The Indian Express group of publications is using digital to extend its reach in the Indic language markets, beyond Hindi and Marathi. Indian Express Digital, the group’s digital arm, has launched IEmalayalam.com, operating out of Kerala. This is IE Digital’s third independent publication, after launching Inuth.com (youth content) and Techook.com (gadget reviews). Sandeep Amar, CEO of Indian Express Digital told MediaNama that they plan to launch sites in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bangla next. Indian Express already has regional language print and web publications in Loksatta (Marathi) and Jansatta (Hindi). Notes from a short conversation with Sandeep Amar:

Why Malayalam first?
We chose Malayalam because it’s a very mature news market. Literacy levels are high, and Facebook is very strong here. We felt that our style of journalism will be tested best in the Malayalam market. We plan to launch Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali very soon.

Presence in Kerala
Sanjay Mohan is the editor here, and he reports to Nandagopal Rajan, who is our executive editor at Indian Express Digital. We have a dedicated Indian Express Digital Malayalam team, and a dedicated editorial office, which is fully independent. We’ll cover from seven places here (in Kerala), other than Kochi.

Looking at digital and offline separate
We are looking at ourselves (Indian Express Digital) as a separate company altogether. You understand digital has to be an independent strategy. Digital journalism has to be separate. One of the things we’ve seen in this market is that Facebook is very very strong. From that perspective, our journalism has to cater to stories which fly on social. Search in languages is good, but it’s not that great. For a news site, to enter via social is the best route, although, here since users are very literate, we will do quality content and there will be direct traffic.

Monetization (there are no ads on the site at present)
It’s a beta launch, and we’ll see how it goes for another 3-4 months, and unlike Techook and Inuth, there will be ads at some point, but not the regular ads. We are looking at various models and video projects as well. In the Kerala market, the advertising potential is huge. There is a lot of ad potential, but for the first few months, we are staying clear of that.

Competition from strong players like Manorama
Yes, very strong players. Mathruboomi is there, and there are some new players too. We are very confident of beating them in the next 12 months, and we hope to reach the number one slot in terms of audiences in the next 12 months.

Audience acquisition strategy
Right now all of our focus will be on social and direct. We’ll be all set for search, but we’ll go social and direct. The content has to be the big gamechanger. A lot of our content will be focused on things like seven-player football teams which are very popular, rock bands are popular, Hollywood is popular. We will focus on youth and the Malayalam culture. We don’t want to be entirely newsy. It will be a mix of news and time independent content. We want to be very strong in time independent and Facebook relevant content for the user.