The AI-Native Podcast: Times Internet

We’re moving from the Age of Information to the Age of Attention. With consumer attention becoming the most expensive commodity today, news and media houses across the globe are undergoing a radical transformation that’s driven by technology and is changing the very essence of how this industry operates.

Meet Durga Raghunath, the Digital Head of India’s largest digital products platform - Times Internet. Launched in 1999, Times Internet has firmly cemented its status as the country’s most trusted source of news and information. Today, Durga heads the company’s digital initiatives. With 15+ years of experience in digital media and commerce, Durga is a seasoned entrepreneur and editor. She was serving as the Senior Vice President of Growth at Zomato before which she was the founder and CEO at FirstPost.

Tune into this episode of The AI-Native Podcast by Blox.ai and listen to Durga in conversation with Ashwini Asokan, CEO and co-founder of Blox.ai, talk about:

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How eCommerce and the subscription model have changed the way the media industry operates
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Why media houses are thinking about working as platforms rather than distributed content organizations
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How media archives can be used to generate independent revenue streams & create delightful user experiences
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The biggest challenges that come with scale
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How Times Internet is consistently delivering stickiness throughout the year
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The areas in which media houses are implementing A.I. and the impact that it has had so far

Transcript

Akshara Subramanian: Welcome to a brand new episode of the AI-Native podcast by Blox.ai, where we talk to business leaders across the world about their journeys with A.I. Our guest for today is Durga Raghunath, who is the Digital Head at Times Internet, India's largest digital products company, with numerous offerings across categories like news, entertainment, marketplaces, and transactions. Durga is a seasoned entrepreneur and editor. She was serving as the Senior Vice President of Growth at Zomato before which she was the founder and CEO at FirstPost. Durga comes with 15+ years of experience in digital media and commerce, and we're thrilled to be talking with her today. In this episode of The AI-Native Podcast, Durga will be in conversation with Ashwini Asokan, the CEO and founder of Blox.ai, the A.I. platform that's enabling the next generation of businesses to become AI-Natives. They'll be talking about the changing media landscape, the intersection of technology and media, and what the future of news looks like for Indian media and so much more. Welcome Durga and Ashwini and I'm really glad to have the both of you here. Durga Raghunath: Thank you so much. I'm really delighted to be doing this. Akshara Subramanian: Amazing, so Durga, over the years, we've seen traditional media houses switch gears and innovate to keep up with the advancements in technology, audience expectations, and the way media is being consumed today, right? And we know that Times Internet grew from being primarily a digital media and news platform to offering so many digital products across the spectrum. So from news to sports and on-demand entertainment. So what has this journey looked like? Durga Raghunath: Yeah no, so I think so the last 2 years, I, I sort of the last 2-2.5 years and then I think there's the 3 years before and the first 5 years, right? So if I look at the last 10 years and I think the last 2 years has been astronomical, right so, I'll speak about that at the end. But the first 5 years, I'd say, was pretty glacial in terms of the speed at which we, I think as an industry, the media industry was looking at what was happening around itself and where it thought it would get affected and thereby what should it do to transform itself. So I think there was a lot of complacency in that first 5 years. I think when I started FirstPost and, you know, 30 of us literally swung into action and surged through. It was not because I think it was so unusual or different, it was because we were the only ones doing it, right? So I think literally there was a lack of competition, there was a lack of very creative thinking, in the industry then, right? And we were very insular and inward-looking and post, I think, eCommerce happening around us all. I think there, I think some light bulb went off and everybody started thinking of diversification of revenue, not looking at only reach as a single sort of approach. Video started playing a huge part. And I think then, you know, whether it was streaming, whether it was just pure play advertising, whether it was just presenting content at a completely different original pace, new business models. I think all of that changed. So I think I think the last 2 years with subscription also coming into the picture and affiliate revenue and eCommerce is booming, it's, I think the word media now means something very, very, very different, right? And it's very exciting to be a part of it. I think Times Internet was definitely probably thought way ahead of a lot of the other media companies, right? Because I think initially it was pretty much a news approach, right? You had The Times of India, you had Economic Times, and you had a cluster of