Even as legacy media publications are a dime a dozen, demand for more content is never going to die. Then there is an increasing interest in local news in local languages and presented in a more modern layout that is more appealing to modern tech-savvy audiences. The likes of DailyHunt, Inshorts and Lokal have made giant strides in this space.
Hyderabad-based Way2News is also looking to tap into this increasing appetite for local content in vernacular languages. Its platform offers short, relevant, and reliable news stories extending beyond districts to villages and mandals in their local language from trusted local sources.
Founded in 2015, Way2News claims to have 6.5 million daily active users, 13 million monthly active users, and more than 45 million downloads across app stores. The company has also raised capital from marquee investors like Westbridge Capital.
We spoke to the company co-founder and CEO Raju Vanapala to learn more about the media platform. Here are the edited excerpts:
What was the thought behind launching a local news platform?
If you look at most of the media content originates from metros and then gets disseminated to the lower level, then to the ground level, and ultimately to the villages. But no media so far has addressed the villages or mandals or small towns. We thought if we could bring these stories out of these untapped regions, we could build unique content and audience subsequently.
Initially, we started as a short news player. The way you cover stories from the startup community, we craft content for local language audiences. We provide short summaries for a language audience. We started our journey with the Telugu language, and now we have expanded it to Tamil as well. Our USP is hyper-local content and we have built a large network of stringers out there in every mandal of every small village. We are covering nearly 95% of the interior parts of Telugu and Tamil regions today.
And, in a way, we made the media inclusive and brought diverse voices to our platform. That’s how we became successful.
Please elaborate on the process of content sourcing and publishing.
We have resident editors. Moreover, we craft content from different genres like movies, business, and more. We crowdsource from stingers, and as I mentioned earlier we have built deep networks of them. Today, we have a community of contributors of 12, 000 members contributing almost every month in Telugu and Tamil languages.
The content platform hasn’t really been a money-generating business. How do you plan to grow financially?
A lot of content players are going after various languages simultaneously and do enjoy some presence but it is for a short period. They are not able to monetize their assets. Instead, we have taken a completely different approach. Rather than going to all kinds of languages, we have chosen to specialize in one language and go deep in that space.
Moreover, we are going after the digital advertisers, who have long depended on legacy media publications for promotions. Some of them spend anywhere between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50 lakh on them. Some are large regional brands. So our approach is to tap into a new generation of advertisers as well as legacy ones who have more or less better resonance in the regional languages audiences.
While we have the VC money, we are a profitable company. We keep checking our spending level or our burn level. Today, we are hardly burning a lot of money – not more than Rs 2. 5 crore every month. And a lot of this investment is going into the Tamil market. In Telugu, we have grown organically for several years. It took almost 6 years for us to master all our practices, content-related ones included, and we have just copy-pasted the same practices in Tamil Nadu, and it’s working out really well for us.
What is your product roadmap for the immediate future?
We are emerging as the second largest in Tamil Nadu already. And probably soon I think we’ll become the largest even in Tamil Nadu as well. And we’ll keep adding languages the same way. Way2News will soon launch the platform for Kannada and Malayalam-speaking audiences. So on a feature side, okay, I would say we have a good product already built. The product can acquire users organically. Unlike other products, we probably have to keep spending a lot of money to acquire users.