Hindustan Times front page initiative builds advertiser revenue, reader engagement

By Shantanu Bhanja

At Hindustan Times, we have always believed in change being the only constant in life. This is why after every achievement and milestone — big or small — we do not rest on our laurels, but constantly keep reinventing ourselves.

On September 9, 2013, we took this process of continuous change a step further with the launch of our newspaper in a new avatar, the highlight of which was an innovation called the Page One Plus (POP).

An industry-first concept, POP is a perforated three-column flap attached to the front page. Through this, Hindustan Times aimed to meet two challenges:

  • Make the newspaper more relevant to time-starved readers with multiple new sources of news and infotainment.

  • Generate additional advertising inventory on the front page, a premium position that most clients seek, but only some can get.

POP aims to offer stories with greater digital integration in a crisp, concise format with better navigation. Thus, it builds greater engagement with readers and eventually, higher readership for the product.

Content-wise, it provides a ready reckoner of the day’s news for on-the-move readers with focus on news they can use. It includes news briefs from different sections of the newspaper, television and cinema listings, events around the city that people can attend, coupled with a quick edit section.

POP has transformed the way readers consume the newspaper. In addition to being able to skim through the day’s news, readers are also able to use POP as an index of the newspaper, so that they can quickly refer to the page carrying the news item of interest 

Structurally, the launch of POP has also made the front page cleaner, accommodating more news items as several highlights have already been captured in the POP.

Additionally, the uniqueness of the perforation has meant that readers have been able to cut and keep the POP, then refer to it during the course of the day without carrying the entire newspaper. Features readers refer to the most in this cut-and-keep format are Sudoku puzzles, movie listings, and event listings.

With the newspaper competing with more and more news sources available round the clock and just a click away, HT has gone full steam ahead with greater digital integration in the newspaper with features such as:

  • “Editor’s Pick,” where readers can scan and access the editor’s selection of the day’s pictures through their smartphones.

  • Six-day weather forecast, with the ability to check out the most viewed stories online through short URLs.

  • On weekends, HT also allows readers to access all the major events scheduled across the city.

The response to this innovation has been overwhelmingly positive. Our research has shown that POP has high readership and relevance across age groups. It enjoys 75% readership, the highest across all sections. Big news days — such as the death of Nelson Mandela or the Assembly elections — saw tremendous readership as the newspaper smartly leveraged this extra six-column space.

The performance scores of the front page compared with its biggest competitor, The Times of India, have been showing a steady improvement since the POP launch. The number of days where our newspaper has outperformed Times of India has also shown a steady increase in the period between September and February.   

In terms of advertising opportunities, POP offers additional premium inventory and more windows of innovation for blue chip clients. We have seen incremental revenue of 35% generated through the extra inventory. More than 65% of this inventory has been used by FMCG clients such as Unilever, P&G, and Pizza Hut. This has helped us negotiate long-term contracts with clients keen on a minimum OTS requirement. 

The immense success of POP has encouraged us to look at newer ways of leveraging this space, both editorially and from the point of view of advertisements. 

About Shantanu Bhanja

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