India’s Reliance Jio telecom network today launched JioNews, a news service that bundles hundreds of magazines and more than 150 TV news channels, further boosting its digital services business. Oh, and JioNews, like most other apps and services from Reliance Jio, costs next to nothing.
JioNews, available on the web and as an app on Android and iOS, gathers news from numerous “famous blogs,” publications, and more than 800 magazines. It also offers digital copies of more than 250 local newspapers and more than 150 TV news channels, the company said. The service is available in more than a dozen languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali, and Marathi. Reliance Jio says it uses machine learning to suggest articles to users.
Other than its vast catalog, with little to no local competition, JioNews’ second selling point is just how little it costs. It will be available for free to more than 300 million Reliance Jio subscribers. (A monthly subscription to Reliance Jio starts at less than $1.50.) For now, the company says it will let even those users who are not subscribed to Reliance Jio access some portions of the news service for free, though that may change later.
The launch comes on the day when India, the world’s largest democracy, commences its general elections. A quick scan of JioNews suggests that the service offers a mix of various voices, including news feeds from NDTV, one of India’s most credible news organizations and one of the few TV networks to question the Narendra Modi-led ruling party. The owner of Reliance Jio, Mukesh Ambani, is an ally of Prime Minister Modi.
Local news outlets Times of India, The Economic Times, news channel Times Now, and other properties of Times Internet, India’s largest media conglomerate, are currently not available on JioNews, however, as the two organizations failed to reach a business agreement, a person familiar with the matter said.
The official launch of JioNews, which is a consolidation of JioXpressNews, JioMags, and JioNewsPaper apps that have been available for two years with limited functionalities, also underscores India’s unique media landscape. At a time when newspaper circulation is down very much everywhere in the world, it is thriving in India — and at some of the lowest cost anywhere. In contrast, Apple launched the Apple News+ app last month, which features 300 magazines and two newspapers, for a monthly subscription of $9.99.
JioNews is just another example of Mukesh Ambani’s aggressive expansion in the digital services business. JioTV app, which offers access to more than 500 TV channels, and music app JioSaavn have amassed tens of millions of users in the two years since their launch. Reliance Jio, which disrupted the telecom space in India with its free voice calls and low data prices, has become one of the biggest telecom networks in India, too. And Ambani, whose firm owns Reliance Retail, the nation’s largest retailer, is now working on an ecommerce business.