Verizon Media looks to fuel growth in India by tapping the mobile medium and leveraging the popularity of video content
After restructuring its media properties globally, Verizon Media has now set its sight on growth. In India, it hopes to fuel growth by tapping the mobile medium and leveraging the popularity of video content. Rose Tsou, in an interaction with Devika Singh, talks about Verizon’s India strategy, its plan to partner with e-commerce players and more. Edited excerpts:
Verizon Media has been in revamp mode globally. Where does India fit in your global strategy?
Merging AOL and Yahoo, two iconic brands, calls for a lot of innovation. Now that we are done with it, we are looking at how we can grow in the important international markets. India is one of the top five markets for Verizon Media globally; it is important from both user growth as well as revenue growth perspectives. Though it is growing at a rapid rate, we would like it to be faster. Hence, we are doubling down on mobile here. In the last six-eight months, the growth on mobile for our products has increased by over 100% y-o-y. We are investing across four verticals — sports, news, finance and entertainment. Since users here are showing a preference for videos, especially on mobile, we are doing more of it. Our focus is both on mobile and design innovation across our core products like Yahoo Cricket, Yahoo Mail and the just launched MAKERS India.
Why did you introduce MAKERS in India, given the low presence of women online here?
Currently, our brands in the country are slightly skewed towards the male audience. But we want to engage with women, too, which is a growing segment on the internet in this market. Hence, we introduced the digital and video storytelling platform MAKERS, where we would initially feature women from workplaces. We will think about monetising this property later, including via offline events; it is not our priority right now.
Are there plans to tie up with e-commerce companies in India?
We don’t want advertising to be the only avenue to drive conversions, and hence, we are also looking at subscriptions and e-commerce. About 60% of our content has transactional intent or commercial intent. It is still early, but we are looking at tying up with e-commerce marketplaces, service providers, etc, to help customers get a better deal across our properties, be it e-mail or content. For example, a user’s inbox has a lot of receipts from e-commerce companies, and if a customer buys a product frequently and its price has dropped, we can notify him or her about it on Yahoo Mail. This could be a really interesting place for us to innovate. We are not going to be another Amazon or Flipkart; but we are going to empower all such intent on content, e-mail, inbox, search, etc, with a transaction. In the US, we recently introduced Yahoo Finance Premium membership and may launch it in other markets, too.
Your competitors, too, are betting big on video to drive growth. How will you create a niche in this market?
The issue today is not the amount of content, but about the content that can be trusted. We focus on building trusted content. You don’t go to TikTok to read credible news. We recently sold Tumblr because, although it was a popular social network, unfortunately, there was a lot of inappropriate content on the site.
We don’t see video as a standalone thing, but tend to club it with other relevant content. We go deep into the coverage across finance, cricket and entertainment, and that is what differentiates us. We are looking at building new experiences for Yahoo Cricket users on mobile, and we will add new features to it, in time for the big cricketing season in 2020.
Most internet companies in India talk of tapping the next billion users. What steps are you taking in that direction?
It is very easy to say “we will target the next billion”. India is a very heterogeneous, extremely complicated and challenging market, but we are here for the long run. It will take a lot of iterations to connect our products to the local audience, but we will get there. We are definitely looking beyond the current set of audiences.