The online news market has suddenly become red hot in India. While a number of properties did already establish themselves here a few years ago—primarily the Wall Street Journal's digital imprint, a blog by the New York Times and Network18's best attempts to ape the Huffington Post via Firstpost.com—a slew of other players have recently dived into the fray in an effort to attract the eyeballs of 169 million internet users here.
Early this year, there were newspaper reports that the Huffington Post and the Times of India were doing a little dance of courtship for a possible joint venture and rumors point to a deal already brokered but not announced as yet. A team from Vice has also been sniffing around and are reported to be launching sometime this year.
The biggest and most recent news however surrounds US-based Atlantic media's online business site Quartz targeting Indian readers who, according to the publisher Jay Lauf, are keen on tracking how their country and its businesses plug into the world economy.
"This growing population, like everywhere else in the world, is adopting the mobile devices and social mechanisms that give them ready access to information they need, and Quartz is built for those conditions," said Lauf in an email response to Mint.
Apparently, Quartz will go about its business here by partnering with Scroll.in—which apparently has a small team of 10 editors and reporters/writers. The outfit will cobble together a local version of Quartz with sections primarily on business, markets, technology and news/analysis while local content on culture and politics will be funneled onto the site by Scroll.
The most curious part about the flurry in interest and investments in the Indian media space is the apparent loophole in the Indian law that has been subverted—where newspapers and magazines normally face a 26 percent cap in terms of a foreign stake, one reason why so many properties have been stymied from investing here.
For some mystifying reason, the Government of India doesn't consider a 100 percent ownership in online news sites to be as much of a problem as its offline counterpart despite India representing one of the world's largest growth areas in both smartphones and online content consumption.