Audience Engagement Top Stories
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35 million +: How an Indian publisher is building a massive loyal audience

Indian digital publisher Times Internet Limited (TIL) is building engagement by rewarding its users with redeemable points for engaging with its bouquet of websites. The idea is similar to popular credit card rewards programs or frequent flyer programs offered by airlines.

TIL is India’s largest digital products company and the digital arm of Times of India (TOI), the biggest media and entertainment group in India. TIL has a diversified set of over 40 digital consumer-facing businesses spanning news, entertainment, sports, e-commerce, classifieds, and startup investments. Its network of sites get over 270 million unique visitors, collectively accounting for 23 billion page views and 23 billion minutes spent across web and mobile every month.  

Stoking engagement through rewards

TIL has implemented a digital loyalty program called TimesPoints that rewards users for being active on its network of websites. These activities include reading news articles, watching videos, commenting, sharing, and contributing reviews and blogs.

Users earn points for these activities. The points are collected in a digital wallet and can be redeemed on multiple TimesPoints partner websites. These partner websites include some of the most reputed brands operating in India in the fashion, lifestyle, food and travel space, like Myntra, Amazon, Dineout, ixigo, Big Basket, Paytm, Big Bazaar, and Bookmyshow.  

A good digital rendition of the age-old contest formats followed on television. This entire activity surely adds more to meet the overall thought process which maybe revolving around proliferation in brand engagement and an increase in viewership, even by new users.

Sharique Khan, Vice President, Brand Solutions at Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd 

Recently, TIL kicked off a digital campaign with the hashtag #IDidntKnow, for its users. The campaign has been designed to create more conversations with loyal users of Times Internet Network properties such as Times of India, NewsPoint, Navbharat Times etc. by offering them exclusive value deals. It also aims to get new members.

The campaign includes influencer engagement by identifying and looping in popular bloggers and YouTubers who are TimesPoints loyalists. These influencer content developers take users through their TimesPoints accrual and redemption journey, showing them how they have benefited by using the points on a regular basis.

Nidhi Agarwal, Business Head at TimesPoints says, “This was driven not just to get Times Network users to understand the value of TimesPoints but also to grant frequent users some exclusive benefits like free air tickets etc., to thank them for their journey with us.”

The campaign has led to a 1.5x increase in redeeming users and 10% increase in overall engagement, according to Agarwal.

35 million users and counting

With over 35 million users engaged, TimesPoints is a very successful program. According to TIL CEO Gautam Sinha, they get manifold returns from the investment that goes into acquiring each consumer. Once they get consumers for any of TIL’s properties, they can engage them on other properties as well.

“On an India vs Pakistan (cricket) match day, it is easier for us to acquire an audience. Once we have our audience on Cricbuzz (TIL’s popular cricket news website and app), I can take that user and make him use five more services” explains Sinha.

It’s less transactional, creates more engagement and also increases reach as consumers are likely to share their actions. It also helps the brand generate valuable insights on usage habits which can be used to refine the product and also help in personalization.

Raghu Bhat, Founder & Director, Scarecrow Communications Ltd.

The idea itself is of course not new; loyalty programs are a popular method of luring and retaining customers used by different types of businesses across the world. For TIL it has been successful in getting its audience to log in and then stay logged in.

It has lead to increased engagement and page views, as well as better insight into demographics and user preferences; information that can be used to inform current and future products, as well as for targeted advertising. If credit card companies and supermarkets can do it, why not publishers?