entertainment publications. Around that then there were acquisitions for CricBuzz, you know, MX Player, Gana was built from scratch. So you literally had this whole service, Magic Bricks, right, a circle of service companies and data that was built. And finally, I think now the company is very, very aggressively thinking about subscription, right, like we actually believe we can, in the next 3 years, be a very, very large subscription play in addition to advertising play as well, right, because advertising for us is table stakes. So I think for us that subscription opportunity group-wide is becoming very, very interesting. Ashwini Asokan: I think there were there were so many things in what you just said there. But I'll start with that first thing where you mentioned eCommerce changed a lot of things. I want to start there, because it's such a fascinating point to, kind of, go back to in time, I think. And today everybody looks back and says, content, commerce, entertainment, like these are the 3 kinds of Part-2 parts to this, the media story. And I think every time you go and talk to commerce companies, largely on the retail side, everybody says it's all about content. It's all about media. It's all about content. And then you go to media houses and, BuzzFeed comes to mind, right, because BuzzFeed in so many ways made it 5-7 years ago in ways that most other companies didn't. They went very boldly places where most others didn't. And so when you think about BuzzFeed, you go, yeah, they were a fantastic combination of content and entertainment, like media information and entertainment that came together, right. And then, and now everybody, I feel like running towards bringing all of it together, content, commerce, entertainment, like they want everything together. And it's really interesting if you look at Netflix and all of a sudden it's all about the documentaries and it's all about interesting ways to think about the world. It's almost bordering on journalism. Like you could start to see, you know, there's something clearly going on there with the Primes and the Netflix is of the world. Durga Raghunath: It's a great point, Ashwini. It's a great point. And I'll tell you why we're all solving for the same thing, finally, right. So I think in the news business, you have a DAU that's very, very high because think of news, right? Every day the user comes in the morning to check the news multiple times. So after social media where your DAU/MAU was probably super high, news, another category where it's very, very sticky from a daily perspective, right. But because of advertising, ARPU is not consistent at all, right. So app ARPU will be like 250 rupees per user and then DAPU will be like at a shitty 10 bucks or 5 bucks used, like solo, right. So we are constantly trying to push that ARPU up, right. Which is a commerce model, right, in a sense. Now commerce on the other hand, always have had a decent APRU, but they don't have users coming at the rate at which news is coming. Ashwini Asokan: Correct. Durga Raghunath: So content solves for that, right. So if I do videos, if I do daily stuff, whatever it is, the content is a very sticky day use case, right. So it all kind of converging to that middle of a good DAU and a valuable ARPU. And one is chasing the other to come to that perfect mix, right, that we got. Ashwini Asokan: That's really interesting because it feels like, well then, at the end of the day, that's the only formula. Like DAU and ARPU feels like the only thing. But, each company or category is coming to the same place with a slightly different, like, core to its business. Durga Raghunath: Right, right. Ashwini Asokan: So that's, that's really fascinating to see that, because I feel like anywhere I go today with a commerce company or a retailer. So it's always about content. "What are you making?" Make content about sustainable fashion, make content about like, you know, who did what. Durga Raghunath: And, and I think you'll see it boom, right? Because today, like, I've been talking to so many people who are, for instance, in the market space, right? And you're seeing FinTech go through the roof now, right. You'll also have, you had the Zomato IPO, you'll have the LIC IPO, which will be like, the whole market will change, right. I think about 200-300 million people will be Demat accounts after the LIC IPO, which is 6 months from now, like it's going to be ridiculous. That whole play is also pivoting towards a content play, right. Because at the end of the day, you have to learn about transactions, you have to think about news, so you can see that whole FinTech transaction marketplace also boom now. Ashwini Asokan: So where do you go though? Like where does someone like Times, for example, go, right? Because I watch where Money Control is headed. I watch where The Hindu is headed. I watch, I watch Wire and where they're headed. There are lots of different players and you can start to see LiveMint, right. You can start to see so many different players going at it very differently. I mean, where does the story go? When you have startups, FinTech, you know, your daily news of life, like the traditional news as in news, and then you have commerce and then you have celebrities and then you have like, where does this go? Like where does this all headed in terms of whether in the context of Times or in the traditional sense of media, like where is this headed? Durga Raghunath: You know, I, so this is a very, very philosophical question, so I will I kind of tell you what I guess, I