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Battling Fake News Is A Challenge In The Media Industry - Mr. Azhar Iqubal, CEO & Co-Founder, Inshorts

Mr. Azhar Iqubal, CEO & Co-Founder, Inshorts talks to BW Businessworld about various new trends in the short-format content space.

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Mr. Azhar Iqubal, CEO & Co-Founder, Inshorts

With improved device penetration, increase in data-intensive content and affordable data tariff plans, smartphones have become a part and parcel of our daily lives. Nowadays, people prefer to consume fast and snackable content on the go and want to be at par with news and updates in a single click. The Inshorts app enables its users to watch and learn news and updates in an interesting way with the help of engrossing graphics and short- format content. With the ICC World Cup going on and the Budget right around the corner Inshorts is running a campaign containing a wide range of creatives and content which covers all news and updates related to the World Cup and help its users understand the whole process of Budget in just a few swipes. Mr. Azhar Iqubal, CEO & Co-Founder, Inshorts talks to Siddharth from BW Businessworld about various new trends in the short-format content space.


1. Do you think people prefer quick short-form content over in-depth long-format stories?

Long form stories and short format stories cater to two different segments. People who have the luxury of spare time, prefer reading in-depth long format stories. However, with the constantly decreasing attention span of consumers and rapidly shifting focus from traditional form of content consumption to 5-inch mobile phone, the short form content is growing exponentially. As it is easily consumable, crisp and saves a lot of time of viewers, it is the preferred form of content for the busy generation. Also, the easy consumption of short-form content has inspired many non-readers to switch to reading, thus increasing the overall size of the content market.


2.  How is Inshorts curating information and being able to filter through the fake news trend? 

We have an editorial team in place which is responsible for curating stories across categories like national, world, politics, business, sports, technology and entertainment. We have established standard guidelines for summarizing the stories which are shared in a strictly factual format, completely uncolored with opinion. 

The authenticity of information and battling fake news is a challenge in the media industry and it adversely impacts the various facets of the ecosystem. Information spreads at a fast pace which makes content vulnerable for a larger set of audience. We, at Inshorts, take measures to detect inaccurate and fake news by verifying every news article from at least 4 to 5 credible sources before finally publishing it. As a practice, we avoid articles that do not have a credible source of information and an authorized spokesperson confirming the same. 


3. Investments made by Inshorts in the field of emerging technologies?

Inshorts introduced artificial intelligence-based news summarization to automatically summarize a full-length news article to 60 words news brief along with a headline and a card image. This helps us to scale up the number of articles published on the platform.

In addition to 60-word summarization, we have added a layer of personalization to our content. Our intuitive content recommendation engine learns from the user preferences and behavior and accordingly provides a personalized array of shorts in the "My Feed" section of the user. Along with AI, we are fulfilling the growing demands of an entitled consumer to deliver a deeper level of intuitive personalization.

Inshorts has over time developed a lot of innovative concepts in advertising that help deliver the advertiser’s message in the most unique way possible. Our ad formats are designed to be non-intrusive and for seamless consumption, therefore serving the interests of both advertisers and readers. There are various ad formats like - Factcards, Vertical videos, Premier ads, Video + text (2:1) format, and bumper video. 

We also conduct Inshorts #DailyInsights Poll seeks quick opinions of young millennials on current and intriguing issues that we are faced with on a day-to-day basis. One can also see the results of the poll instantly and can share the results via Whatsapp and email with friends and family. This consumer poll gives Inshorts readers a sneak peek into the minds of fellow citizens in the country. 


4. Association with Video Content streaming services like Netflix?

We work closely with various video content streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. For Netflix we partnered for their campaigns when they were launching new series such as Narcos, The Umbrella Academy and Ghoul.  Our various innovative ad formats have received a positive response from our customers and subscribers alike.  For example, we used Vertical Videos for the launch of the last season of Narcos, Digital Magazine format for The Umbrella Academy and HTML ad format for Ghoul. 

