Daily News shutters South Asian site

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The Daily News has pulled the plug on Desi News, a South Asian-centric vertical fueled by the New York-based content-licensing platform NewsCred.

Sources familiar with the matter told Capital that the site was quietly shuttered last month, capping a nearly two-year experiment in curating news for Metropolitan-area residents with ties to India, Bangladesh and other neighboring countries.

The Desi News URL now redirects to the Daily News homepage, which has become increasingly national and international in scope over the past few years in a bid to drive traffic and create a bigger audience outside of the five boroughs.

The project was a business-development play for the News, which didn't devote any editorial resources to it, sources said. NewsCred, which licenses stories from more than 4,000 outlets including the Associated Press, Reuters and The Economist for packages ranging from $5,500 to $10,500 a month, took care of the content. The site generated more than a million unique monthly visitors at its peak, according to NewsCred C.E.O. Shafqat Islam.

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"After a good run ...  the editors at the Daily News decided to go in a different direction, and having a separate section targeting South Asians in the U.S. wasn't part of the strategy," said Islam, who happened to be in Bangladesh when we reached him for comment, in an email. (He noted that he was not speaking on behalf of the News.) "I think the South Asian community will still be served well under the Daily News umbrella, even without a separate site."

Might the Daily News revive the project or try something similar in the future? A spokesman declined to comment. But it's worth noting that numerous existing products are likely being evaluated under the new leadership of Grant Whitmore, a former Hearst executive who was named vice president and general manager of digital in November.

For NewsCred, which was founded in 2008, the dissolution of Desi News would seem to dampen ambitions to create similar ethnic online sections for other news organizations, a plan that Islam revealed to the website NYConvergence when Desi News launched in March 2012.

But Islam insisted that NewsCred still has strong appeal among publishers in addition to the corporate brands, like Pepsi, AIG and Xerox, to which it provides both a technology platform and licensed content for marketing purposes.

The News remains a client, as do major web players like The Huffington Post and Business Insider, said Islam.

"Publishers are still a large and successful customer base for us," he said. "It's just that this particular niche site was no longer a part of the Daily News' editorial strategy."