think Times is headed right. Where, and even within Times, I think there are a couple of parts to it. I think you have to, see I'm for me, the jury's still out on the whole super app piece, right. Because I feel very, very few experiences can truly become super app, right. And I think social media is probably at the heart of it where I think your stickiness is so high. So other than a Facebook ecosystem where or a WhatsApp ecosystem or maybe even Facebook + Instagram, like, I think the word super app is kind of used too much, right, because the user just doesn't look at products and services that way. I think from our perspective, see, we have that daily user coming multiple times a day, at least in the app arena with a lot of trust. So you kind of begin with that. And we are all, I think, safely saying that whatever falls within the ambit of news, decision making, information, and media, right. Whether it's text, audio, video, images, we want to make sure we capture all those use cases, right. So that's within the news and information. And that is this whole cut of languages as well right. Now within all this, there will be free experiences which are ad-supported. The decision-making is all affiliate-driven, right, where you're optimizing for the right user, seeing the right product for the right coupon code or discount, right? And then you have that layer of subscription that I think with Economic Times, Times of India, CricBuzz, now in terms of information and news, we're all offering a experience that is much deeper and that is for us, pure-play profit, right Ashwini. Like what is, advertising is profit for eCommerce, for our business subscription is pure-play profit right, ideally. Obviously, if we're all, having to also invest in an order of tech talent that I think the industry has not seen before because that stack is a completely different ballgame, right? Customer service is a completely different ballgame, right? But it's super interesting because we're all rethinking our stacks, right? So I think that will again lead to what is loyalty points, what is an assortment of deals, it will make us think about SKUs, et cetera, et cetera. So we're all I think, we're all thinking about how do we work as platforms rather than distributed content organizations that we had in the past. So we're blessed, in my mind, or I, let speak for myself - I'm less worried about Facebook and all of those platforms that used to funnel in users because they don't do that anymore and very, very worried and anxious and concerned about keeping the 200-250M users who come to me every month on my platform very happy, right and moving them through there, that funnel. Ashwini Asokan: That is such a shift. Like 5 years ago, everything was always about Google and Facebook. Everything was always 24/7, it was all about how do I go get them, how to distribute on those platforms because those guys are screwing me over anyway, right. So and this is such a shift in that conversation in just 5 years from "I can't survive as media without, without these social outlets" to "No, actually, media companies are becoming full-scale tech companies." That's a great kind of transition into that. I think that part about tech. What's going on with the digital side of media? Like, talk a little bit, I mean, since you're there anyway and you're discussing tech stack and stuff like this, digital. I feel like digital, obviously with media right now is not just putting content online like we're far past that I think globally, right? But that said, traditional houses of journalism still have to and media still have to get there, on scale, I guess at some level. Tell me a little bit about how you think about tech stacks. How you, how everybody in the, in the space thinks about digitization, what the next 3-4 years looks like. What does it mean for you guys to be, to become truly digital? Durga Raghunath: Yeah, so I think again, right, I think Times Internet is a bit of an outlier, Ashwini. It has always been super data-focused, right, like I have not seen a company with the kind of data visibility that Times Internet has, right? As, as a business leader sitting inside, it is wonderful for me, right? And that you find typically in a commerce company, right, you know that. The second piece is, I think, you know, when you look at and I'll tell you, the transition, like pod is, is to kind of speak about the product tech structure and I'll tell you the way we are thinking about it, which I think is interesting. We, we've kind of looked at verticals and we've looked at horizontals, right. So verticals are very independent, contained pods, right. And then you have horizontal charters that are running across. So revenue, for instance, as a horizontal charter, right. Subscription is a horizontal charter. I've got what's called a journalism pod, which is a horizontal charter, right. But let's say app, right, browser. Now, these are all vertical, sort of self-contained, right. So we've thought of it in that manner. And this is, again, right. Every quarter I kind of look at what's working, what's not, because we're not optimizing for speed a lot. And I don't want to be complacent about that and too wedded to any of these ideas. So currently, I'll tell you, for the next 6 months, this is my thinking. But if you ask me 6 months from now, I might tell you, "Ashwini, I jumped all of it, and this is where I'm at, right. So anyway, so this, this is I think we're very, very keen towards not getting you know, because I think we have outlined the 