From accelerating smartphone adoption and Internet penetration to new technologies through which publishers can monetise, 2016 has pushed India’sdigital publishing industry to new heights. The government, too, has been championing the digital agenda with Digital India, which has had marketers explore more effective ways to deliver deeper engagement with consumers. Indeed, the digital media sectorin India is ripe for disruption, with growth expected to reach INR 200 billion by 2020.
As the industry approaches an inflexion point, with new technologies and shifting consumer patterns set to shake up the content landscape even further, here are four trends I believe 2017 will usher in.
1. Content consumption shifts to telecom platforms
As Asia Pacific’s fastest-growing smartphone market, India is slated to see a boom in smartphone adoption next year, on top of its current 220 million smartphone users. Content consumption on telecom platforms is leapfrogging as we enter a mobile-first world, facilitated by heightened connectivity, and increased sophistication of 3G and 4G broadband infrastructure for smartphones.
Major telecom players are now partnering publishers and broadcasters to bulk up their content libraries to cater to consumers’ consumption needs. Reliance Jio, for instance, has signed deals with top broadcasters as a strategic move, on top of its aggressive pricing plans comprising high-speed data and free voice calls. Having reached a milestone of 52 million subscribers within just three months, there is no question that it is well on its way to becoming the largest content aggregator, with a rapidly growing subscriber base.
For publishers, this spells new opportunities and avenues to engage users, and we’ve seen page views grow by 20-40% for publishers feeding content to these platforms. Yet, at the same time, a recommendation recently issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) around third party platforms having to provide free data in a non-discriminatory manner towards any particular telecom operator or internet content, is likely to alter how content is accessed. Publishers ought to anticipate these shifts, survey their existing audience base to understand their wants, and develop new strategies to keep up with these ever-changing demands.
2. Rise of Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP
With Facebook asone of the most popular appsin India,Instant Articles has naturally been a hit among publishers – beefing up mobile content discovery by enabling faster and more seamless content consumption. According to Facebook, 30% of users are more likely to share Instant Articles than web pages, and 70% are less likely to abandon Instant Articles due to poor user experience.With the platform’s ever-growing impact and role as a de facto source of breaking news for many, 2017 will see more publishers utilise Instant Articles to attract more users to consume content via Facebook.
Seeing that search still accounts for around 40% of referral traffic, many publishers have also jumped on the Google AMP bandwagon and adopted Google’s open-source code on their sites. As audiences shift to mobile, Google AMP is set to gain even more momentum among publishers looking to optimise their sites for Google’s search, speed up user interaction and present more mobile-friendly content.
In addition, the partnership between Outbrain and Google also allows publishers to monetise on AMP pages through content recommendation, which is becoming especially important as interest in traditional display ads wane.
3. Browsers – a crowd favourite in rural India
Fuelled by the development of smart cities, rural Internet users is predicted to increase from 33% of India’s total Internet population in 2013 to up to 55% in 2020.As Internet penetration accelerates in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, popular browsers such as UC Browser and Operawill likewise welcome a substantial user growth next year.
As it is, these browsers already capture a significant portion of page views.UC Browser, for example is the leading third party mobile Internet browser in India, commanding over 80 million monthly active users and a market share of close to 50% since its launch in 2012. Its status as India’s favourite mobile browser is unsurprising; UC Browser appeals toprice-conscious rural consumers, as itsdata compression technology reduces data consumption during browsing andincreases download speed in regions where Internet connectivity is low.
This is great news for publishers seeking to make headway in rural India. In particular, vernacular publishers can anticipate rural reader growth; currently 45% of online users consume regional language content, and this figure is expected to surge in 2017 with growing popularity of browsers.
4. Video takes flight, especially on mobile
Video streaming has never been this accessible in India, thanks to telcos one-upping each other with competitive plans, free Wi-Fi at select railway stations and the rising prevalence of 3G and 4G technology.According to a report by Cisco, video content will account for almost 50% of mobile data consumption in India next year, and hit 72% by 2020.Looking forward, we can expect video to dominate a larger proportion of the time users spend on mobile, which can offer them the convenience to catch their favourite clips on-the-go.
Aided by dipping attention spans, short-form content isdriving digital consumption especially among India’s emerging tech-savvy millennial population, who may be more inclined to watch a video than read a long-form article.Equipped with an understanding of the plus pointsof video, publishers are not passing up on the chance to pull in fresh audiences. Many have stepped up to build video inventory, creating platforms such as SonyLiv, DittoTV, hotstar and Voot – a trend we can expect to see more of in 2017.
Faced with these whirlwinds of change, many publishers may findit difficult to anchor themselves against the backdrop ofa rapidly evolving content consumption landscape.Butthere are several strategies publishers can consider in response – adopting a platform-centric approach to develop content tailored to each specific platform, beefingup content writing teams, and integratingdata with technology to speed up and optimise user experience. As we push forward into 2017, new and bright opportunities await publishers that can adapt quickly and strategically to India’s dynamic digital playing field.
Written By Sandeep Balani, Director, Business Development, India, Outbrain