The move can only be called one thing; genius.  

Siddharth Kothari, 36, the additional managing director and joint editor of Rajasthan Patrika landed in New Delhi, at the office of Catch News, one fine morning. He had come with a plan. For months now, Catch News’ online traffic had been falling – fewer people were visiting the website or clicking on the stories. Only in April, Catch was clocking some 3.1 million unique views per month. Now, in August, the views had fallen to 2.2 million. The target: 4 million. Not just that, the other numbers weren’t looking good either.

The bounce rate on the website was about 75%, a high rate that showed people weren’t sticking around, with an average session duration of one and a half minutes. Or 90 seconds.

These are not good numbers.

Only fair then that the sales team was having a tough time selling. So very little advertising money: just under Rs. 7 lakh per month. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but one knows things are dire when a ‘World Famous’ astrologer occupies premium ad real estate on a news portal) Anyway, costs, salary of editorial staff and other expenditure was out of whack: anywhere between Rs. 70-90 lakh per month. The dilemma before Kothari, the owner of Catch was this: If the burn rate is way ahead of the ad earning, then does it make sense as a business? Just to keep a brand alive? To what specific end, really? Hence, the trudging visit to Delhi, from Jaipur, where Kothari and Rajasthan Patrika are based. And the plan.

Let’s bump up the numbers. More stories = more clicks = more advertising money.

How exactly would that pan out? Well, this is what Kothari told the editorial staff. Starting tomorrow, first thing in the morning, reporters at Catch should call up the editors of the various city editions of Rajasthan Patrika. Ask them, what are the three to five big stories of the day that they are planning. Next, call the individual reporter on the story and chat them up. Take notes. Throw in some of your own research and file a 200-word copy. Every reporter should do this. Every day.

Problem solved. Productivity goes up at least 3X. More stories = more clicks = more advertising revenue.

Needless to say, the editorial staff at Catch was aghast.

They had questions: What the hell? Five stories a day…what exactly is the value add here? Why would any reporter give away his story? Maybe one day, maybe a few days, but every day, why? No chance in hell of that happening. No chance in hell that we are doing this. So, they hemmed and hawed. Some complained. And a few quit, thinking of the move as the “last straw” at Catch.

AUTHOR

Ashish K. Mishra

Ashish edits and writes stories at The Ken. Across subjects. In his last assignment, he was a Deputy Editor at Mint, a financial daily published by HT Media. At the paper, he wrote long, deeply reported feature stories. His earlier assignments: Forbes India magazine and The Economic Times. Born in Kolkata. Studied in New Delhi – B.Com from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. Works out of anywhere, where there is a good story to be told.

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