Indian New Media Startups that Raised Funds in 2014

2014 has been a great year for new media startups. At least as compared to 2013. We saw a few startups raising funds, big names quitting to launch their own startups and overseas publishers showing interest in India. All that pessimism around the death of journalism might be a bit out of proportion after all! Here’s a quick recap.

Media startups that raised funds in 2014

 ScoopWhoop: This site which follows the footsteps of Upworthy, raised $1.6 million from Bharti Softbank, a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises & Japan’s SoftBank. A valuation of about Rs 30 cr for a startup just over a year old is not bad at all.  The site gets about 20 million page views & 8 million unique visitors every month (Nov 2014).

Newshunt: This is one of my favourite startups because of its local language play. It raised over Rs 100 crore (about $18 million) in series B funding led by Sequoia Capital. The 7 year old company is valued at about $150 million (according to on report). Matrix Partners India & Omidyar Network are existing investors. Some stats: Over 50 mn installs, 14 mn monthly active users and 1.5 billion page views (monthly). The Economic Times has more about it here.

Newsinshorts: Mobile app News In Shorts raised an undisclosed amount from Times Internet and a few others. The company was part of TLabs, the incubator run by Times Internet. The app aggregates content and summarizes it for readers. Medianama has written more about it here.

Scroll: Founded by Samir Patil (of ACK fame), this startup raised an undisclosed amount of money from Omidyar Network and New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF). Scroll has some amazing content and a light weight site that makes it a great product.  It also has a partnership with Atlantic Media, which runs Qz.

IndiaSpend, PRS Legislative Research, Association for Democratic reforms: These three will receive a generous grant (less than Rs 5 crore) from the Rohini Nilekani & husband Nandan Nilekani. More here.

Some big announcements

Shekhar Gupta: This journalism legend chose to quit the Indian Express Group and the India Today. He’s now going to start Mediascape, a company which will offer television, digital and print products. Gupta was editor in chief of Indian Express for 15 years. Here’s an interesting profile of Mr Gupta and an interview that followed. Both are must reads.

Raghav Bahl: Reliance bought Bahl’s stake in Network18 last year. There’s a great story by Ashish K Mishra in the Mint about the RIL- Network18 takeover. According to reports, he’s made over Rs 700 cr from the sale. Bahl, 51, is going to startup again. It will be a digital news outlet and called Quintillion Media. More here.

Huffington Post, Quartz & Buzzfeed: Three major digital publications from the US decided to launch India editions. If you think I’ve missed something, please leave a comment.

Also see: Reporter 2.0


May I Have Your Attention Plis. This be the End of Click Baits

The idea of grabbing a readers attention and not just clicks or views is being pushed by Charbeat, an analytics company for web publishers. Some of the biggest publishers, especially the ones that serve premium content, are taking to it.

At Medium, the shiny new publishing platform of the internet, they have a metric– it’s called total time reading. It’s an estimate of how much time readers spent reading a post on Medium.

By the looks of it, total time reading is the only real metric they care about. Which means that it is the metric that Medium will show its advertisers. Not page views, not click throughs, but the aggregate of time spent on it.

At Upworthy, which raised $8 mn last year, a similar is being talked about. They are calling it attention minutes. The video site said earlier this year

Our mission here at Upworthy is to draw massive amounts of attention to the most important topics.

They are calling page views a “flimsy metric.” In its place, they are going to use attention minutes as a key metric. The site tracks total attention on site and total attention per piece.

The Financial Times partnered with Chartbeat in May to measure sell the time and attention of its audience. The Economist has followed suite.

Now we all know that click baits will be around the Internet until cat videos are around. That is, for eternity. But if advertising money shifts towards attention minutes or better and premium content, we might just see less of cheap content that will “blow your mind.”


New Revenue Stream for Indian Newspapers

Indian newspapers are sitting on a goldmine. Here’s what I’m thinking: App and consumer electronics consumption in India is growing. The app market in India is estimated to be worth over $450 mn  by 2016. And we have the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.

Most newspapers have a technology section which is dominated by coverage of consumer electronics and apps. After reading, if the subscriber likes it, he goes on to one of the app stores and downloads the app. End of story. Now one way of monetizing the print real estate is to sell vanilla ads. The other, is where it gets creative.

Here’s an experiment that might work for newspapers. How about completing the cycle by making it possible for a reader to buy an app or a service through an augmented app? Imagine this: Newspaper’s editorial puts out a section on apps, mobile phones and other such. Now the production/ marketing team, could overlay the coverage with say a QR code that lets readers buy that app from an app store.

The newspaper could either build its own app store and let developers sell on it through a self service platform or it could become an affiliate to one of the major app store. Wont this be a nice little revenue stream to have?

Now you could argue that it compromises editorial standards or that offline app distribution isn’t going to work. Well, editorial standards can be kept so long as you make appropriate disclosures and don’t let the writers into page making (just like how its done with traditional advertisements).