4 things we want to drive and what is our North Star. And this is what we came up with to drive those kinds of outcomes. But around all this, I think traditionally has also been what is called the publishing technology, right or CMS tech, where a lot of the journalism pod thinks of that, right. So we have and I think that is also going through a lot of different changes. So, for instance, we built this very interesting mobile-first Card CMS, right. So Card is not something that is unique or I mean, we've not thought of it first, right. It's been there for, from the days we used to exchange of cards. Like now my kids, my kid plays animal cards, right, it's just so wonderful as a concept. So with the Card CMS now, we are able to publish once, but scaling anywhere. So imagine that, even from your perspective, like, say, we integrate technology like yours into this whole Times of India piece, how do you, can you publish content once but have it in every single platform across every single template, right. So it was built for data because we wanted to do COVID data widgets. We wanted to do sports widgets, business widgets, all of it. And what we are calling News Cards, right, as well as facts. So, for us, from a media literacy perspective also we have a huge agenda in pushing the what, when, and how of journalism, because I think that is an underlying responsibility that all of us have, right. So so that Card CMS has been something new, that we've created, which we are very, very excited about. So we have a Card HD and a Card SD. So we've kind of like, overthought it and fully into it, as you can imagine. But so you have publishing tech and then you have, we've structured these pods where each of these pods is your classic, you know, 1-5-1-1, right. So in terms of, 1 PM, 5 tech, 1 design, 1 QC roughly. But everything, like the browser font, is very large because it's just the Times of India as a property is just too large for it not to have 20 people thinking about, right? But I will have what is called a live pod, which looks at Live Blog, Live Chats, Live Curation and so on as a specific thing, which a separate pod might look at it. So I think we're trying to be nimble within the larger piece. But this is sort of the current thinking as of now to take us through this platform journey, right, which we've begun. Akshara Subramanian: Absolutely, and I think from a lot of what the conversation revolved around, two really big things stood out for me. One is that obviously content is king irrespective of what format it might be. And I think the second thing that stood out was the fact that subscriptions are going to be playing a very big role in how content is consumed in the first place. And just like these kinds of patterns, are there any other behavioral shifts or patterns that you've seen in the way content and news is being consumed by the audience right now? Durga Raghunath: I think, you know, some principals have stayed the same for and that's also, I think, worth noting, right? Because they've gone through their own evolution. So if you take the headline, for instance, right, like I think a headline is a classic news device, right. It's probably the most important thing in news. It was in the newspaper era. It was your TV ticker has always been important. And that today as a notification is equally important. But it's still gone through, I think, its own journey and continues to be one of the most, sort of, powerful hooks within our ecosystem, right. So we work a lot on headline components, so on and so forth, right. So some are these steady states, right? Where the headline, the passiveness of it has undergone a completely different evolution to come up with very, very, deep avatars. So headline, byline, you know, graphs, links. The context of the story I think has undergone a wonderful change, right, within our digital ecosystem. And that's fascinating to see and I'm deeply interested in it. Second, I think which you would see now is a lot of search and personalization, right? Because companies like us have 100 year plus archives. We have a whole host of images. We've spent a lot of money over the course of these many, many, many years to have the archives that we do. But we've never looked at them as independent revenue streams, independent user delight experiences. We've never thought of them as "Can be research-oriented?" You know, like I mean, I remember when my father was researching a book, he actually went and sat like, in the old way, in front of the archives and noted. And I used to do that in journalism school and so on as well. But I think that fact that each of us can be our own journalism schools for people who want to think about something deeply or look at a point in history, I think that wiki-ish approach, right. I think that you will see a lot of. So I'm thinking a lot about what can be the search and personalization experience within ToI, right. And it, that is a huge, I would spend the rest of my life doing that, right? So that's a fantastic, I know right, Ashwini? So I think that's a fantastic project in itself. I think we're all thinking about audio as we're doing this podcast. Quite, it's very interesting. It's one of the most romantic storytelling experiences. And I think we have 3-4 podcasts that are doing very well. We are talking to a lot of very, very talented, interesting companies, looking at how we can, again, think about voice right, especially for vernacular, it's very, very, very important. Because we look at, I mean, we've run an experiment