Inshorts Faces Crossroads: News or Social Media?

Preeti Bali / 10:33 am / April 19, 2024

Inshorts, the popular news aggregator app, recently underwent a leadership shakeup. Deepit Purkayastha assumed the CEO role from co-founder Azhar Iqubal, who became chairman. This change coincides with a significant shift in Inshorts’ strategy, raising questions about the company’s future direction.

Morphing from News to Social Media

Inshorts is reportedly testing a new feature resembling platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. This feature aims to host original content created by prominent Indian influencers. The company is actively recruiting top influencers and podcasters from these platforms to participate in the launch.

Entering a Crowded Space

This move positions Inshorts directly against established social media players like ShareChat, Moj, Josh, Roposo, and international giants like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Succeeding in this crowded landscape will be a significant challenge, especially considering the mixed track record of Indian social media companies in achieving large-scale monetization.

A Look Back at Inshorts’ Journey

Inshorts began in 2013 as a Facebook page offering concise summaries of major news stories. Its success led to the launch of the Inshorts app, catering to users who prefer short-form news content accessible on the go. The company secured funding rounds and garnered a loyal user base, reaching a valuation of around $550 million.

Financial Performance and Competition

Despite its growth, Inshorts reported a significant increase in losses, with operating revenue rising marginally. Its closest competitor, Dailyhunt, boasts a larger user base and has implemented a growth strategy involving acquisitions. Inshorts, on the other hand, has primarily relied on organic advertising, word-of-mouth marketing, and partnerships with smartphone manufacturers.

Regulatory Concerns and User Trust

Inshorts’ shift towards social media content aggregation raises regulatory concerns. The company currently operates under guidelines for digital media intermediaries, but aggregating user-generated content from platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn could violate the Information Technology Act. This practice could lead to the dissemination of misinformation, as social media posts often express individual opinions rather than verified facts.

Blurring the Lines Between News and Opinion

Currently, Inshorts aggregates social media posts without labeling them as user-generated content, presenting them alongside news articles in the regular feed. This could mislead users into perceiving opinions as factual news. Industry experts warn that such practices could attract regulatory scrutiny.

Monetization Strategies in Flux

Inshorts is exploring alternative monetization models beyond traditional advertising. One potential solution is clearly labeling social media content as “user-generated” or “sponsored” to differentiate it from news articles. This approach differs from Inshorts’ current news aggregation model, which involved partnerships with content creators.

Content Moderation and User Retention

Inshorts’ pivot towards influencer-driven content raises concerns about data privacy, copyright protection, content moderation, and the spread of misinformation. Fact-checking becomes crucial to maintain user trust and differentiate the platform from sources of fake news and clickbait.

The Road Ahead

Inshorts faces a crucial decision. Can it retain its user base and attract advertisers by morphing into a social media platform while navigating regulatory hurdles and maintaining a commitment to accurate news reporting? The company’s success hinges on finding the right balance between user retention and adherence to media ethics. Inshorts’ ability to navigate this complex landscape will determine its future trajectory.

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