New Delhi: Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor at The Hindu, is launching a news website called The Wire on Monday. The digital news start-up has tied up with news agencies like Press Trust of India (PTI) and Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) for content and is looking to raise Rs.10-12 crore in the next six months.
Varadarajan and Sidharth Bhatia, a columnist with The Asian Age, will be founding editors of thewire.in, while Raghu Karnad, former editor at Time Out Delhi and son of actor Girish Karnad, will be a contributing editor.
“We want to build a platform for independent journalism. The decline in editorial standards in our country is closely linked with the business model of the Indian media that often leads to editorial compromises. We want to be a mainstream news platform free of commercial and political pressures,” said Varadarajan, who resigned from leading English daily The Hindu published by Kasturi and Sons Ltd in October 2013, after the owners decided to revert to being a family-run and edited newspaper.
The site will primarily focus on politics, foreign policy, political economy, science and development.
The Wire adds to the steadily increasing stream of online news websites in the country, including US-based Atlantic Media’s business news brand Quartz, Samir Patil-led Scroll, The Quint founded by former managing director of Network 18 Raghav Bahl, and The Huffington Post that launched its India edition with Times Internet Ltd in December.
Increasingly news consumption is moving to mobile devices in India, a trend quite similar to that in the US. Digital news sites like Scroll and The Quint are generating about 60% of their user traffic on smartphones.
In the US, at the start of 2015, 39 of the top 50 digital news platforms attracted more traffic to their sites and associated applications from mobile devices than from desktop computers, according to Pew Research Center’s The State of the News Media 2015 report.
The process of raising funds for The Wire will go into high gear once the website is launched. “We have cast our net wide among philanthropists,” said Varadarajan, who has invested Rs.4-5 lakh on the start-up. Bhatia has also invested.
A number of writers have agreed to contribute to the site, he added, without disclosing names. “The arrangement with our writers is most definitely not commercial but driven by their interest in backing an independent media organisation,” explained Varadarajan.
“We want to be a news site that publishes original content and is reporter driven. But that’s a long-term idea that kicks in once we have the monetary aspect worked out,” he said.
The website will be optimized for all devices, including mobiles and tablets.