with Google where it was very interesting right? So Google audio search again, can help us, I think, navigate our archive in a completely different way. I think it can help for affiliate commerce a hell of a lot right, because during sale days we ran this little chat application with some audio queries, it did super well, right. So we're running a lot of experiments. So I think audio can also be something that helps us because navigation is broken. Digitally, we've not solved for that, right? I mean, Ashwini, I'm sure you have a point of view on this as well. But, you know, I think once you cross an X million pieces of whatever, right, in any database, I think navigation breaks. Ashwini Asokan: Absolutely. Durga Raghunath: Like no one knows how to present or find anything. Ashwini Asokan: Literally, I would say of, like, 100% of our customers. I would say 97 of them about are this, right? And I think it's interesting because over the last decade, if you think about what happened 2010-2020, the narratives have been entirely around big data and big data was literally synonymous with capturing the data, right. And putting it somewhere right. It was never about what are you capturing? How do you capture it? How do you record it? How do you store it, how can you make it retrievable and usable? Like what do you do with this? And I think the biggest aha moment for us in so many ways is like sitting up and realizing that 99.99% of all businesses, one, have no clue the amount of data and what they have. And second, definitely are not yet asking the right questions about what can I do with this, right. And so many of the answers around revenue growth is just there, that's it. That's broadly it. Like if you find out one way to tap into that data, you can find about a 100 different ways to tap into that data and make money off of it. And yeah. Durga Raghunath: Yeah, no, it's very interesting. So, like, even I mean, I've spent so many hours on Netflix, right? Embarrassing amounts of time still Netflix would be like. Ashwini Asokan: I know. Durga Raghunath: Would you like this? Would you like this? I'm like, no, no, I'm like, "Macha, you still don't know what I like, right? How much more time can I invest in this product,” right. Ashwini Asokan: I know exactly what you mean. Durga Raghunath: And they're supposed to be brilliant at it, right? They've spent, like, 8 years and I've read reams of blog posts and I looked at all and it's impressive to read. Ashwini Asokan: It's junk. Durga Raghunath: Nothing works. Ashwini Asokan: Those papers and the analysis that they've done, reflects nothing of my daily experience with Netflix. It's like, just completely broken, those two things. Durga Raghunath: It's really hard. And I think, you know, I think that's why I've gone back to and that's why I made the point about first principles. But I feel, again, there is a merit in finite products, right. Like today if you ask me why do I still get the paper, other than that I am, I'm like 40+, right. So my generation is a mixed media generation. But I get it because it still solves my navigation problem, right? The Page One still tells me, "Ok dude, you need to read these 10 things, because these things are important based on geography and based on you, you know, the time of day and there's something”. So I think now I'm thinking a lot about finite products, right. I am saying, OK. And I think The Economist has done a good job, right. And it's a simple concept to say, OK, today, now, week. And I think there's something there. I'm not able to fully articulate what I'm thinking, but I think, what does the mailer give me? What do I get in my inbox versus what I get on my app versus time of day? Ashwini Asokan: And you're also seeing that happen today if you start looking at like what, what is it with newsletters? If you go to what's happening there with newsletters, I think they actually have some clues in terms of what's going on, right. Or even something like Clubhouse, right, since you brought up audio, I'll bring that up. It feels like there is definitely a shift from just content to curated content, right. And so one way of thinking about the first page of the newspaper is that it's highly curated and it's meant to be served you in a very particular way. And that's exactly what the substacks of really doing. And that's exactly what those Clubhouses, which are highly, highly thematic and broken down that we are doing, so you can go. The question, however, is how, like, where do I begin? Where does my journey start? How do I enter this journey, right? Part of the reason, like, I was on Clubhouse for a little bit, and it just got like. Durga Raghunath: Oh my god. Ashwini Asokan: Like too much for me, too much for me. And it was one of those things where I was like all the things that I actually wanted to be a part of what happening at like 03:00 and 04:00 a.m., like my time and I couldn't be a part of it. And the things that were happening when. It was just overwhelming, right. And at some level, we all know about getting off Twitter for a bit, getting off Instagram for a bit, getting off all these channels for a bit because half the time it's not structured processing of all that information. It's just black, right? It's just everything thrown at you and you're expected. Durga Raghunath: Yeah, yeah. Ashwini Asokan: You're expected to pick up. That's hard. That's very hard. Durga Raghunath: Yeah. Yeah. So I think we've done a lot of, so now we run mailers, right, as part of ToI Plus and a lot of work goes