In the first interaction since the rebranding, Bhalla, Group CMO, HT Media Ltd, talks about the feedback and tells us how the re-launch has helped getting more advertisers on board
Lockdown was undoubtedly the most difficult time for print media. But some brands used it to bring in new focus in their products. Hindustan Times went for a complete design overhaul and claims to have made the brand much more millennial-friendly. Two months into the new design and format, “the feedback for the new product has been exceedingly positive for the brand; all the changes have been very well received,” said Rajan Bhalla, Group CMO, HT Media Ltd
In the first interaction since the rebranding, Bhalla says they have not only overhauled the page design but have also launched digital plus print solutions for both readers and the advertisers.
Tell us a little about the re-launch? Why did you choose to do it now?
Media landscape has undergone immense transformation in the past decade and despite the testing times, HT continues to make strides as a market leader, with a total readership of 8 million across India, to give the news consumers what they are seeking and how they are seeking it.
This refreshed product fits the fast-paced, yet knowledge-seeking needs of the millennials without alienating the older generation who are also fast adapting to the new ways of news consumption.
Based on key insights, the refreshed product portfolio also includes new and specially curated content packages for the millennial consumers. Dr Mario Garcia, a stalwart in the media industry, worked closely with the HT team throughout this product change, bringing international insights to this new offering.
It’s been about two months since the re-launch, how is the initial feedback? Are the print and digital better aligned now?
The feedback for the new product has been exceedingly positive. All the changes have been very well received. The refreshed product portfolio, including HT City and Brunch, is replete with elements that offer seamless print to digital integrations, giving the readers more than what is available on just the print medium via QR Codes, Video pointers and links to podcasts and photo galleries that take the readers to HT’s digital platforms.
These integrations have gained a lot of traction and we are constantly working on making our product and content more engaging for our readers.
Work for the re-launch had started earlier, but then the pandemic and consequent lockdown came in, how difficult was the journey?
The fact that the team managed to re-launch the flagship brand in the midst of a pandemic speaks volumes of the passion of the HT Media family. We are all very proud of pulling this off while also adjusting to the new normal. We could have pushed the launch further ahead, but we wanted to give our readers something fresh, something new, something different to enjoy while we all grapple with the pandemic. It was a bold choice and we left no stone unturned in accomplishing it.
You have an NYT-like plan to sync not just the editorial teams but also the sales teams of print and digital, do you think combined efforts will draw in more returns per deal? Has the whole re-launching exercise also helped getting more advertisers on board?
Reinvention has been a key focus for us– both for delivering value to our advertisers and for delivering value for readers. For our advertisers, yes, we are now offering integrated Print + Digital solutions and this is gaining a lot of traction as we now bring nearly 200 Mn+ audiences to advertisers as a group.
With a physical readership of 8 million across the HT markets and 65 million unique visitors on HT.com, and now with the seamless print and digital integration in the new refreshed HT, we also have the ability to offer bespoke solutions to help brands and businesses. We had been rolling this out across all key agencies and top customers right before the launch and have seen a month-on-month increase in our advertising especially with our P+D integrations. It’s picking up further momentum during the ongoing festive period and as we create customized solutions for our clients through our new offering.
Within digital, players like HT Media have a strong play in most segments – in display / branded content/ programmatic ads. Hence, we are able to give very good solutions to advertisers.
The pandemic is surely altering consumer behaviour but brands with strong journalistic ethos and good technology leverage will stay relevant for consumers and advertisers.
If there are three focus areas that your re-launched product would want to work on what would those be?
Firstly, the attempt with this re-launch has been to understand the changing news consumption habits of our audiences and give them what they are seeking and how they are seeking it. Print + Digital integrations by virtue of QR codes for more details on the stories and shareable social cards that capture the gist of the story/key headline/key quote in the right-sized picture format, which makes it easy to share on social media, are some key elements that have been added in the product with this re-launch and are helping create a whole content ecosystem across mediums.
Secondly, millennials are a significant cohort to address: 400Mn and growing, almost 50% of the workforce, and moving into their prime spending years- slated to fuel the economy by 20-21: contributing almost $300billion. We are sharpening this millennial focus even further with the new refreshed HT to keep the print offering very engaging and relevant.
Lastly, delivering value to our advertisers has always been at the core of all our efforts. This new offering helps us create bespoke, multi-platform seamless solutions for our customers, with a focus on higher engagement with consumers and in turn leading to higher ROI for our partners.