Having launched it as an experiment, Sattvik Mishra and his friends only woke up to the vast possibilities of ScoopWhoop when their second article on Game of Thrones went viral in 2013. The internet media and news company has grown to accommodate 180 people and two other online publications — Gazabpost and Vagabomb. In a tête-à-tête with BrandWagon’s Chandni Mathur, Mishra outlines the path ahead and what ScoopWhoop has learnt from being a Buzzfeed clone in its early days. Excerpts:
ScoopWhoop began as a viral content generating and sharing website but is now a news portal and a channel for sharing social concerns. How did this transition happen?
Initially when we started, most of it was listicles and video curation, creating fun content, taking videos from YouTube which we thought had the potential to go viral and package them on our platform. In 2014, we raised our first round of funding from Bharti Softbank and then the actual scaling up happened from six to 55 people. We built a small news team, went from three to four million unique views to 10 million and we thought it was time to create content rather than just aggregating it.
Between the three websites, we have close to about 30 million unique visitors a month and are driving around 80-90 million video views a month, so we have been able to scale up the business decently. But if we want to grow further, the distribution and technology also comes into play. After a certain threshold, I don’t think pure content can take you very far. Now is the time where we are increasing our content creation pool and investing heavily in technology and distribution.
Initially ScoopWhoop was dubbed a Buzzfeed clone…
When we started, within six months there were several clones and with all honesty, ScoopWhoop was also a Buzzfeed clone. It’s easy to create content but difficult to build the business. If you look at three years from now, I think there are limited seats on the table. It won’t be a winner takes it all model but there also can’t be 10 publications that matter. There will be three to four media companies in the next three years who can cross the 50 million barrier and they will take 80% of the revenue chunk.
The best practices in this space are being set by companies like Buzzfeed and I feel one should take learnings from wherever we can and understand what kind of a publication we want to be. Listen to everyone but do what you want to do; you can’t blindly follow a format.
How is your video production unit ScoopWhoop Talkies shaping up?
Video consumption is on the rise and if we don’t do video content we will be irrelevant very soon. Today, we are producing 300 videos across short format, long format, fiction and non-fiction. We do documentaries, fictional series, two-minute explainers, short stories, sketches, etc. Moving forward, we want to ace non-fiction content in India. We have realised that fiction is a very fierce market with a lot of competition. I don’t think anyone is doing great non-fiction content on the web. Documentaries are the first step towards that. We created a two-part documentary series on stone pelting in Kashmir with Newslaundry. Going ahead, we are also looking at doing a food show, travel show and crime show on the internet and are exploring the option of taking existing non-fiction TV formats and reinventing them on the web.
Which revenue model works well for you — native advertising or display?
The revenue split would be about 75% native content and 25% display. But now we are getting into programmatic and are working with media agencies for inventory selling. Less than about 5% of our total content is sponsored right now but when we create IPs it will almost be like TV shows. We are eyeing R100 crore in the next three years.
What kind of web traffic do you derive from social networks? Does it affect direct engagement?
Around 55-60% of our traffic still comes from Facebook, but we have been able to increase our direct traffic as well over the last two years. So 30% of the total traffic is now direct across publications. Of this, around nine million users come directly which is still a large number. While social will continue to drive a large chunk of traffic that we generate, I think it’s important to build direct traffic as that says what kind of a brand you have built. The numbers we really look at are how many engagements we can drive in a month, on platform and off platform. Last month we did 225 million engagements and of that, 70 million were on our platform while the rest were on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. But that currency is also monetisable.
We are also building an app for Android and iOS that will launch in the first week of December. For us mobile browser is huge because we haven’t been able to create a use case for an app. An app will have a fierce following but it’s still a very small number and mobile is anyway 80% of our total traffic.
How are the two — Vagabomb and Gazabpost performing?
Gazabpost has been able to scale to 10 million unique views, which is good as the ceiling is lower for Hindi publications. If we are able to get it to 15 million in the next three to four months, it will be one of the bigger Hindi publications.
Vagabomb is slightly niche and the content is slightly bolder. So I call it a premium product rather than mass. It’s clocking in around 2.5 million unique views but the metrics we see on it is a lot better than the others, as return users and the time spent is high.