How a Media Company Used Its Old Assets to Open a New Revenue Stream

How one of Asia’s largest newspaper CIOs found entirely new business opportunities for the company’s huge content repository by leveraging ICT.
Key Learnings
  • A strong technology team and the right partners to develop the architecture: The Bennett, Coleman, and Company Limited (BCCL) IT team had the capabilities to pull off such a project. The team had members with rich experience working in telecom, media, technology, and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) verticals. Instead of banking only on one partner, BCCL worked with multiple technology partners.
  • Getting shareholders' buy-in: it's important to convince the stakeholders about the viability of the business case, and its significant future value.

The Challenge

In 2021, the business team at the media conglomerate BCCL approached the company’s CIO, Rajeev Batra, with a challenging yet intriguing proposition. 

BCCL has been publishing newspapers and magazines in India since 1838. Two of its most widely circulated publications are The Times of India and The Economic Times newspapers. The business team’s proposition was to find a way to monetise the media house’s 185 years of heritage content.

Batra and his ICT team brainstormed and created several innovative solutions to the challenge by thinking about what people value from media outside of the obvious news and entertainment 

“We deliberated and found several use cases for our huge content repository. For instance, people would love to see the front page of the newspaper on the day they were born and keep it as a memento. They could do the same for their children. Similarly, companies could give it to their employees on special occasions such as the Founder’s Day,” he says. 

IBRS concludes that BCCL’s objective was essentially one of strategic innovation. There are many models for innovation, and IBRS has written several research topics on this (see Additional Readings). BCCL’s team adopted a technology-driven approach in repurposing existing information assets to create new products. This is an appropriate approach for information-rich organisations, especially when existing technology platforms are considered legacy, as the gap between the current state and potential is large and relatively quick to test as a proof-of-concept (POC). While large media companies are clearly well positioned for such innovation, IBRS notes that so too are some government agencies. However, public sector open data initiatives have often fallen flat due to who drives innovation and for what reason.

The other use case that the team came up with, besides personal gratification, was in research. Institutions and libraries often get demands from researchers to know what happened on a particular date. Even the government, at times, wants to refer to content from the past. Providing subscription services for the content, which included infographics and pictures, was another way of leveraging it.

“The country’s diaspora globally would also want access to authentic, India-centric content, which is tough to find. This initiative could provide everyone with credible and curated content,” says Batra.

In short, the team created a series of compelling, human-focused use cases for the firm’s historical information. The question then became how to enable the information to be applied to these use cases in an economical, consistent, and automated manner.

“We are fortunate to have tech-savvy management that had this idea in the back of their minds, but nobody could propose a tangible solution to them. When we were able to give them a tangible financial model around it at a cost-effective price, they gave the go-ahead,” says Batra.

Building an Integrated Technology Architecture

To monetise the assets, Batra started by building a technical architecture consisting of two components: editorial (content) research and a content marketplace.

BCCL’s internal IT team worked with multiple technology partners to pull this off. It transitioned from old-world technologies such as HTTP, Java, and C++ to new-age technologies such as Angular and React, which are used for web- and mobile-friendly interfaces. Also, it created aesthetics for the web pages the way modern creative companies do.

The architecture was completely custom-developed. It was modular in nature, with each module having components from different vendors. “The architecture of the modules and what goes into them was all done in-house,” says Batra, without naming the vendors. He leveraged a host of technologies, including headless design, single sign-on, and APIs.

The IT team had to work hard to digitise the assets, as there were many microfilms, old formats, and prints lying in the company’s warehouse. 

“As old formats can’t be digitised through automation, we outsourced this part to a third party,” says Batra. Among other technologies, Hindi and English optical character recognition (OCR) were used.

“Almost 80 per cent is done, and the remaining is being done now because it’s a huge effort. The printing technologies were not so evolved in the 1850s, and storing them over the years has led to certain nuances being lost. We have used AI capabilities to ensure we can give a much better copy that is at least readable,” Batra says, adding that Big Tech has products that can help restore and enhance poor records.

Batra partnered with Google to incorporate advanced search capabilities and “extensively used machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) including generative AI (GenAI) capabilities, which have been trained on our private data so that there is no cause of any copyright infringement anywhere.”

IBRS notes that AI will be increasingly built into content management solution (CMS) platforms, with object databases holding core content paralleled by vector databases holding the embedded models of the content. This approach will be spearheaded by Cloud database vendors enabling such capabilities natively within their databases. Google AlloyDB is an early example of what we expect to be a trend, with a PostgreSQL interface and vector database capabilities.

Another area where AI will revolutionise traditional content management is in the automated identification, transcription, translation and classification of image, audio, and video assets. Long-time machine language translation vendors with specialisation in media services, such as the Thailand-based Omniscien, are well placed to spearhead this change. However, as the hyperscale Cloud vendors offer multiple AIs, it is likely that early adopters will forge their hyper-intelligent asset management platforms with custom workflows.

Non-media companies will also benefit from multiple AIs working over large information assets to enable staff to uncover, repurpose, and synthesise new information for many activities. These may include consulting, sales strategies, hyper-personalisation, and so on.

For the marketplace, Batra is implementing a pricing engine that will take care of royalty settlements in case they are buying content from creators. All this is integrated into one interface, which can be used for editorial research or wielding content in a different format.

“People have developed such capabilities in bits and pieces, but not in such an integrated manner,” claims Batra. “The entire infrastructure is on Google Cloud, but it’s a privately held secure area for us.”

Result: Creating a New Revenue Stream

The project was started almost two years ago and was brought to the market a year ago.


“We have just started and are already seeing good revenue coming from it. Today, content is being used in a lot of different ways globally. A short story on a certain incident can be converted into plays for OTT (over-the-top) platforms. With 185 years of chronologically indexed content, we bring a unique proposition to the table. We are anticipating the revenues to grow to a large scale in the next one or two years,” says Batra.

The Way Forward

While the first phase of the project is live, the two others are in progress. The next two phases will involve API engines doing B2B type of business arrangements or content exchange. There will be a global pricing engine for commensurate pricing in Europe and North America based on the economics of those regions.

“It will have digital rights management. We will also ensure that any content used in a way it was not intended for after being sold can be corrected,” says Batra, adding, “All the technologies we are using are highly scalable and would help us in completing the remaining phases by the year-end.”

CIO Insights

“We transitioned from old-world technology to new-age technologies for the web- and mobile-friendly interfaces, and also created aesthetics for the web pages the way modern creative companies do,”

  • Rajeev Batra, CIO, BCCL.

Company Details

Rajeev Batra

CIO at Bennett & Coleman. Highly accomplished and seasoned professional with over 32 years of global experience in IT strategy, innovation, creating business models and enterprise architecture blueprint from emerging technologies, business transformation and strategic outsourcing etc.

Company: Bennett, Coleman, and Company Limited.

Vertical: Media & Entertainment.

Revenue: USD 930 million approx.

Employees: 10,000 approx.

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