Speaking at WAN-IFRA’s 12-part webinar series in association with the Meta Journalism Project, Mahajan explained the several strategies The Quint team has adopted and how it has helped the publisher to maintain a loyal engaged audience.

Creating habits

“A big part of building an audience is creating habits,” said Mahajan. 

“If a person sees you are creating content that is interesting to them and in a format that is also accessible to them, they are bound to follow you and come back and consume your content,” she said.

Mahajan added that what is more important to people is information that impacts their everyday life. The Quint has come up with a dedicated FAQ section that explains people’s doubts about everyday problems. Instead of the traditional text format, the copies are structured in a quick question-and-answer format. These copies are adapted into 10-card Instagram posts for social media.

“How this helps is every time there is a new guideline, say regarding pollution or vaccination, you are likely to find answers to your more pressing questions about those changes on The Quint’s website and also simultaneously on our Instagram page. A person following us, or somebody who encounters these posts on Instagram, is therefore likely to think The Quint will have an answer to my question about that particular topic. This is how we have been trying to create habits,” Mahajan said.

One of the key metrics the publisher uses to understand audience engagement is Instagram interactions. 

“In the past 6-8 months, these (FAQ) kind of posts have got maximum interactions on Instagram, even more than ‘Reels’ which is big right now,” Mahajan noted.

Curations with a take

While curation may sound like a relatively old and unoriginal concept, Mahajan said there is a lot of scope as to what can be curated. 

“Say a big event happened, how do you push out a quick reaction to it or how do you capture how people are reacting to that event? How we do it is we always push out a quick Instagram Reel,” she said.

Building a debate or discussion around it further helps in audience building. For the same “Question” stickers on Instagram stories can be used, she noted. The same can be repurposed for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

“Once you have responses you can curate those responses,” she said, adding that another way of curation The Quint has explored is collating 360 degree coverage of a big event or a big news story that has been going on for a while. Twitter Moments is a good way to go about this.

Other audience building exercises include weekend quizzes, fact checking quizzes and “tap the link” formats. The team also tries to give the audience an idea about all the things they do including stories, events, campaigns, memberships, perks and so on. 

The Quint offers both content and a whole range of formats to its audience. But what makes these unique is that each curation has a take that is quintessentially The Quint.

“All the formats, whether it is a Moment or a Reel or an Instagram Story, will always have a take that is in line with our editorial and speaks for our brand,” Mahajan said. 

Making the process more democratic

She noted that a work in progress, and a big goal of hers, has been to pivot The Quint’s social media strategy around democratising content creation and distribution.

“Our aim is to amplify more diverse voices, to adapt news to consumable but also relatable formats, to understand what audiences care about, to engage with them on platforms and platform features they use the most, to propel two way conversations and to prioritise user generated content,” Mahajan said.

As part of this, the team has adapted news, fact check, tech trivia podcasts and much more to Instagram reels with trending music. Mahajan said this has helped to massively push The Quint’s Instagram engagement, audience retention and traffic to the website.

But there have been critics too.

“I have heard a lot from people who look at news in a more conventional sense that we are ‘diluting’ news and reporting. That kind of brings me to the point of cultural changes in the newsroom,” Mahajan said.

“A news and views platform can no longer stick to the conventions of legacy media. What formats like a Reel or YouTube Shorts or interactive cards and stickers or Polls help to do is break through some of these conventional notions. It allows you to embrace the creative aspects and also tap into the kind of impact these formats have in terms of building and retaining an audience,” she added. 

The impact

Taken together, these efforts have produced strong results for The Quint.

The team counts interactions, site conversions and various time durations as the key metrics. 

“A lot of times people tend to think that users are only doom scrolling or going through our Instagram stories or Twitter and not really engaging with the content. But that’s not what the metrics say. From May to October our traffic to the website, which is page views or click throughs, have been up by at least 200 percent. From Twitter they have increased by at least 30 percent,” Mahajan said.

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