Journal, the Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed have also tried to establish a

presence in India. Faced with strong domestic brands, many international

publishers have failed to build much of an audience in India (and several

have scaled back their investment or pulled out). But some international

technology companies are doing well. As is the case across the world, search

engines – primarily Google – and social media – primarily Facebook –

dominate digital advertising. In 2014, search and social media accounted for

an estimated 48% of all digital advertising in India, leaving everybody else to

compete for the remaining half. 13

The Indian digital media market in which the journalism start-­‐‐ups we

examine here aim to establish themselves has a number of additional specific

features that it is important to keep in mind. The first is the comparatively

low average revenue per user in terms of digital advertising. With around 400

million people online in 2015 and estimated total digital advertising revenues

of $975m, the total advertising revenues were only about $2.5 per internet

user. The same figure for China is over $5 per user. The second is that the

reference price for news and media content in India is very low. Print

newspapers are sold for INR 5–10 ($0.07-­‐‐$0.15) or less, little more than their

recycling value and heavily subsidised by advertising, and basic pay

television packages cost as little as INR 100 a month ($1.5). This means that

getting Indians to pay for digital news may be even harder than in high-­‐income

democracies where the reference price established by print

newspapers and pay television is much higher, even in relative terms. The

third is that – like most of Europe but unlike for example the United States –

India does not have much of a tradition of domestic philanthropic support for

news and media. International donors have supported various news and

media related initiatives in India, but individual donations are uncommon

and larger foundations like the new ‘Independent and Public Spirited Media

Trust’ (launched in October 2015) are rare.

Lessons Learned from Start-­‐‐Ups Elsewhere

No other country in the world offers the huge opportunities afforded digital

journalism start-­‐‐ups in India, but it is still worth examining lessons learned

from start-­‐‐ups elsewhere. The first, sobering thing to note is that most digital

journalism start-­‐‐ups – like most start-­‐‐ups – fail. A frequently repeated

estimate is that 75% of all start-­‐‐ups across all sectors fail, and only 5–0% meet

their own stated goals in terms of growth. 14 ‘Failure is the norm’ says Shikar

Ghosh, from Harvard Business School (while underlining that entrepreneurs


FICCI-­‐‐KPMG (2015).



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