And offline distribution is already a big business in India. For instance, AppsDaily, a retail distribution network for digital content sells thousands of app bundles for an average selling price of Rs 1000 through their offline kiosks attached to mobile phone outlets.



For the dead tree edition, is the writing on the “wall”?

Latest figures from the Indian readership survey and the chest thumping, grandstanding, front page proclamations that followed, will have you believe that Indian newspapers, unlike their western peers, are doing quite well. But then again, the Internet is emerging fast and perhaps five years from now, the numbers will look very different.

Someday, when the internet becomes as powerful and prevalent in India as it is in the west, this advertisement might make more sense. But it really is a sign of things to come.



Five lessons from Kodak’s Bankruptcy

(Kodak advertisement, Image courtesy: Duke University, link Via Chandu Gopalakrishnan)

Hope you have finished mourning the demise of Eastman Kodak Co, the 131 year old photography pioneering corporation that filed for bankruptcy Thursday. Kodak’s bankruptcy offers a few lessons to businesses, The Economist explains in an article. The lessons?

1.  Kodak’s culture did not help. Despite its strengths—hefty investment in research, a rigorous approach to manufacturing and good relations with its local community—Kodak had become a complacent monopolist.

2. If you see things coming, do something about it: Another reason why Kodak was slow to change was that its executives “suffered from a mentality of perfect products, rather than the high-tech mindset of make it, launch it, fix it,” says Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School, who has advised the firm.

3. Diversify, make it quick: Even when Kodak decided to diversify, it took years to make its first acquisition.

4. Nurture re-usable IP.

5. Don’t cling to old business just because its higher margins.

Read the full article here.


Prirate bay’s argument on SOPA, PIPA

Dear readers,
What do you think of SOPA? PIPA?

I found this interesting. 

INTERNETS, 18th of January 2012.

Over a century ago Thomas Edison got the patent for a device which would "do for the eye what the phonograph does for
the ear". He called it the Kinetoscope. He was not only amongst the first to record video, he was also the first person
to own the copyright to a motion picture.

Because of Edisons patents for the motion pictures it was close to financially impossible to create motion pictures
in the North american east coast. The movie studios therefor relocated to California, and founded what we today call
Hollywood. The reason was mostly because there was no patent.
There was also no copyright to speak of, so the studios could copy old stories and make movies out of them - like
Fantasia, one of Disneys biggest hits ever.

So, the whole basis of this industry, that today is screaming about losing control over immaterial rights, is that they
circumvented immaterial rights. They copied (or put in their terminology: "stole") other peoples creative works,
without paying for it. They did it in order to make a huge profit. Today, they're all successful and most of the
studios are on the Fortune 500 list of the richest companies in the world. Congratulations - it's all based on being
able to re-use other peoples creative works. And today they hold the rights to what other people create.
If you want to get something released, you have to abide to their rules. The ones they created after circumventing
other peoples rules.

The reason they are always complainting about "pirates" today is simple. We've done what they did. We circumvented the
rules they created and created our own. We crushed their monopoly by giving people something more efficient. We allow
people to have direct communication between eachother, circumventing the profitable middle man, that in some cases take
over 107% of the profits (yes, you pay to work for them).
It's all based on the fact that we're competition.
We've proven that their existance in their current form is no longer needed. We're just better than they are.

And the funny part is that our rules are very similar to the founding ideas of the USA. We fight for freedom of speech.
We see all people as equal. We believe that the public, not the elite, should rule the nation. We believe that laws
should be created to serve the public, not the rich corporations.

The Pirate Bay is truly an international community. The team is spread all over the globe - but we've stayed out of the
USA. We have Swedish roots and a swedish friend said this:
The word SOPA means "trash" in Swedish. The word PIPA means "a pipe" in Swedish. This is of course not a coincidence.
They want to make the internet inte a one way pipe, with them at the top, shoving trash through the pipe down to the
rest of us obedient consumers.
The public opinion on this matter is clear. Ask anyone on the street and you'll learn that noone wants to be fed with
trash. Why the US government want the american people to be fed with trash is beyond our imagination but we hope that
you will stop them, before we all drown.

SOPA can't do anything to stop TPB. Worst case we'll change top level domain from our current .org to one of the
hundreds of other names that we already also use. In countries where TPB is blocked, China and Saudi Arabia springs to
mind, they block hundreds of our domain names. And did it work? Not really.
To fix the "problem of piracy" one should go to the source of the problem. The entertainment industry say they're
creating "culture" but what they really do is stuff like selling overpriced plushy dolls and making 11 year old girls
become anorexic. Either from working in the factories that creates the dolls for basically no salary or by watching
movies and tv shows that make them think that they're fat.

In the great Sid Meiers computer game Civilization you can build Wonders of the world. One of the most powerful ones
is Hollywood. With that you control all culture and media in the world. Rupert Murdoch was happy with MySpace and had
no problems with their own piracy until it failed. Now he's complainting that Google is the biggest source of piracy
in the world - because he's jealous. He wants to retain his mind control over people and clearly you'd get a more
honest view of things on Wikipedia and Google than on Fox News.

