Traffic is growing for Indic language publishers in India, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into better revenues, although larger publishers have it easier. Sriram Hebbar, CEO of Greynium (OneIndia), which publishes in 7 Indic languages, apart from English, says that it does around 460 million pageviews a month, said that monetization is not an issue any more, at that scale, and “The CPM’s are right now on par with English, in the last 12 months. That’s a significant improvement”, but it only happens once a publisher has scaled, and “We don’t have the problems that an Udayavani has.” Manorama Online, according to its COO Mariam Mathew, has grown 50-60% year on year.

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For OneIndia, growth has been coming from smaller towns. “In the South, from Tumkur and Madurai. The other part is that now in the school syllabus, you teach people how to use Google etc. What started 10 years ago, is paying off. They know about the internet when they graduate.”

bg-mahesh-oneindiaA shift to verticals also helped OneIndia. “Most people thought that mostly English speaking people cared for fashion etc. Everyone wants good phones and cars. They want quality content, and we (now) have verticals like lifestyle, personal finance etc. (in Indic languages). We have seen that usage grow. Three years ago, we shifted to verticals,” OneIndia MD BG Mahesh adds.

Advertisers are interested

Challenges in case of monetization include those with getting specific creatives for Indic languages. “We try and explain that the CTR’s (Click Through Rates) are almost four times. An English creative gets 0.1% to 0.15%. A language creative can get 0.4-0.5% CTR. The last 16-18 months have been good because we’ve got campaigns from companies specific to languages. A Cathay Pacific launching in Hyderabad will give campaigns in Telugu. It does much much better.” OneIndia also does not work with ad networks. “We stopped 3 years ago, because they bring rates down. The publishers lose.”

Udayavani actually has an in-house team for creatives for advertisers. Ravi Hegde, Group Editor of Udayavani said there are advertisers like Bharatmatrimony looking to target a language base. Things need to be fixed by Google, though. “The problem is that we need keyword and relevancy based advertising. Google Adwords has allowed bloggers to create (and monetize) content, but AdWords does not support Indian languages. If such things happen, there will be monetization.” Udayavani’s biggest share, for advertising online, is from Real Estate.

Vishal Anand, Chief Product Officer of NewsHunt, mentioned that when they tested Indic advertising, they found that the clickthrough rates were double of English ads.

Sharing of Indic language links is a problem as well, and we wonder how things will change once Indic domain names are launched. Venkatesh Hariharan, Director, Knowledge Commons, mentioned that a tamil publisher told him that the URL in Indic cannot be shared.

Data remains an issue

The significant challenge for publishers, however, remains with data. Hebbar explains: “I have large advertisers who ask me to prove that languages are growing online. but how do I prove it? What data points do I have? I would like to see certified data that Indian languages are growing.” Doesn’t Comscore provide that? Hebbar disagrees:”Legacy systems according to me, and if I look at my GA (Google Analytics) data versus Comscore, there is a huge gap. It also doesn’t have mobile.”

Mainstream publishers need digital tools to support legacy systems

Arvind Pani, founder of Reverie Technologies, pointed out that publishers that they work with have legacy systems which they use to publish content on the web. “They don’t want to make a huge investment in changing the infra. How can we have a pluggable solution, so that the same content for their legacy print systems can be extended to digital.” Transliteration tools are also required, and “There are several tools available for free, but there are publishers are paying us for every Transliteraction API call to our platform. In the last few months, 70 to 80 million records have been processed through our Transliteration API.”

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It’s worth noting that Rakesh Kapoor, MD of Summit Information Systems, mentioned that Google’s transliteration API is expected to close down in a couple of months. “Most companies have transliteration API, but they don’t have that reach that Google has.”

Indic does well on YouTube

There is a notion that the space for Indic languages is more on YouTube than text based publishing. As someone pointed out, the difference between TV and the Web in India is that TV is 95% Indic, and the Web is 95% English. Gaurav Bhaskar, a Google representative, pointed out that English content on YouTube in India is number 4 in terms of consumption. “Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, and English comes fourth. We do realize the importance of discovery of content. We are dong workshops with partners to help them use the right metadata. A lot of savvy creators have seen a significant increase in discovery of content.” On whether advertisers want a particular type of content to advertise on, he said that “The demand for YouTube has gone up significantly. We don’t have enough content to sell. Advertisers look for type of content. They will take all kind of content.”

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Paroma Roy Chowdhury, a Google representative, also mentioned that the last six months or so, YouTube has gotten queries from regional language authors and literary festivals. “They want to create their own channels, put content there. We are hopefully going to be working with some of them who can create their archives on YouTube. Some of it may be available in translation and transliteration. It is a healthy trend and will boost the quality of content in regional language. ”

Other business models: Carrier billing

Newshunt began integrating ebooks and magazine singles into its popular news app recently. Vishal Anand said that the demand has been significant, even though these are early days. “We’ve digitized books and there is a need that exists in the market. The magazine singles we launched has also done very well,” he said.

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“Since we launched ebooks, we’ve seen a little over 3-3.5 million books downloaded. We’re still very young. We have hundreds of books that have crossed that threshold of 10,000 copies. Almost all the books – around 90% – are Indic. The Right medium, right audience and a distribution channel that didn’t exist before.”