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Interviews

Unbinding the Anecdotes Behind Inshorts Algorithm: In Conversation with Tarun Arora, Inshorts

With a humongous flux of content availability, the web readers just don’t have the attention spans they used to have earlier. Observing this and suspending the disbelief, Inshorts grabbed the small window of opportunity and made it big by becoming the AI-based news summarization app that seized the attention of the people through every smartphone. Inshorts is as an app that provides hand curated short, crisp, and relevant news. It’s all about – Knowing it all without reading it all. The news aggregator app has a triumphant story to tell soaked in the words of Tarun Arora, Chief Marketing Officer, Inshorts.

Embracing the Art of Brevity by Making the Content Crisper with Rapid60 Algorithm 

With a team of more than 50 content creators, who figure out the trending news over the internet and summarize it further, Inshorts has introduced artificial intelligence-based news summarization on its app. Tarun says, “We have a data tool to support the summarization theory. We do the testing of different kinds of summaries that perform well on the app. The feature is based on its Rapid60 algorithm that can automatically summarize a full-length news article to 60 words news brief along with a headline and a card image. Thus, we have manual as well as an AI built-in technological efforts. So, both technology and human efforts combined together deliver the 60 words short piece. The incessant urge to improve in sync with the technology succor us to understand what works with the audience and what does not. We keep learning on that front that what type of shorts actually works with the audience or what did not. Everyone has a different perspective but what people are thinking or what they might want to know, that may vary. There are actually 10 different ways of writing a single news piece of 60 words and every writer writes a different version of a single short. Further, we do the data testing followed by concluding what pointers the audience seem to look interested in. Finally, we use that information in our content pieces. There are only facts that we retain in the short and the rest are just opinions which we churn out.”

Changing Paradigms of Digital News Space with AI

Inshorts is one of the leaders in the throes of digital transformation and probably the first content provider to be technically ahead from the contemporary players. However, there has always been a fear dominated myth with AI related to the job losses. He further adds, “With AI dominating headlines and all business decisions in the current scheme of things, one school of thought is that in the quest to increase efficiency, AI may marginalize the roles of humans in all industries. While AI can never replace human skills, it is surely going to create an impact on the jobs.  Typical jobs involving manual, repetitive work will get compromised, many skills would become obsolete. Our current jobs would see significant changes as AI will become the new normal in workplaces and various ecosystems. However, a new set of job roles would come into existence, which would require a different set of skills.”

Acquiring Talent to Use Cognitive Technology like AI an Issue?

With organizations adopting capabilities to predict patterns, spot trends, and react to new situations-digital transformation Initiatives will be supported by cognitive abilities of people. It may be a big issue to acquire talent to use cognitive technology to full potential and developing or acquiring new skills can become a priority In the future.

Tarun asserts, “In today’s world, we need to be curious about the upcoming technologies as it is going to shape the future industries. Our education system needs to be in synergy and keep up with the rapid pace of innovations. As a person’s cognitive abilities start to develop from the childhood, a lot of focus needs to be paid on the curriculum followed in schools and colleges. Students need to have a strong base in mathematics and computer science so that they are prepared to learn advanced subjects like artificial intelligence, blockchain, neuroscience, and data analytics. In the current times, it is quite hard to find talent in the AI technologies and Machine learning. Necessary steps need to be taken by the government and institutions to address this gap in demand and supply of experienced/trained professionals.”

Scaling Up the Ad Proposition with 60-Words Short Content

Despite millions of impressions, only a few hundred ads live up to the notion of the audience. Inshorts is a classic case that reinforced the ad content with the metamorphosis in ad format gave few key elements – a disruptive and relevant visual, subtle yet strong brand identification, and brilliantly integrated text that strikes to the audience. Looking at the ad properties the news aggregator created for the advertisers helped the advertisers engage with their audience with an innovative and non-intrusive ad format. “As we talk about the campaigns, every ad format created by us is innovative. We don’t follow any of the traditional ad formats on our app, not even for the sponsored content. The most popular ad format is the 60-word ad content format.”

