India is touted as a Mobile-first Nation, there are about 750 million smartphones in India receive over 50 notifications every day, bombarding the users with information on almost everything. In this scenario TAK made its foray into digital media with news that’s sorted, tailored, and presented the way the user wants to see it.
In an interaction with MediaNews4U, Vivek Gaur, COO, Tak Channels, India Today Group and Milind Khandekar, Managing Editor, TAK Channels, India Today Group speak to us on the App, the differentiation of content and much more.
TAK, India’s first personalised video news app, hits the market with a foundation of more than 44+ million subscribers and 9 billion views annually across various social media platforms. The app is a pool of 18 channels offering content in 11 genres across four languages, covering national, regional and special-interest segments. With digital disruption redefining the concept of serving news across the world and India making giant strides in technology-enabled services, the need for a platform which would bring the entire fan base together simultaneously and being tailored to everyone’s preference.
Tak Channels were launched in 2017 -18 but as you say in adversity gives the best chance and these platforms got a boost. The national broadcasters did see eyeballs but what was different was they covered national news and TAK reported state specific news as everyone was concerned about Corona, we really scaled up in the last one and a half years, and the good thing about the business is that we are the market leaders for a few genres and became market leaders in the past one year in the other genres. We are market leaders in Sports, crime and now market leaders in UP ahead of the other broadcast channels and Bihar as compared to the other local broadcasters there. There is something that is working for us which is giving us better connectivity as compared to the linear broadcast channels.
As a company, we took a conscious decision to move away and have a separate team for the digital channels. We have built this from ground up, we now have 18 active channels with a view count of 9 million and we have 45 million subscribers, which makes us the biggest news network. Our endeavour was to get all of them under one umbrella and that is the ‘TAK’ brand.We moved away from the Aajtak logo to a Tak logo which is like a cloud denoting that it is always on and brought all the 18 channels under one branding. There are 4 pillars to this – The size, differentiated content, Personalisation and making the engagement superior for the user than what they get on SM and lastly a deeper engagement with our users.
Today the news genre is cluttered and state-specific news at times does not get covered by national broadcasters on a regular basis, big story of a particular state is highlighted in the TAK channels; our focus is not to be there first but to explain to the viewer as to what is happening in their state. We have dedicated teams for every state. News is differentiated because there is no overlapping of stories. In the 18 channels the stories you would find you will not find is not available in any other linear channel or newspaper. TAK coverage is across North India and in Maharashtra and Gujarat and we have national channel called News Tak which covers national and international news.
Urban – Rural traction
Due to the democratisation of the audience and as news is in the local language it mirrors the urban rural divide which is there on the overall penetration. Our main TG is between 25-34 and they consume TAK across genres. Our entire App architecture is built on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to customise the content in accordance with the user’s preference. The app is non-intrusive and doesn’t seek user information. The AI-ML technology enables tracking the user’s preference for content and lists its videos accordingly, keeping the user’s privacy secured.For a deeper insight into any specific news or event that the user is interested in, TAK has the Home Feed section, which offers curated videos based on the consumption algorithm of a subscriber and editorial recommendation. There is an interactive interface to enable the user’s select the stories and developments that they want to check out.
For a deeper and stronger user connect, we have a Live News section which keeps the user updated with the latest developments on a real-time basis. The live streaming has been designed in an interactive format where the viewer can share opinions, and participate in polls. These are the various ways to engage with our audiences and we are planning to move to play along quizzes by the first quarter of 2022 and online debates.
Last but not the least; we are not going the Google ad route. No programmatic ads but ads which our team gets and play them at the right time and place. You will not see ads based on user browsing history, the look and feel of the ad will be native, no Taboola or other feeds as we feel that it is completely different from the core content of the website and we don’t want to spoil the user experience. The whole thing for us is the user is at the centre of all we are doing, we are personalising, engaging and this is the prime mover for our App going forward and in the next 3 years we are seeing a 10X opportunity.
FMCG brands which were butter and bread for GEC is now allocating upwards of 35% on digital. Brands today feel that sharper targeting happens online and in 3 years’ time more and more advertisers will look at allocating 60-65% spends on digital. It will be a tectonic shift and the change will be very fast, the reason for this is that the good quality audiences have shifted to OTT and most urban audiences are in the process of cutting their cable.
Earlier it was felt that digital was only transactional and not brand building, this changed when Facebook entered the market as they had all the data of their users like their preferences etc. This created a paradigm shift as now brands could do demographic targeting and not by context alone.
The entire shift in terms of targeting people in the right frame of mind and demographically tilted the favor towards digital and then CPT rates being comparable to television tilted it further towards digital, it is not about cutting the cable but looking at Television and digital equally. Even as the advertising pie became bigger in regards to digital, one part of digital moved away from advertising towards the subscription model.
Cheaper internet and connectivity, we believe that in chasing quantity one should not lose focus on quality. Milind and his team have done a great job in maintaining quality and we are seeing a rapid raise in the past one year in terms of quality audiences.
We have a base of 45 million, this when we have just launched and in the early days of the subscription model. This product is a game-changer and there is nobody else in the market having a personalized news app. Now most content is being shifted to short video format and even in that there is no news in the video format. We have introduced a high-quality Fatak to enhance the concept of personalised news. I think we have a good winner in our hands rest will be decided by destiny.
The first level of users are people who are already consuming us and from next week we will tell them to download our App as it is more personalised and experiential as they will be able to engage themselves better. Thirdly we will do the app store optimisation, advertise on the app store and also a tie up with our live broadcaster Aajtak, but more than that we don’t see ourselves spending on television now. We believe that the tech product has a different journey as compared to a non-tech product, our principle is the low hanging fruit of people already consuming us on Social media, go ahead and tell them that this is better and more personalised and also get our news broadcaster to create more awareness for people who are into news and then get into participative engagement for the subscribers.
Our policy is to be free and fair, a balanced coverage which you don’t find nowadays. There is a lot of polarisation, we do not take sides but do honest reporting and the second point is about explaining the news rather than just reporting. There is a lot of noise and we don’t know the reality, our effort is to make sense of the situation, we think that we are good at it when we explain things to our viewers.
We have introduced FatakNews to enhance the concept of personalised news, this is not available on SM but available only on the app. Editorial policy is on the lines of what the India Today Group stands for.
We also do other things like debates, but we go live only when it is necessary, on TV one has to be live but on digital it is not so. What we really feel is that other than our format, our quality is the main differentiator. You will not find this kind of quality in Marathi or Guajarati or Hindi. The kind of coverage & stories we do the quality will eventually catch up.
TAK recently changed its logo and it was executed by Creativeland Asia’s design division CLA Design Lab created the master brand design and overall design architecture for the brand. Creativeland Asia is also developing the overall communication and positioning strategy on brand TAK. Sajan Raj Kurup, Founder & Chairman of Creativeland Asia, said, “It is always exciting to build a brand ground up. I personally worked closely with Vivek and his wonderful team on the conceptualisation and direction of this brand. After months of extensive collaborations between our design, strategy, communications and production team, I am excited to see the brand out there ready to take off.”