If there were 10 commandments to run a news website, this one would figure in the top three—Do Not Let Thy Precious Back Button Exit Thy Page. And yet, livemint.com, the website of media giant HT Media Ltd-owned business media publication Mint, did just that.

This back-button-exit-forever move was implemented as part of a complete website redesign on 20 January 2019. Other drastic changes included a single endless scroll of news stories, a blinkers-on focus on mobile readership, a discomfiting desktop experience akin to mobile, and, apparently, a focus on “personalised” news—all done to unseat its long-reigning competitor, The Economic Times (ET)*.

ET, which is owned by India’s largest media conglomerate Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd—popularly, The Times Group. ET, which has existed since 1961, when the state of Goa got freedom from Portuguese control; as opposed to Mint, which started publishing in 2007. ET, which has an average daily print readership of close to a million, an easy 3X of Mint. ET, which is 9X more popular than Mint, according to Google Trends, a website that analyses the popularity of top search queries. 

Phew.

And yet, this David, aka Mint, pulled off a classic coup—despite its counterintuitive back-button move—and beat Goliath ET on a fresh, new playing field. Online. Livemint, which started 2018 with 3.2 million visits, ended 2019 with 33 million. It beat ET at its game in August 2019, with 23 million visitors. ET’s website, on the other hand, saw a steady rise in visits in the same period, from 17 million to 24 million, but nowhere close to Livemint’s.

The Ken reached out to both parties for the story; neither Mint nor ET responded.

Mint’s growth isn’t by fluke. It’s part of a larger concerted effort by HT Media to amp up its digital products. Its first move was to hire strategically.

In June 2017, Rajiv Verma, then-CEO of HT Media, brought in Rajiv Bansal to be the chief digital officer at the company. Until then, Bansal had been the founder of a consumer startup, the head of product management at companies like Logitech and Samsung, as well as startups such as Bidgely and Peel Technologies.

AUTHOR

Shreedhar Manek

Based in Bangalore, Shreedhar is a Staff Writer for The Ken. He writes on technology, education, human resources and urban mobility. He has a BTech in Computer Science and an MS in Urban Sociology from IIIT Hyderabad.

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