Catch, the online news venture from The Patrika Group (with also publishes Rajasthan Patrika) has gone live today, becoming the latest to join the online news gold rush of general news sites. Catch is among the more visually appealing and well segmented of the new launches, and interestingly, probably the first to integrate advertising from the get-go, with a large 300×600 ad unit on the homepage. Both the homepage and the story pages also feature a 300×250 ad unit in the right sidebar, and a 728×90 ad unit at the bottom.

Catch is Delhi based and headed by ex-Tehelka founding member and journalist Shoma Chaudhary, with former Mail Today editor Bharat Bhushan as editor. Former DNA and Tehelka journalist Kunal Majumder will also be working with Catch, while Payal Puri, former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, is responsible for lifestyle and features on the site.

Approach to content: “Your Wire”, “Quick Pill”, video aggregation, The Deck, X-Packs

The site is responsive, and reformats for mobile screens, and it appears to be using a custom-build CMS, which appears to have enabled the site to provide a quite unique interface. Some noteworthy approaches to content showcasing and sharing:

– There’s a “Your Wire” segment for quick news updates on the site, which splits quick updates as “Important, Interesting and Ignored”. The Wire page allows quick access to each of these segments on a single page. A similar approach is taken to ‘The Skip’, which offers a quick read of content.
– The editorial section, named ‘POV’, is displayed as a carousel on the homepage.
– Some stories have a quick take, called “quick pill”, which is a bullet pointed overview of the story. See an example here.
– The latest stories are displayed as hashtags in the right sidebar on story pages, instead of being displayed as headlines.
– To make reading easier, there’s a notable use of subheads, something that we do here at MediaNama as well.
– For sharing of content, there’s a segment called ‘early bird’, which are pre-composed tweets for sharing on twitter.
– Video content on Catch is aggregated from YouTube, with a text based story accompanying it. Podcasts are hosted on SoundCloud. There’s a multimedia section, and its only story (so far) wasn’t working when we tried it.

The two most interesting of the formats on Catch:

– ‘The Deck’, which is a format that showcases, almost magazine-like, a number of articles on the same topic. Two decks up so far: 12 experts on the 12 months of Modi, and What dalit readers think of RSS and Ambedkar. This is a format that is bound to be replicated.
– X-Packs, a mobile only feature which is essentially a slideshow of cards around a particular theme, integrating visuals, quotable quotes from articles and embedding videos. The cards up right now: “Is this the coolest Pope ever?” and “Do you want to live in a 100% hindu nation? Frankly, it’s a slideshow format that could easily have been created for the web, so I’m not sure of why it’s mobile only.

The segmentation of the homepage gets a little getting used to. I haven’t seen many sites use a deep blue font color for story text, but given the large font size and the serif font, it reads quite well. The kind of content available on Catch suggests that it will have to operate at the large scale, which explains why the company was hiring reporters across beats, sub editors, video editors, graphic designers and social media. The platform looks good, but it’s one thing to start a publication, quite another to run it. The biggest challenge, however, will be in monetization, especially given the spate of recent online media launches.

Recent online media launches

– The Wire: founded by Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor of The Hindu, and Sidharth Bhatia, one of the founding editors of DNA. More on it here.
– The Quint: founded by Raghav Bahl, the founder of the Network18 group. More on it here
– Atlantic Media’s mobile-first digital publication Quartz went live in India in June last year.
– Well-known international digital publications like The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed also launched India editions last year – Buzzfeed in August and The Huffington Post in December.
– Samir Patil led has been around for sometime now. The digital daily had raised investment from the philanthropic venture capital firm Omidyar Network, with participation from New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), in July last year. It’s worth noting that had a co-publishing deal with Quartz, as part of which was expected to take care of all the content, while Quartz will take care of all the monetization.
– In September last year, The India Today Group launched a new opinion-oriented site called DailyO that provides commentary on news from various categories like politics, sports, life, sci-tech, money, humour and art & culture.