- Uses machine learning to understand reading patterns and aggregate content
- Seen 20 million downloads of the mobile app in two years
ONLINE news aggregator Baca utilises its mobile app to serve up content to Indonesians from their 1,000 publisher partners.
[Sentence edited for accuracy.]
The idea was born in 2014 when Baca co-founder and chief operating officer Jimmy Sie (pic above) and some of his friends in China wanted enter the startup ecosystem. However, China’s market was already mature, making it difficult for a startup to thrive.
“The Chinese market was not a good market to thrive in because it is too saturated and hard for startups to begin with,” explains Sie to DNA.
Sie then turned to Indonesia because of its large population and that fact that her people were always hungry for content irrelevant of the medium of presentation.
Mobile penetration in the country was also encouraging. According to Statista, the smartphone penetration rate in Indonesia is forecast to hit 43.2% by 2017.
It was not easy for Baca to build partnerships with big publishers as it was not well-known as a company that used technology to deliver news.
“I think that there are three processes in how media works; production, delivery, and consumption. Production is a stage where content is created by media companies and they need it to be delivered to readers to be consumed. This is where we are, to focus on the delivery process,” says Sie.
Launched in March 2015, Baca focuses on using technology to aggregate news. It uses machine learning which enables a deeper understanding of users’ reading patterns.
“Usually big media can put 10 to 15 articles on a desktop view at once, and at least a few of them will interest readers. When we compare this to a smartphone’s screen size, we can only put three to four articles on it and we have to offer different content for each of our readers based on their choices. This is why technology matters to us,” says Sie.
Sie claims that in a day, Baca shares 15,000 to 20,000 articles from their media partners. They see and an average of 1.5 million daily visit and each reader spends approximately 25 minutes visiting the mobile app.
“Compared to three or four years ago, desktop user traffic has been decreasing and our idea is to generate content through our mobile app,” says Sie.
According to Digital Yearbook 2016, the average number of hours spent on the internet via mobile phones was 3.5 hours per day.
Baca is aiming to draw medium- to low-sophisticated audience in big cities such as Jakarta, Medan, Bandung, and Surabaya.
“The interesting thing is, although Indonesia’s population is big, digital users are concentrated in big cities,” adds Sie.
There are currently, approximately 20 million downloads of Baca’s app on Android and iOS.
The majority of Baca’s revenue now comes from advertising on their mobile app. Sie feels that this is a sustainable avenue with tremendous growth potential.
Baca is involved in a revenue-sharing system with its media partners based on the number of impressions gained. Sie however, declined to disclose Baca’s percentage in this system
Sie aims to grow Baca’s revenue this year by building a strong sales team.
“To make a successful mobile app, there are three things to focus on. First, user’s acquisition, then user’s experience, then push the revenue,” explains Sie.
According to Sie, the only way to compete with face-to-face competitors such as BaBe and UC News is to build a stronger team and culture.
The challenge now for Baca is the demand and supply of talent. The competition for technologically savvy talent is very stiff in Indonesia.
“Our competitors are big publishers who can afford to offer something better in terms of income, stability, and prestige,” says Sie.
Baca currently has 80 employees in China, Indonesia, and Brazil who focus on finetuning how the technology works.
Building a strong base
On June 2015, Baca raised their first angel round of funding and received Series A funding in 2016. Both these amounts were not disclosed. In September 2016, Baca received US$20 million Series B funding from China-based investors.
In the same year, Baca entered Brazil under the name Central Das Notícias.
“We want to penetrate as many markets as we can as a global company. But, we have to shape a strong base in Indonesia and Brazil first.
“Technology can be easily replicated as long as we have the technology team and the content is universal,” says Sie.
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