Digital is the next big medium for news telling & selling: Raghav Bahl

MUMBAI: The media and entertainment sector is one of the most dynamic sectors prone to rapid change. In order to survive, one must simply re-invent and adapt to the landscape. Raghav Bahl is unarguably one such man, who knows how to build himself from scratch, as he moved from the television space to the digital environment.


After selling the Network 18 Group for a tidy sum to Mukesh Ambani owned Reliance Industries, Bahl did not stop there. Through his digital venture The Quint, he has now launched a mobile focussed digital news website. Speaking at an interactive session at the ongoing FICCI Frames 2015, Bahl touched upon the key points as an entrepreneur in the digital domain.


“The smartphone has revolutionised the media ecosystem,” Bahl’s voice booms in the packed auditorium as he begins sharing his thoughts.


Consumer Habits

Bahl says that consumers today are increasingly looking out for content that is personalised, “I, Me, Mine” as he called it. Consumers are always looking for content that leads to instant gratification as audiences resort to uploading, sharing, finding and following data points on their smartphones. Increasingly, users also want data sans baggage.



Content in the digital space, according to the media baron, is moving from exclusive and breaking news to news pieces that are re-purposed with stronger in-depth analysis. “Now it’s also about the creation of content versus the packaging of content,” he adds. There is also an emerging section in the digital news media segment called the “Light-Fun-Weird,” which is the new news category where news is narrated far different from the traditional form. People increasingly are also looking out for ‘nearby’ content where local information, news and content is being sought. In the social media space, content is also about discovering news, as people used various platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. “Close to 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared everyday on Instagram, while around 50 billion messages are sent via Whatsapp each day,” Bahl informs.


Impact on the Landscape

As massive content is bombarded on the cyberspace, Bahl says that “except for community news and large scale entertainment format on the static screen, it will completely change the landscape. Language will now have to become edgier and it will have to become the language of the young because the audience today has a point of view. Quicker, shorter and strong opinions,” Bahl sums up.


Content in the next three years will move more exclusively to hand held devices.


Quint’s Approach to News Telling

As a digital product, Bahl informs that he doesn’t need to send a reporter on field. Providing an example on how he would approach a plane crash story, he informs that he would prepare “multiple smaller packets” of news than one lengthy story that will not buy the audience’s attention. He would come up with stories like the age of the aircraft, the mindset of the airplane pilot and so on. “I am investing more in the technology than a TV channel network spends on ground reporting,” he stated.


Financing and Costs

When he started with his news channel CNBC TV18, it drew in a revenue of Rs 2 crore. However, today the channel draws in revenue to the tune of Rs 300 crore. “As audiences come in, buyers will come in too. If the content is receiving traction, advertisers would come in too.”


According to Bahl, three kinds of advertising models will be hot selling properties in the digital domain: 1) Complete programmatic advertising, 2) Native advertising and 3) Display ads. “However, display ads will have to be modified for mobile screens,” he said.


Assessment of Indian media and leaving Network 18

I am an optimist and I believe the sheer plurality of the Indian media would ensure cards are not stacked in one direction,” Bahl assessed. He went on to reveal that he was in no way ready to become a paid employee. “Today the Network 18 group is in strong competitive hands. If I was not a majority stakeholder anymore, I would have to re-invent myself,” he said.



In his concluding remarks, Bahl highlighted a few points. For instance, he said that primetime is dead as audiences today are always connected via their multiple screens to receive content. The very short lifespan of news was taken over by “curated explainers,” who would summarise a story with in-depth analysis. “Journalists today will have to be expert in their field. You cannot cover financial markets or terrorism,” he remarked.

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