‘We are building a true Bharat-focussed platform for creators, consumers, and advertisers’

Ver Se Innovation-owned Dailyhunt has come a long way from being a classified ad service to becoming one of the largest news aggregators in India. Dailyhunt, which is valued at $400 million, has been on a strong growth trajectory adding new users and advertisers every day.

The company recently tapped Facebook India MD Umang Bedi as president to scale-up the business. TelevisionPost.com’s Javed Farooqui spoke to Bedi and Dailyhunt founder and CEO Virendra Gupta to talk about the company’s progress so far and the growth plans ahead.

How has the growth been for Dailyhunt?

Umang Bedi: The important part to remember in our growth story is when you look at the benchmarks in the market the time spent of Dailyhunt app is 2X that of the time spent on other apps that are focussed on vernacular language users. It is easy to grow users but it is equally easy to lose them. The only way you can keep an audience engaged is when you have higher engagement numbers. Our time spent per daily active user is growing from 25 to 30 minutes as we speak. That time spent is so high because of our sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine learning and deep learning algorithm that are able to produce content graph for the user.

As far as the absolute growth numbers, we are at about 160 million monthly active users across Dailyhunt and OneIndia. On Dailyhunt alone, we are 65 million and now nearing 70 million monthly active users and for the last two months, we are now officially the fastest growing app in India across all categories of the market across all languages across all genres.

We are adding between 12 to 20 million new active users on a monthly basis. When you average that out and even if I take a 15 million average over the next 12 months we will be well over 200 million monthly active users on Dailyhunt and over 250 million users including Dailyhunt and OneIndia. This will make us the single largest digital media platform out of India.

That is how we are pivoting the growth. As we triple the user base the engagement also increases and so does the advertising inventory. Because of that growth, revenues are growing exponentially and a large part of that inventory is moving towards video and as a result the video CPMs are atleast 2 to 3 times of display advertising. We are experiencing an overwhelming revenue growth of over 100% year on year.

What is driving this growth?

Umang Bedi: There are three things driving this growth. The first is the AI and machine learning on a high extreme velocity of content. We add between 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh new articles and video content every day in 15 languages. The velocity at which our algorithms work is exponentially higher than any personalisation anywhere else we have seen. The second is the kind of content that we add. Our content comes from reputable, reliable publishers. Because of that, our content is verified. It is good quality content unlike some of the other apps that offer soft porn content.

Therefore, we are able to tailor the experience because of AI and machine learning algorithms which includes pivoting towards blockchain as well. This really helps in building the content graph to serve the right content to the right audience at the right time of day depending upon what his or her behaviour is because we don’t take any personally verifiable data from the user including his or her name, email id or mobile number.

Virendra Gupta: If you look at the ecosystem, there are lots of apps that call themselves news apps but they are hardly news apps they are more of soft porn apps. People come to Dailyhunt app for authentic and verified content which they can view alone as well as with their family. We have 1500+ content partners who are verified and credible. We are offering a unique experience to our users by aggregating this content and customising it through machine learning capability. By doing that, we are ensuring there is brand safety for our advertisers who come on our platform.

What are the consumption trends on the platform?

Virendra Gupta: The definition of news has changed over a period of time. The content that gets consumed on our platform is politics, entertainment, astrology, lifestyle, tech and gadgets. These are the genres of content that get consumed. About 50% of content consumption is non-politics and non-headline news which means there is a lot of lifestyle content which gets consumed on our platform both in terms of video as well as text. We are finding new users for new content in the local language. Women are interested in women related content. There are people who are consuming tech-based content on our platform. Divinity videos are doing very well and so is health content. We are able to monetise each of these properties on our platform in a big way.

Which languages are driving the traffic?

Virendra Gupta: Top languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam are growing. We are also seeing tremendous growth from languages like Bengali, Kannada, Odia, and Punjabi. The local language content helps us to reach the hinterland of the country. As we are adding more local language content in multiple formats we are able to reach out to the audience in those areas.

Are there any internal checks on the platform to monitor the content that comes from publishers?

Virendra Gupta: Each content partner goes through a quality check within our system. We also choose not to take certain categories of content or certain content partners. The third thing is we get a lot of user feedback and emails about the content efficacy. Those feedbacks are captured in our system and from there, our machine learning takes that into account. The information is then passed to our publisher ecosystem so that they also learn and improve. Eventually, it helps the ecosystem to improve and become better and better.

How has the foray into video with YuppTV worked for Dailyhunt?

Umang Bedi: We provide a lean forward experience and in a lean forward experience we realised that we need to do a couple of things. One, we need to be thumb stopping. Two, our video needs to be short and snackable. Three, one needs to have the ability to personalise to show the kind of video from different genres in different languages to match preferences of the user whether explicit or what has been determined through machine learning experience.

In the new app, which has been released recently, we have clubbed the live TV section with the video section and there is autoplay between the feeds. In the feed environment like in Facebook, the video plays automatically. We have built out a big video infrastructure and caching engine that serves the video content. More importantly, there is video content across genres. So there is news, politics, technology, and business but there is lifestyle, entertainment, Bollywood, Astrology, Divinity, and women’s content also. That is almost 50% of video consumption.

People are just interested in a snackable piece of content. Video consumption has exploded on our platform even though it has been rolled out to just 10% of users so far. We have found that video views have almost doubled to almost billion videos a month. That is going to explode as the feed gets rolled out to 70-100 million more people.

What are the challenges in monetisation in the face of competition from big aggregators like Google and Facebook?

Umang Bedi: About 50% of the digital ad dollars is created by Google and Facebook. Almost for everything else out there we are among the largest media players. We drive 30-50% of digital revenues for our partners. Our revenues are growing exponentially. The three things that we do for monetisation are: 1) We are the only publishers barring Google and Facebook that is building its own ad tech. We don’t rely only on third-party networks. 2) All of our ads are pivoting towards video where we are already realising 2-3 times the CPM. 3) We have built a small business of SMB focussed self-serve interface that has a very powerful capability of location-based advertising down to a pin code. Of the 20,000 pin codes, more than 90% of the pin codes are covered by our user base. No global platform gives pin code level targeting. In fact, the location signals provided by some of the global platforms are very inaccurate. These platforms only rely on GPS data which is highly inaccurate. On the other hand, we rely on both GPS data as well as cell tower data triangulated to the IP address and the DNS. This has unleashed a massive advertising opportunity for small businesses who want to target people locally in their neighbourhood.

We are building a platform for Bharat. Over 108 million people from Bharat who are not necessarily on Facebook or Google come to this platform for consuming verified content in their local language. Small businesses want to come to our platforms where the users are engaged. Given that we give them pin code targeting it unleashes the real businesses of Bharat or small towns.

How do publishers gain from providing content to Dailyhunt?

Umang Bedi: All the content that we take from 1500+ partners is ingested on to our platform in local language on which the AI and machine learning algorithms run. Lots of other platforms redirect to the partner website we don’t do that. As a result, lots of attribution comes for our traffic, however, there are two things partners love about us because of over 100 million reach in users our reach is greater than any of their own individual digital platforms. We give them revenue share which is very well defined, documented to the T on signed contracts with all 1500 of them. We attribute the comScore traffic back to their website. That’s a win-win situation for both partners.

We are building a true Bharat-focussed platform for creators, consumers, and advertisers.

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