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The Quint looks beyond page views to build a loyal audience

The Quint is a digital collective of reporters, storytellers, editors, producers, designers, and analysts that offers in-depth, visually powerful, community-driven stories, features, and interactive multimedia formats. Neha Gupta describes how the website has been able to attract viewers

Founded in 2015, the brand’s strategy has evolved over the years, with a current focus on looking beyond pageviews and identifying its loyal readers.  The Quint presently boasts 25 million monthly active users and has clocked in 125 million pageviews. The publisher has 3 million Facebook followers, 3 million YouTube subscribers and 1 million Instagram followers. 

“When we had just started out, it was of course imperative to think about traffic and pageviews, but over time, our priorities have shifted and we are now concentrating on zeroing in on our loyal audience members,” said Shelly Walia, executive editor, The Quint, during WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media India conference in New Delhi. The Quint bagged seven awards at the 6th edition of the South Asian Digital Media Awards held during the same conference. The brand received three Golds, two Silvers, one Bronze, and also emerged as the “Champion Publisher of the Year 2022.” 

Who is reading The Quint?

About 70 per cent of the brand audience is below 44 years of age, with 60 per cent coming from Tier 1 cities and 40 per cent from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities (categorisation of cities on the basis of population density, Tier 1 being the highest). The top cities that bring in traffic are Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. Male readership stands at 67 per cent, while women account for 33 per cent. The Quint’s loyal readers – returning users and subscribers – account for 12 percent of the total audience.  

The average number of pages per visit is about eight, and the average time spent stands at 1.5 minutes. Average daily visits are 2.7 times. “Building a loyal reader base is a slow and gradual process,” said Walia. 

Converting casual users into loyal readers 

In its eight years of existence, The Quint has managed to build two kinds of core audiences – the domestic, Indian audience, and a huge diaspora globally. “We have been on top of covering every big news event in the digital space. A common thread with your diaspora audiences is that they are eager to know stories of Indians, or people of Indian heritage, who are succeeding in other countries,” said Walia. And, that’s exactly what happened when Rishi Sunak got elected the Prime Minister of UK in October 2022. 

The Quint covered Sunak’s election by way of videos, stories, analyses, and op-eds, which led them to garner 1 million users during that one week, of which 22 per cent were from outside India, particularly from the UK, USA and Canada. “During a big news event, you are able to get in the casual readers, but it’s who stays that matters. And we achieve that by making our content stand out in current affairs, politics, gender, health, and caste done across different formats – explainers, opinion, videos,” Walia said. 

Another trick for retaining users is the age old formula of hosting flagship shows, which proves to be crucial in habit building. The Quint has been running Urdunama, a podcast, since 2019, which, with 200 episodes, has proven to be a catalyst in retaining users. Urdunama centres around everyday Urdu words, and dives deep into the vast world of literature, culture, and values. It started in September 2019 – and so far, more than 200 episodes have been released. It clocked 500,000 listens in 2022.

“At the end of the day, we are trying to build habits and our flagship show Urdunama works wonders,” Walia said. “It’s the distinctive journalism that will help publishers like us sustain themselves. It is the journalism that stands out in the crowd. It is also the journalism that is propelling change, and will take us a long way.”

Initiatives to build traffic 

Here are a few ways The Quint retains users and builds traffic:

  • Special Projects: These include powerful documentaries, long-form investigative reports, and deep dives into issues of social and national interest.
  • My Report: A community platform for citizen journalists, to tell the brand what’s making news on their home turf. Around 1,300 people are involved with the brand telling hyperlocal stories.
  • WebQoof: The brand’s fact-checking arm integrates multiple sources of information to verify dubious claims. The company conducts around 75 fact-checks every month.
  • Quint Lab: A platform for immersive, interactive and innovative storytelling.

Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (why be afraid if you fell in love) is the perfect example of interactive storytelling which we did through a graphic novel. It was the story of an interfaith couple who fought the tag of love jihad,” said Walia. The brand has also played with data visualisations and built rich multimedia content on subjects like reliving India’s Cricket World Cup triumph in 1983, double digit inflation, Bollywood age gap, the Russia-Ukraine war, etc.

Marketing efforts

The brand’s marketing efforts have paid off in building loyal readership. The Quint has incentivised the login experience for its users by offering them ad-free experiences, options to save stories, recommending content, making them stakeholders by giving them a sense of community, inviting feedback, taking suggestions, giving them access to special projects before everyone else, inviting members’ opinion, and editorial brainstorming sessions.

The Quint’s subscription efforts include the placement of Call to Action buttons at strategic locations on the website, offering membership discounts and tiered membership options. 

The company has also made efforts in personalising news through member-only newsletters, reader surveys, topic/section specific notifications. A game changer for the brand has been instant feedback.

“We are constantly interacting with users on social media, through emails, My Report, and WebQoof. This audience feedback pushes us to do better every day, and carve a distinctive space in the journalism industry,” Walia said.

(By special arrangement with WAN-IFRA. This writer is a multimedia journalist with WAN-IFRA.)