, there is appetite for subscription, but what goes behind the paywall is up for debate.