The Indian Express Group has launched, ieBangla, a Bengali language version of it news website. This is in continuation of the group’s strategy of opening more Indic language websites as the company had launched ieMalayalam and ieTamil in 2017. Another IE Group property the Financial Express had also launched a Hindi version of its website at the start of this year. Apart from this the IE group has a Hindi language website, JanSatta and a Marathi website, Loksatta.

According to a statement by the company, ieBangla.com will focus on political opinion and analysis, coverage of technology, entertainment and sports along with culture and literature. The company also said that ieBangla.com will be ad-free to start with. On first glance, ieBangla seems to have a different set of stories on the homepage from the IE English website. Considering the lack of ads the Bangla website’s homepage seems to have a cleaner design as well.

According to the publisher, the Bangla website will be curated and run out of Kolkata but plans to feature writers from all across the world.

News sites and Indic languages

Media houses are increasing the number of Indic language websites in recent times as the number English language readership is reaching saturation. As such, the push for Indic languages is understandable.  A Google and KPMG report on Indic languages showed that around 180 million Internet users could be added by 2021 for pushing news in local languages. With more users coming on the Internet and consuming content in their languages, it would allow for better monetization in the future.

Why no ads?

The publisher has not shared any reason behind launching the vernacular product as an ad-free product at first. We speculate the could have to do with the fact that the monetization of ads on Indic language websites is currently not viable. Cost-Per-Mille (CPMs), a metric used by digital advertisers for a million digital impressions, is 2.5 times more for English compared to vernacular languages, as indicated by this Business Standard report. The report also quotes Gyan Gupta, CEO of Dainik Bhaskar making a case for more advertising in local languages. He said that a Hindi advertisement on Hindi website performs four times better than an English ad on the website.

Meanwhile, the KPMG report also added that 88% of Indian language internet users were more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language than in English. So the challenge for sites like ieBangla will be to feature ads in vernacular language. It must be noted that ieTamil and ieMalayam seem to have the same ads on their homepage as the English language site.