A Micro-Class in Magnetic Branding: Newslaundry

Ashutosh Wakankar Magnetic Brands

Newslaundry’s fierce belief in an independent media is reinventing journalism in India.

In 2001, Tehelka attempted breaking away from the ad-dependent model to offer a new, fearless brand of journalism. With its almost militant personality, it managed to remain an independent voice for many years before its founder, Tarun Tejpal took it down with him.

Launched under the leadership of Madhu Trehan, Newslaundry too is attempting the ‘free and independent media’ model of operation.

Credibility is a rare commodity and free press, a myth, as far as media houses are concerned. They are often dismissed as puppets of large corporations or are accused of political bias. Amidst these widespread perceptions, rumours abound about regional newspapers owing their success to the articles they keep away from the printing press; articles that hint at sordid secrets and help fill their coffers. In the face of such blatant incongruity, the news – to most – represents nothing more than entertainment.

A meta-journalism brand, Newslaundry believes that news today is soiled by corruption, misinformation, and bias, and that there is an urgent need to launder it. It therefore critiques not only the work of governments and corporates but of media houses as well. The portal prides itself on being the first of its kind in India. It is the sole source of credibility for a populace starved of news they can trust.

Run by a diverse team of experienced experts, Newslaundry has several branded properties like ‘Clothesline,’ ‘NL Tippani,’ ‘Chase,’ Why so Serious?’ ‘Dhobi Ghat’ and ‘The Cleaners.’ These are used to offer readers analysis, commentary and opinion in a variety of formats. From a scathing take-down of big media houses for their harmful coverage of a rape, to an insightful analysis on the link between language and politics in Tamil Nadu; from an investigative piece on paid news coverage during the elections, to an in-depth article on the life of Mumbai’s sewage workers, the brand is unsparing in its analysis of media, politics, civil society, and the industry.

An unwavering belief in the importance of a free, independent, and transparent media, and the role it plays in the functioning of a democracy is what drives this brand. In keeping with this belief, it is refreshingly honest about its funding and transparent about its ownership pattern.

Starting as free, the brand decided to go behind the paywall in 2014. It ran a long campaign educating its users on the need to move to a subscription-based model and, unsurprisingly, many of them signed up.

It has now started crowd-funding potential story ideas that are important but are neglected by other media houses. Recently, it managed to raise much more money than it needed, to investigate a story. Such bold actions by the brand are reinventing journalism in India.

While Newslaundry doubtless has a strong perspective, it could do with a better design language.

At present, the visual language of the brand lacks a definitive character. This is reflected in its website which does not immediately draw the reader’s attention to relevant articles. The visuals and illustrations used are not engaging and give off a quasi-NGO vibe. In fact, the website comes across as highly templatized, with nothing to set it apart from other news sites.

As a frugal and hardworking brand, Newslaundry deserves a design language that is unique, memorable and strong in character. It can draw inspiration from NGOs that are involved in purpose-driven work that is translated into an energetic design language.

In today’s post-truth age, the need for brands like Newslaundry is undeniable. With its well-honed strong perspective, a definitive design language will only help further amplify its magnetism.

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