India’s Mint and The Wall Street Journal end their seven-year partnership

WSJ once explored buying a stake in Mint.
WSJ once explored buying a stake in Mint.
Image: AP Photo/Gurinder Osan
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The Wall Street Journal and HT Media’s business newspaper Mint have ended their seven-year-old partnership effective today. Both organisations said in internal memos that it would have no impact on their respective operations.

Mint editor Sukumar Ranganathan broke the news to staff in an email with a mildly exasperated tone.

“It doesn’t change anything (we’d anyway stopped using any significant amount of content from WSJ several years ago), other than necessitating the removal of WSJ from the online signatures of some people in the newsroom who continue to use it despite instructions to the contrary,” he wrote.

The original deal, signed in 2006, was for five years. It was extended for another three years in 2011, according to a person familiar with the agreement at one of the companies. Mint paid close to $500,000 in licensing fee annually. WSJ was free to place advertising on the pages that carried WSJ content in Mint, and the publisher did so in the early days. But it never turned into a significant business, the person, who spoke to Quartz asking not to be identified, said.

The two companies also entered into talks for a stake sale in Mint in 2009-10 and had engaged bankers. But they did not close a deal. Now when the partnership came up for renewal, there was a lack of enthusiasm “from both sides”, the person said.

From the heights of exploring an equity sale, the relationship seems to have run out of steam pretty rapidly.

Mint’s old and new masthead on its website.
Mint’s old and new masthead on its website.

The partnership between the two publishers was facilitated by Raju Narisetti, who left WSJ as a deputy managing editor to launch Mint in 2007. The arrangement, under which Mint carried several pages of WSJ-branded content, continued even after Narisetti left in 2008. After a stint at as managing editor at the Washington Post, he is now at WSJ’s parent News Corp, as senior vice president overseeing strategy.

“WSJ is the home I grew up in as a journalist. Mint is a home I helped build. All good things have a natural life and I am excited to see what WSJ  does in India to build on its journalistic success and I will always wish Mint, my third-born, and its newsroom, which I remain very proud of, the very best,” Narisetti wrote, responding to an email seeking comment.

In April last year, Mint launched a Singapore edition titled Mint Asia. HT Media executives have indicated plans to launch similar products in other markets in the region with significant Indian diasporas. It’s unclear if Mint’s ambitions in the region has had an impact on this partnership.

“At this point in time, the strategic objectives including the regional plans and online approaches of the two newsrooms are different and we have both decided not to renew the agreement,” said Rajan Bhalla, chief marketing officer at HT Media. “The two partners continue to have tremendous admiration and respect for each other…” he added.

“We had a great seven-year partnership, from just before Mint was launched until now, and both sides know it has been a mutually beneficial long partnership,” said WSJ Asia publisher Mark Pope. “We continue to be very optimistic on the business opportunities within India, and our focus on growing revenue across our consumer and professional businesses.”

WSJ operates an India homepage and an India-focussed blog. Mint mentions the content partnership with the WSJ on its masthead as well as on the logo on its website. The content partnership is limited to print.

The Indian Express group syndicates content from The Economist and Business Standard newspaper used to be part-owned by London’s Financial Times and used to print their content.

Mint used to carry four pages of WSJ content in its early days. Over the years, the number of pages had come down and as of this week, the Berliner-sized daily has not carried WSJ content.

Mint was launched in Feb 2007 in New Delhi and Mumbai. The newspaper has now grown to be the second-most read business daily in India with 272,000 readers in the country. It is now available in nine cities.