Chirdeep Shetty is CEO at data driven publishing start-up Quintype built for publishers & content marketers. With its cutting-edge CMS and suite encompassing everything a modern media professional might look to have in his arsenal, Quintype brings to mind the other CMS solution making waves – Arc Publishing from the Washington Post team. With that in mind I was intrigued to learn more about Quintype and learn about their product strategy, differentiators and how they intend to service a market dominated by WordPress.
Chirdeep thanks so much for agreeing to take my questions, let’s get started-
- First, what prompted you to begin Quintype? What was the opportunity you sensed? Did the idea come from creating the backend infrastructure and custom CMS for an existing media publication and then you decided to spin it off ?
Yes, the idea actually did come from building a custom CMS for a media publication — theQuint.com . Back in 2014, when Raghav Bahl (founder Network18) started his new digital media venture (Quintillion Media), he was looking for a platform that would meet all the needs of a modern publisher. During his meetings with the various tech companies in India and the US, he met Amit Rathore (co-founder, Quintype) who pitched him the idea of rethinking the CMS solution ground up and creating an integrated SaaS based solution. That’s how Quintype was started. The idea was to develop a brand new solution for theQuint and make the technology available to all publishers across the world. We strongly believe that content needs to be the differentiator between publishers and our solution should level the playing field on the technology front (Similar to what AWS, GCP and Azure have done for cloud hosting and server management).
Back in 2014, most publishers used a self hosted version of popular open source CMS systems or built and maintained a custom CMS solution. Both these approaches worked to keep their digital business running, but were plagued with the same issues i.e. the need to manage a plethora of plugins, CMS version upgrades and handling spikes in traffic. Most digital publishers had a technology team managing all of this for them which added to their fixed costs. Adding to these issues, most of the CMS systems at the time were monolithic platforms which were not easy to change or debug.
This was the opportunity that we at Quintype sensed. Coming from strong technology backgrounds ourselves, we saw a huge opportunity for improvement in this space. Most of the products that we had gotten used to installing and maintaining in the 2000s (Email servers, document repositories, spreadsheet / presentation software etc) were all available as great SaaS products. We sensed that digital publishing was also prime for disruption and a well designed SaaS solution could truly change the game. Vox, Buzzfeed and WashingtonPost were creating their own platforms and we too decided it would be a good idea to build products and services to improve productivity and efficiency in the digital publishing space
- What is your target market? Why would a publisher want to invest in Quintype and move away from WordPress and its massive plugin ecosystem?
Anyone who is creating dynamic content on the internet is our potential customer. This could be general news sites, business news sites, travel, healthcare, astrology, movie/ car / gadget reviews, photography sites, tech/ medical journals, digital marketing sites etc.
That’s a very interesting question that you ask — why would someone use Quintype and move away from WordPress. We have all used WordPress and it largely works for our needs to get something up and running soon. Before starting Quintype, we did speak to quite a few digital publishers who use WordPress and most of them stated similar issues —
- WordPress worked well for them when they were small and starting up. However, as they scale, they either needed an enterprise CMS with support, or invest heavily on an in-house team to manage their CMS.
- While WordPress does have a massive plugin ecosystem, we found that only a few of the featured plugins such as Yoast and Jetpack were used by most publishers. Also, quite a few times these publishers had to deal with plugins not working with each other, or sometimes just slowing down or crashing their WordPress servers.
While building the Quintype platform, we wanted to address these issues at the core. We have built a integrated platform that provides digital publishers all the tools that they need to publish quality content. Also, WordPress started off as a CMS for bloggers and hence the user experience was primarily targeted towards the blogging community. We wanted to focus on digital publishers right from the start. Hence our focus on design and usability is geared towards collaborative newsrooms. We think this would be a huge differentiator for our customers.
- The last few years have seen a massive democratization of technology and what was available to the editorial teams of maybe the Washington Post & New York Times just 3-4 years ago is now available to publishers of all sizes – from data analytics solutions like Parse.ly which is custom built for media to apps like the Priceonomics Content Tracker – how do you differentiate and provide value?
We whole heartedly support the massive democratization of technology and sincerely believe this is great for all publishers. In fact, we would love to catalyse and be part of this democratization process. We believe that a lot more startups would join the bandwagon to provide a plethora of services to content publishers worldwide.
Our vision is to build the “AWS for digital media” i.e. a host of independent services that publishers could use individually, or together, to create what they need.
We are building services for analytics and engagement, content recommendation, comments, polls & quizzes, syndication / distribution engine and subscription management to name a few.
Publishers could use some or all of these services to build their digital properties and be confident that these services would work together seamlessly.
- What sort of clients do you see your solution resonating with currently – general interest media, legacy print to digital movers, B2C, B2B?
Our current client base is largely digital born political and business news organisations. We also have a few clients in the travel, tech and healthcare space. We do see our solution resonating well with digital first media companies and legacy print to digital movers. Our clients are primarily B2B. We haven’t focussed on the B2C space much.
- Since our blog is focused on B2B media primarily I had to ask you this – do you think media vehicles hold value for B2B brands & companies vs publishing on their blogs? For example, Adobe’s CMO.com
Yes, I do think media vehicles provide great value for B2B brands. While company blogs are a great way to put out content relevant to your customers and build customer connect, they will have a narrow focus and reach. B2B brands and companies are increasingly looking to reach out to a wider audience through sponsored content on digital and print media.
- Chirdeep, with Google going all in with voice assistants and with chatbots popping up on every site, what do you think the future holds for brands that are publishers or that are contemplating jumping into the fray? Will long form journalism and content survive a world that is increasingly low on attention? What is the future of audience engagement from where you’re sitting?
Voice assistants like Google Home and Alexa are already changing the landscape for digital publishing as we know it. Data from the digital news report indicates that 1 in 10 Americans own a digital assistant and almost half of them use it to access news. This trend will be replicated across the world as the digital assistants gain popularity. We do think that people would consume their daily morning briefings primarily via digital assistants in the next few years.
Long form content would continue to have its loyal audience. The digital news industry is already struggling with a lot of fake news and polarising content.
We think that the niche content publishers producing in-depth analysis and opinion articles would continue to garner audience attention.
Podcasts are already proving to be a great way for audience to consume such content. However, the bulk of the users would be the ones looking for a quick read and voice assistants would be perfectly placed to deliver short bursts of such news.
Audience engagement will continue to be a tricky subject to digital publishers and the only way to cater to a wider range of audience would be to deliver the content in various formats — summarised content in 60 words, video, appealing visual formats such as instagram, snapchat and AMP, podcasts, timelines etc.
Luckily for publishers, there are tools and platforms that will help you produce content once and deliver it on all such platforms with minimal effort.
- Finally, Chirdeep, who is your media hero, the one person you look up to for inspiration & why?
It would be hard to point out to just one media hero. I do love the work of Glen Greenwald and follow him on the Intercept. Its amazing to see them uncover some very interesting stories against the establishment.
As George Orwell said — “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations”.