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India Today Group’s Kalli Purie on the ‘WhatsApp test’ for news

If you can’t send a story or piece of content via WhatsApp, you should question whether it should run. This came from Kalli Purie, group editorial director broadcast and new media, India Today Group, who added that the ‘WhatsApp test’ should be applied to breaking news in order to create shorter videos, shorter stories and therefore more compelling content.

This is just one of the things India Today Group has learned about its news cycle, said Purie, speaking today at FIPP Asia in Singapore.

Kalli Purie cropped ()

Cosmopolitan India causes a stir

Purie used a recent cover published by Cosmopolitan India, where celebrity Alia Bhatt declared “I’m not a feminist” which sent tongues wagging and caused controversy all over the country. The cover was tweeted and shared on Facebook, and soon, everyone was talking about it. “We started receiving comments with outrage,” said Purie. This led to Bhatt tweeting a clarification, which resulted in a “Full blown story,” according to Purie where the story developed and unfolded. “Even the competition was talking about it,” she said. Eventually, the editor of Cosmopolitan India was called in to discuss on a TV news channel, after which she posted a video blog on the subject. The story also then received coverage in India Today the following day. “We ‘maxed out’ the story,” said Purie. “It was reflected on all platforms and repeated in our regional language media.”

What did they learn?

1. A story is no longer linear – it can start anywhere, not just in a newsroom with a journalist/editor. The story process is a “collaborative circle”. Not linear. A story can start anywhere. 

2. The more the platforms, the merrier. They all fuel each other. This allows us to make our stories ‘louder’ and grow their impact. Same piece of content being used on different platforms reaching new audience and monetisable. Makes us richer. Allows us to invest in a story. 

3. A story is not a piece of gold – it’s a mine. We encourage editors to look at story – how else can it be told/used? Which other platforms can it play out on? This needs to be thought of at the planning stage. For example, in the case of the Cosmopolitan Alia Bhatt story, the editor was available to comment on the story immediately.

Brand heroes

4. Interdependence – every brand is a hero. Each brand has a core team, who understand its personality and tone. We also have support teams e.g. social media. Allows us to hire specialists and experts so we can spread costs across platforms. Works better to spread across, and have support teams for each brand, rather than teams in siloes.

Data, data, data

5. Data discipline. Print has the luxury of ‘minimal’ data. Digital does not. TV and digital have always had data. Print hasn’t. We need this discipline on the print side and encourage teams to understand how their stories develop and ‘travel’. We encourage them to look at what’s trending/popular.

Raising a news army

So how does India Today Group satisfy its audience of 100m people? “We like creating alliances with other organisations where we can come together and share content,” said Purie. “New technology puts demands on us as content creators. It’s really hard. We need to raise massive news armies. But we create news commandos – journalists who can tell stories across platforms. It works really well because flavour of news is very raw, intimate and organic. Mobile phone selfie videos work well and are not hard to do.”

“Not everyone in your team needs to be a news commando, maybe two or three will suffice.”

India Today Group reach ()

Finally, Purie urged publishers to get their sales teams behind good content. “Brands have to be sold across platforms, said Purie. You need to align your sales teams.”

Purie concluded: “Compelling storytelling is super fun. Right now, we’re experimenting with 360, AR and VR. The turnaround time on VR needs to be quick, which is a big challenge, especially in news.”

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