into those mailers. And it's an interesting experiment. And I use the word experiment, like, I think carefully because I still don't know, I still don't know if, because the inbox as a context is, so I think the context also has to be decluttered, right. But because the inbox is so cluttered, I don't even know how to find the user in the most decluttered format to present this decluttered context, to present this format. So I still think that sending the notification for me, sending the right bundle of notifications to the right user, at the right time to discover the right content is a much more thoughtful deep bet that I will take, than anything else. Ashwini Asokan: Yeah. Durga Raghunath: Because I just, again, believe in the app experience, very, very heavily. Ashwini Asokan: I love that. I love how you say that. I really love how you say that. Largely because I think, the whole spray-and-pray, is what we'd like to call it, right. That's one model, and it feels like media has seen like this, massive surge of the spray-and-pray. And then there's been this subscription, which is highly, highly curated, and you subscribe and you go for something specific. But even there, it's worth asking, like, you know, the question that you just did, which is if I can get that person's attention at that point of time, exactly on the topic that they're you know, like all of a sudden. Whether it's trust, I mean, it kind of shifts the conversation to customer experience, really, right. And RoI and stuff. One of the things we do like pretty heavily at, with Blox is all surrounding performance marketing, performance analytics. And the reason this is, this ends up becoming almost like there's no point in selling A.I. if you can't make the performance part of it, part of that story. Precisely for that reason, if you can basically come to a conclusion running an experiment in 2 months saying that 50% of the people that got this, delivered at this time, in this form, that was curated for them like this, real-time because it was somehow connected to A, B and C that they did over the last X, and we were able to understand exactly what was in the content, right. And we talk about this a lot with companies when we say there's a difference between having older children in the house, kind of, gets you tuned into some of this, right. And you think you're watching, someone's watching. You know, let's just take Roblox or any of those games, right. And these kids actually watching YouTube videos of full-on adults that are like talking about like the pets they own and adopt me or like, you know, like and the stuff. And you start to look at and you realize, OK, that content is not the same as, you know, like you'd think anybody that's doing reviews, it's the same thing, but no. Like “Adopt Me” content is cult. And it's immediately connected to the currency or whatever these pets and these kids want to ask for it and they want to buy and they want to own it. And there's a thread that's emerging very clearly that's about, you know, if you can get RoI for every extra person that's engaging a little longer and you're building that trust, they're coming back to you because of that trust. And then you create loop because it's frequency, it's comfort. And it takes a while to get to that point of comfort and habit. But once it does, they're not leaving you, right. Like that's, they're not. And it takes time to work up to that point. And I love the fact that you say that, "Hey, it's all about that app experience,” because that commitment is the only thing that allows you to get to that point where you're willing to sit through and see that cycle, kind of, get there, of loyalty and frequency, yeah. Akshara Subramanian: You know there was a lot that we heard in this conversation, and I'm going to try my best to summarize everything we spoke about. But we started off, I think, with patterns. And you touched upon the fact that it would be interesting to have that historical angle to content, bring back archives, you know, the change in the headline, and vernacular content, audio content. There's still a lot in there, but it clearly shows all the ways in which content is evolving and how people are going to consume it in the first place. So I think it's really interesting. And we'll also be very curious to see how Times is looking to use these different channels of content and connect with the audience, right? The other aspect we touched upon was customer experience itself. How are people consuming this content, how are people responding to this content. And that’s where my next question was going. So in today's scenario where consumers are presented with these endless choices. Like we were talking about, whether it's audio or personalized content, whether it’s search and personalization. What keeps your audience coming back? Because you spoke a lot about the importance of stickiness, right. So how is Times delivering that stickiness consistently? I know you have platforms like iDiva and multiple other things which are constantly connecting with the audience so how you how are you looking at stickiness as a constant throughout the year? Durga Raghunath: Ok, great question. So this is the Holy Grail, right, from every product's perspective and so let me say that, you know, there's push and there's pull, right. So in terms of pull, I think the last 2 years have been horrible for all of us, but phenomenal for the news industry. So I think the overall interest in news has just gone to another level, right, as it were. Which