Some facts (years, dates) are probably wrong in this press release. The reason is that we can't access this information
when Wikipedia is blacked out. Because of pressure from our failing competitors. We're sorry for that.


Midday to stop printing Bangalore and Delhi edition

Rather abruptly, Midday, the English tabloid owned by Jagaran group has announced the closure of its Bangalore and Delhi Edition. Manajit Ghoshal, CEO of Mid-Day Infomedia Ltd wrote to his employees:

Dear Colleagues,

Its with a heavy heart that I have to announce the closure of Midday – Delhi and Midday – Bangalore editions. Tomorrow’s issue will be the last issue for both the editions. This has been necessitated by the prolonged losses we had to incur on these editions. The idea behind starting these editions was to establish these brands in these cities and make a difference in the lives of  the citizens there. We had begun well and were appreciated for the quality of  product we put out. However, in a corporate scenario the books need to be balanced. Due to the ever increasing competition in the print media space, the funds required for breakeven in these cities kept escalating. Finally, we had to take this call. We will however, continue to maintain a news bureau in Delhi and our sales offices in Bangalore and Delhi.

But, every dark cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining in this is that Mumbai Midday now will have the strength to soar to greater heights. By cutting our losses in Delhi and Bangalore editions, we will be able to bolster our circulation in Mumbai. Apart, from the plan to channel these investments, Jagran group (our parent company) will invest a large sum in boosting Midday’s circulation in Mumbai. This will give our sales guys across the country to pitch Mumbai Midday to clients and agencies in a new light. We need to now concentrate on building brand Midday in Mumbai and monetizing Mumbai Midday’s large increase in circulation and in this our sales colleagues in Delhi, Bangalore and Pune will have to play a significant part.

Gujrati Midday and Inquilab continue to go from strength to strength. We are increasing the circulation of GMD at a brisk pace and will continue to do so. Inquilab has flourished in the north and we now have 14 editions in all and are far ahead of any competition in the Urdu space.

Midday – Pune is an extension of Midday-Mumbai just as the Pune city is an extension of Mumbai. Midday-Pune will continue to run at an ever increasing pace and we will be monitoring the Pune media market keenly to spot opportunities to improve the circulation of Midday – Pune.

We will continue to invest aggressively in our digital properties as we believe that this is a medium whose time has come.

5th December, 2011 is an important day in the history of Midday. Today, we will have to halt and think. Think about many of our colleagues who will have to move on. Its a testing time for them as it is for us. Right now it might look dark but I am sure both of us will come out of this with flying colours. We wish them all the best in their future endeavors. We also need to think about the added responsibilities for all of us who remain in this great organization and who have to carry its legacy forward. Lets begin this phase of our journey with renewed vigour and conviction.

 In conclusion, I can only say that all dreams may not fructify but that will only encourage us to try harder and bring us closer, marching forward with a vision which only we can realise. We strive for continuity and absolutes but are reminded time and again that change is the only constant. In this time of  great pain and heavy responsibility, I am sure God will give us the tenacity to walk on ………………….……….and then to break into a run …………………………………and once again soar to live our destiny.

Manajit Ghoshal


The New Indian Express Kills Zeitgeist

(Facsimile courtesy:

Chennai head-quartered national daily, The New Indian Express, has canned its Saturday supplement “Zeitgeist.” The supplement used to cover  Gaming and Graphic Novels, Sexualities and other contemporary issues.

Earlier, Aditya Sinha, who was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of The New Indian Express in April 2007, had left the organisation to join DNA as the editor in chief.


Bad news is, you need not come to office

Here’s a copy of the e-mail  sent out by Hardev Sanotra, Managing Editor of Financial World to its employees. The media house which was to bring out the new financial daily, had a change of plans and decided not to launch Financial World.
Dear FW team,
Hi. It’s bad news for all of us.
Tarun Tejpal this afternoon addressed the staff in Delhi and in essence said that the FW project was off. He said that efforts were made to make it possible to keep the project going but it was not possible. There were mistakes made in senior hiring, and the planning part of it and it was with deep regret that he was taking the decision not to go ahead with it. He said he would ask everyone to start looking for a job, but that the company would give salaries till end of February if someone does not find a job earlier.
It’s a sad development since we were till recently all charged up to bring out the paper.
The immediate fallout is that we will not be covering news anymore and there would be no updates for the web. You need not come to the office. The salary for Jan will be paid as usual on Feb 7 and the rest of the settlement will be done in first week of March.
There will be a few from the team which Tarun is making effort to absorb in Magazine or Web, but the number may be small.
Some of the staffers here in Delhi have requested Tarun if March salary can be paid too. He said people should try and find jobs, and if some of you are unable to do so even till March, “we will do our best.”
At some stage I will talk to you, individually.

Hardev Sanotra