India's Internet Publishing Market Looks Outside the Country

By: Steve Outing

Internet publishing remains primarily a Western phenomenon, but interactive publishing is in its infancy -- and showing signs of growth -- in countries like India. With only 50,000 estimated Internet users in a country with a population of 830 million, India nevertheless is getting on the road to the Internet.

Madan Rao recently returned to his homeland after a stint at the Inter Press Service of the United Nations in New York, and reported on the Internet scene in India. Now a vice president of international communications for Indiaworld Communications, Rao is helping Indian news publications tap into a global audience of readers.

Commercial access to the Internet in India was launched only in August 1995, Rao reports, so those publications that chose to go online went directly to the Internet as an electronic publishing channel. There are several BBSs in Indian cities, but no national commercial online services. Says Rao: "No major nationwide survey of the Internet has as yet been conducted here. High access rates and poor -- though improving -- infrastructure will hinder rapid Internet diffusion for the near future. Internet access is also a government monopoly here. Internet usage is primarily at the level of relatively privileged corporations and organizations."

Nevertheless, some Indian publishers have created presences on the Internet. Currently, the Indian Express, the Times of India, the Hindu and the Deccan Herald -- all English-language newspapers -- have World Wide Web sites. However, none of them are handling the entire Web site operation themselves, but rather outsourcing. Only the Indian Express is hosted on a Web server in India, Rao reports, while the rest are hosted from the U.S. Further, no Indian publisher has yet ventured into the Internet access business.

Rao is optimistic that the Indian Internet market will grow. "Four factors ensure that the Internet market remains an attractive proposition here," he says. "The relatively free-flowing and uncensored press climate, a strong base of computer scientists, a huge diaspora population, and a large proportion of English speakers." Indeed, it's that huge ex-patriate population that represents the most immediate opportunity for Indian news publishers to tap.

Rao's company helps Indian news publications "tap into a global audience of readers, find new correspondents in other countries, draw new advertisers, and exploit cultural niches like gifting services during religious festivals as well as matrimonial services," he says. It's currently working with the Indian Express and Financial Express newspapers and Outlook magazines.

Rao also is interested in setting up Internet-based exchange mechanisms between publishers in other Asian countries "to bring about an improved flow of news in Asia. ... There is a growing interest at other Asian newspapers to step up news content derived from other Asian sources, instead of relying only on Western publications or experts."

"In addition to the ex-patriate market for news and cultural/sports information, there is a growing business market in countries like Australia and South Korea for Indian business newsletters focusing on sectors like telecommunications, mining, automobile parts, transportation, textiles, information technology, and finance," Rao says. "Since more economic growth and trade activity has been and will be occurring in Asia as compared to other regions of the world, the market for timely, focused business intelligence about countries like India is bound to grow. The Internet is once again a suitable platform for delivering such news via the Web or e-mail."

Contact: Madanmohan Rao,

Prodigy classifieds sold

The division of online service of Prodigy that has developed and markets a turnkey electronic classifieds system has been sold, and the buyer's identity should be revealed on Thursday after the deal has been finalized, according to Prodigy classified ads product manager Tony Witek. Prodigy's AdTronix online classifieds system is being installed or in use at the Web sites of Canadian newspaper chain Southam, and is in use in the U.S. at Newsday, the Houston Chronicle, Providence Journal and Tampa Bay Tribune.

Cox chooses ECI for electronic classifieds

Cox Interactive Media (CIM), the interactive technology arm of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, has chosen Electric Classifieds Inc. (ECI) to provide the techology for an Atlanta Internet classifieds product. CIM will be using Global Online Classifieds, ECI's recently released turnkey electronic classifieds system. (ECI is best known as the company behind, an online matchmaking/personal ads network.)

The online classifieds marketplace continues to heat up, and numerous vendors now offer turnkey solutions for publishers wishing to put their classifieds sections online in multimedia format and presentation. ECI's system is one of the more technologically advanced of the crop currently on the market. (For an analysis and comparison of the various systems, read E&P's recently published Online Classifieds Report.)

Jerusalem Post is first to use BackWeb to 'push' news

The English-language Jerusalem Post has become the first Internet newspaper service to use BackWeb, an Israeli-produced technology that allows publishers to "politely" broadcast content to Internet users. BackWeb requires users to download a free piece of software, which enables them to receive content streams selected from an area on the Post's Web site. When a user is connected to the Internet and has the BackWeb client software installed, icons representing "channels" of information will appear from time to time on the user's PC screen and offer their electronic wares; they disappear in a few seconds.

The Post's online edition, which has the majority of its readers outside of Israel, offers via BackWeb main headline news of the day, news stories, a selection of opinion articles, editorial, and business and sports reports. Subscribers also are able to select which sections of the newspaper they want to receive automatically via BackWeb.

"Rather than go for a push model using HTML mail, we wanted a more high-profile solution that was innovative and would perhaps increase the chances of users being prepared to subscribe for payment," says Derek Fattal, deputy-director of electronic publishing for the Post. "At the same time we did not want to use software that was totally 'self-contained.' While BackWeb is proprietary software, we think it has a relatively good chance of becoming very popular. In my view its incremental download capabilities give it massive potential for software companies. The fact that top players like Ziff-Davis and Mecklermedia have already backed it suggests that it should have a decent shelflife."

Contact: Derek Fattal,

Ad banner recommendations: Addendum

In last Friday's column I reported on Web site ad banner standards recommendations issued by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment (CASIE). The organizations' joint committee dropped one of the ad sizes that I cited -- 460 x 55 pixels -- leaving eight recommended sizes. They are: 468 x 60; 392 x 72; 234 x 60; 125 x 125; 120 x 90; 120 x 60; 88 x 31; 120 x 240.

Also, Newspaper Association of America vice president of new media Randy Bennett reports: "NAA is pulling together a group representing most of the major groups and independents to review the IAB/CASIE guidelines and either endorse for our industry and/or suggest modifications to ensure the proposals meet the needs of newspapers. We will issue our conclusions in January in the form of an NAA position paper. We hope by suggesting adherence to the guidelines, if that's the consensus of the group, that we can help ease the flow of national dollars to newspapers (operating Web sites)."

Contact: Randy Bennett,


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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company


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