For Amazon Prime, we did a campaign around Oscar-nominated sci-fi movie- Ready Player One, Comedy-drama series Whiskey Cavalier and many more. 


5. What type of advertising formats used on the platform?

Inshorts aims to create a unique and non-intrusive format of advertising by innovating Ad formats. Our most popular advertising format is the 60-word short Native Ad. It comprises of 60-word branded content where the product description is provided in 60 words along with an image. 

Other than this, we have launched various other innovative ad formats like Fact Cards, HTML Ads, Vertical Video, Bumper Video, Video + text (2:1), etc which serve the varying needs of our clients. Last month we launched a new ad format - Digital Magazines. Mentioned below are short   briefs about our array of innovative ad formats:

  • Digital Magazines are creatives through which brands communicate with users through gifs, videos, and polls to keep the audience engaged by creating curiosity and allowing the readers to flip through the pages to provide information about a product. Inshorts digital magazine has already helped some global brands like Netflix to get 3x more engagement as compared to text ads for its new series -   ‘The Umbrella Academy’ within just 2 weeks of its release.
  • Interstitial Banners - Full-screen rich media branding slot where HD Creative, GIF, HTML, Video can be used as a part of the native experience of the app, keep the user experience non-intrusive.
  • Fact Cards - This consists of a set of interesting facts about a Brand, Industry (Eg: Auto) or a day (Eg: Women’s Day). The property is highly engaging and the cards get shared on social media very often.
  • Vertical Videos - Vertical videos consist of full-screen videos played on portrait mode with rich viewing experience along with a CTA.


6. Is mobile an effective platform to target consumers in this bandwidth driven era?

Indians are today identified as a ‘mobile-first’ generation, we had identified this shift way back in 2013 when we decided to be mobile focussed and developed our product and content to cater to these consumers. Short format content is easily consumable, crisp and saves a lot of time of viewers. Our product is a hit among the busy millennials, who are short on time and are always hooked on their screens for socializing, consuming news, paying bills or for entertainment.

Therefore, for marketers, this has always posed as a huge opportunity since India leapfrogged ahead into the digital era via mobile. Given the current situation, Inshorts advertising solutions are always sought out for by the advertisers because of its premium user base and innovative offerings.


7. Expectations and challenges from 5G rollout in the coming future?

There is nothing more annoying for a mobile app user than an app that takes a lot of time to respond to their one action. 

While the cost and availability may prove to be a challenge from a 5G roll-out, the advantages do outweigh the challenges. With an increase in speed, 5G will provide a new level of access to the internet leading towards another revolutionary wave of the digital era.


8. Does it pay to be brief? What is the Revenue model of Inshorts?

Inshorts is targeted to people who are always running out of time and look for the on-the-go accessibility of news. We fully understand the content requirements of this segment of users and hence, have over the years obtained a niche set of loyal users ranging from renowned personalities, industry experts, politicians to a wide range of influencers.

Inshorts is free of cost for end consumers and monetizes through B2B channels via advertising. Given to our premium consumer base and innovative advertising offerings, our ad formats are always sorted out for the advertisers. Due to the overwhelming response from our users and advertisers, we have achieved a revenue run rate of $10 million per annum in FY 19.


9. How has the journey been so far? And what are your future plans?

It has been an exciting ride so far with encouraging responses from consumers and brands alike. We are the No. 1 English news App in India and also continue to be India’s Highest Rated on Android since January 2014. Our offering to advertisers has set benchmarks for all publishers in the app space. We have over time developed a lot of innovative concepts in advertising which helped us in getting more than 250 brands onboard in a short span of time. We have been working with global brands like Vodafone, OnePlus, Mercedez, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Myntra, etc. which have contributed to making Inshorts operationally profitable within 5 yrs of starting.

With the next wave of internet generation kicking in, the future looks quite exciting. Content is an ever-evolving space and being the leaders in the short-form content, we understand the mobile generation very well. We plan to continuously invest in products that would best suit the content needs of these new internet users.


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