typically you'd see in an election cycle or you see it during a World Cup, Olympics or whatever. But I think what COVID has done is, there is a huge pull factor in terms of people just wanting to know more and more and more, right. And I don't think being, they've gotten to a point where they're not scared of it anymore, but they want to know more and more and more about it. So I think it's for me now a positive development rather than just a negative like death spiral or something like that, right. So I think one is that, where it is a COVID era of news. So there is a constant pull to news. And what is interesting as well is that users are now interested not just in me and my location and my city, which is always huge, by the way, we end up in a very interesting use case. But for another podcast. But also interested in world news, right. So people want to know, OK, where is Delta now surging as against where it's falling and so on. And even Afghanistan like, I think, a lot of I mean, I was stunned by the number of people reading news on Afghanistan, I would not, this was not true 3 years ago, right? I think there is a growing interest in what is happening around you. I think it's been good in terms of insularity being broken down. So one is I think, news as a category, has matured beyond what we used to call high traffic events, right. Those are still helpful in terms of, yes, Olympics - we burn, IPL - we go crazy, elections - we go crazy. And those 4 bedrocks remain right, which is politics, entertainment, sport, and business. That will always drive the news industry. But beyond that, I think there is a huge pull factor for news, right. I think we are, it is our opportunity to squander. Let me put it that way, right. I think we are at a time where we can do so much good for the user, have so much impact. Have our business models all, I think, mature, stabilize, go into new ground if we get our act together. And I'm hoping that we all get our act together and do that. Akshara Subramanian: For sure. And I also feel like, just the way content consumption has evolved in the last decade is really interesting. You know, from social media being, kind of, a nice-to-have, all the way to it being the only channel of consumption, fake news, real news, you also have, obviously, influencers, activists and there are so many different channels of consumption so it would be interesting to see how media houses, you know, leverage all of these different channels to actually understand what the consumer wants, how they want to consume it and yeah, it would be very interesting to see how this whole thing evolves. So I feel like that brings us to the end of the podcast and you know, we have a really good conversation with you, Durga. I think there were so many takeaways and it’s going to, almost take me some time to process this conversation, simply because of just how much, you know, was spoken about. But we’re very excited to be partnering with Times Internet and, you know, just before we let you go, we’d love to understand why you thought of A.I. as a great use case for Times Internet and how you’re going to be working with Blox? Durga Raghunath: Yeah, so, I mean, I think the use cases over here are very many. Like I think in the news industry, I think we, again as most things, I think we are slow to adopt. But I think whether you take headlines like there are lots of cases that we can think about. I think for me, working with a strong partner on the retail/commerce side who really have technology that's very robust and with a certain process in place, quality thinking and high-quality founders, like for me, I think with Ashwini and Anand that this whole Mad Street Den team, I've always been super, super impressed. I think it's a constrained-based thinking, but very high-quality thinking, right. And I think, we don't have the answers yet. And when we begin on a journey like that, it's very, very important to have the right collaborators. So I think for me, as we nail down the 2-3 metrics that we want to crack, getting that pilot tightly defined and working through the pilot so that our games can be 10x going forward. I mean, I think I was, it was very clear to me that this was the theme that if we cracked it, it was going to be Mad Street Den and Blox and you guys. So I think for me, it was very clear, it was just a question of making sure that we designed the right pilot, right. And I think that's very important for all of these processes. Because there's a lot of wow around A.I. But will it impact the right cost and revenue metric? I think, that for me is a very, very important thing to, you know, showcase in the first 6 months, yeah. Ashwini Asokan: Absolutely, absolutely. Wonderful. And I think the team is super excited here, Durga to work with Times and your team. Akshara Subramanian: Amazing, we’re very excited to be working with you as well and we hope to connect soon! For more episodes on why businesses need to be innovative and to understand how companies are using digital transformation to grow, head over to the AI-Native Podcast by Blox.ai to get your monthly dose of all things A.I. See you next time, until then bye.

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We talk to business leaders across the world about their journeys with A.I. and technology. Join us to understand the impact of A.I. in their businesses and how they're influencing their industry by AI-natives! This is your A.I. podcast.This is your A.I. podcast.

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