Bangladesh’s Prothom Alo is creating digital platforms that are useful to both customers and advertisers, and during day two of the INMA South Asia News Media Summit last week, Editor Matiur Rahman explained how his team was using a new platform and publications to increase readership and advertising revenue.
The daily newspaper, which is cited as the most-read newspaper in Bangladesh with a daily print readership of 5 million, has had an online presence since 1998. It has grown to 16 million monthly readers and over 1 billion monthly ad impressions.
“We used to be the largest distributor in Bangladesh; now we’re the largest news media company of Bangladesh. Our aim is to be the largest digital product company of Bangladesh,” Rahman said.
In the past decade, Rahman said, Prothom Alo has seen a slow decline in print circulation and advertising. That decline was heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic with a 55% drop in print readership: “COVID-19 changed everything and fastened the journey toward a digital-first approach,” he said.
With this drop in readership, the company also lost 70% of its print revenue, but its online readership and revenue grew steadily.
With this in mind, Prothom Alo adopted a mindset of, “Online first. Print is important” and began changing its readership and advertising operations with four major initiatives in mind:
Digital readiness & diversification.
Value-driven integrated sales approach.
The biggest challenge of implementing an integrated newsroom was the mindset of prioritising digital over print, Rahman said. The company offered digital skill development to employees and strategically aligned its print and digital products. “Slowly, gradually, we developed better coordination between outlets, between print and online,” Rahman said.
By bridging print and digital, Prothom Alo discovered new ways to increase readership and revenue. “We took some new initiatives and have a few focused initiatives which include campaigns based on special days and occasions, regional activities, and digital and physical events.”
Over the past year, Prothom Alo has produced thousands of branded videos, launched 46 product events, held six digital fairs, published regional content that brought regional advertisers on board for the first time, and more.
Digital readiness and diversification
Prothom Alo implemented a new content management system to support its online efforts, which in turn led to launching two new magazines, agency services, and a new OTT or streaming platform, Chorki, in the summer of 2021.
The platform offers news, movies, Web series, and more. “Within a year, Chorki became the No. 1 OTT platform in Bangladesh,” Rahman said.
Value-driven, integrated sales approach
Now Prothom Alo is working to move from advertisement sales to a value-driven problem-solving approach. It is working to coordinate print, digital, and social media outlets as well as physical events.
Rahman shared the campaign its newsroom created for the inauguration of the Padma Bridge. In the four weeks leading up to the event, it created numerous microsites, videos, innovative ads, special regional coverage, and more as part of a coordinated campaign to promote the bridge.
Rahman said this effort led to growth in readership and earned them more than US$500,000 and the integrated efforts have increased revenue by 32% and readership by 10%.