He further explains, “With fact card ad property (which we launched with the Raymond’s khadi campaigns last year), the idea was to get more engagement on the display piece itself. When we push a simple display creative only with price information, user tend to ignore. We came up with the idea that we will talk about some interesting facts as we were already doing the facts on our app on daily basis and good number of people used to share. We thought why not introduce a branded content on the fact card itself. We used to find out the good facts about the brand/product and put it up on the card along with the branding. Again on that as well we got good engagement. People kept sharing the content of the brand on their Whatsapp groups and it got popular. I don’t think there is any other ad content that people are sharing on social media. On Valentine’s Day, we did a series of fact cards where we educated the people with the interesting facts around Valentine Day and integrated Cadbury in between. That’s the idea of fact cards that actually worked for the advertisers.”

Inshorts is the pioneer in the short format content space. Earlier, nobody was offering the sponsored content in 60 words format and it almost used to take 200-300 long word content for a sponsored content. Again the reach of the sponsored content has been an issue in the industry. “At any news portal, the advertisers get limited reach up to 30,000-50,000 from the people reading the article which also includes the social media promotion. We, however, publish sponsored content as news card for the organic traffic we get and hence reach is never a problem on Inshorts. We believe whatever brands are doing that is again sort of a news piece for the consumers. If a consumer sees an ad banner on a website, he would not like to consume the information on it. At max. we can just communicate the price of the product and not the in-depth details like configuration of a product. The audience doesn’t get any information on a display format. That’s why we invented this ad format where we can communicate all the product details.

“The people are always desperate to read what is new in the market but never through advertisements. This is our strategy – how we engage people on the ad content by telling them the right fact based content. “

Another issue with the sponsored content is that people don’t actually go to the website through the ad link and the performance turns out to be very low. If you do sponsored content, hardly 1000 or 2000 people end up on the advertiser’s website to do the final purchase, but on Inshorts you get the final performance and engagement at the same time because we promote it on the organic traffic as a 60 words content piece and people do want to consume it. Both, the problems of performance of reach and performance are resolved at the same time.

A Favorable Reception from Advertisers?

The market still lags behind when it comes to the quality of being new and original. There are still the traditional stuff prominently prevalent in the market. The people therefore are more open to experiment when something new turns up, especially the good brands who always wants to get associated with new properties and experiment. Tarun believes, “When it comes to Inshorts, we have a premium audience base. The product is something every CMO or a brand manager is using. The advertisers liked the product. When you go to people with some innovative ideas, they want to experiment. Followed by the experiment, they actually look for the performance and as we have good numbers in the premium audience, the ROI is never a challenge for the advertisers.”

A Lot of Innovation with No Intrusion

Inshorts look forward to introduce more innovations. Since last year, the company is moving ahead with the HTML5 concept. There has been a lot of buzz around the HTML5 advertisements, which only few agencies in the market were trying to make or are making. The HTML5 basically provides you the opportunity to be more interactive with your ad formats as you are able to take advantage of the dynamism it shows. “But the challenge with HTML5 ads is whatever agencies were operating into it, they were third party agencies. Whenever they create any ad format, it’s either not working out with all the publishers because everyone has a different technology and those third party agencies don’t have their own reach. They can’t deliver those ad formats until it’s compatible with the publisher’s website. So, in that case most of publishers wouldn’t accept that ad format or the ads won’t deliver well because it becomes difficult to figure out a way in which the spot is compatible with different platforms. Then it loses all the creativity and magic of it. So, we started with it as we have our own audience and we are technologically very advance being in the mobile platform. Also, we have a good team of creative designers and technology at the backend. We started creating our own HTML5 ads in which we do different kinds of creative concepts for the brand and run it on our app particularly. That is also gaining good reach,” concludes Tarun.