Be your own innovator and disrupter – key message from WAN-IFRA India 2019

Publishers gathered in Gurugram, Haryana last week to discuss ways to deliver excellence and drive revenue in challenging business times.

by Neha Gupta | September 23, 2019

The conference was kicked off by lighting the lamp. From left, Raj Jain, CEO, BCCL; Lisa MacLeod, Vice President of WAN-IFRA & Chief Digital Officer, Tiso Blackstar Group, South Africa; Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, Straits Times, Magdoom Mohamed, Managing Director, WAN-IFRA South Asia.

Approximately 350 news publishing executives from more than 25 countries were on hand for WAN-IFRA India 2019 for discussions about the transformation of the news media business.

The conference, now in its 27th year, took place at the Leela Ambience Hotel, and was co-sponsored by The Indian Newspaper Society. The conference had two parallel summits – the Advertising Summit for Advertising Managers and the Printing Summit for Printing Technology Managers.

The tone of the conference was set in motion with three keynote speeches by Lisa MacLeod, Head of Digial at South Africa’s Tiso Blackstar Group and Vice President of WAN-IFRA, Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, The Strait Times & SPH’s English / Malay / Tamil Media Group and Raj Jain, Chief Executive Officer, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, publishers of The Times of India.

MacLeod talked about technology innovations and business transformation experiences at Tiso Blackstar Group.

“Tiso Blackstar has built its own content management system and has reduced the number of editions. We have trimmed down our print costs. Our reporting staff now starts early in the day to file reports for the web. Paid content is our primary focus and we have six operational paywalls,”
– Lisa MacLeod, Tiso Blackstar Group

She also mentioned that the data costs for mobile phones are about six times higher than that in Europe. And South Africans spend more on communication than on health or education.

“To serve this large chunk of our audience who cannot afford data, we have created an app that does not need data to run. SA News LIVE is powered by free content from all our newsrooms,” MacLeod said.

Fernandez discussed extending the life of the printed product, while gearing up for a digital-first newsroom and the transformation.

“We looked at global newsrooms but figured replication was not an option. We needed to understand our audience. We don’t like to call ourselves a digital-first newsroom; print and digital both play an important part for us,”
– Warren Fernandez, The Strait Times

Jain talked about the print business in India and how it is a flag-bearer of responsible journalism.

“It doesn’t leave much room for sensationalism and out of context reporting,” said Jain. In the last few years while print has fought for survival globally, it has thrived in India. It, however, has also faced challenges.

“The habit of reading the newspaper in the morning is being threatened by digital notifications and multimedia. Print has to be its own innovator and disrupter in the new world,”
– Raj Jain, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd

The conference started with a workshop on combating misinformation, by Pratik Sinha, co-founder of Altnews, on 17 September as a precursor to the event. The workshop covered a host of tools to fight fake news such as video and image verification, writing a convincing fact-check, search strategies for different platforms among others.

The two-day conference was sprinkled with stimulating discussions on newspaper distribution, design thinking, revenue strategies, business transformation and strategic shifts in the Indian advertising landscape.

Women in News
The conference also featured a “Women in News” panel discussion on 18 September where women journalists discussed gender diversity and equality in Indian newsrooms. The panel featured Neha Dixit, Independent journalist; Sandhya Ravishankar, Editor at The Lede; Ritu Sarin, Editor, Investigations at Indian Express and Kavita Devi, Digital Head at Khabar Lahariya.

Over 25 suppliers from both, India and abroad participated in the foyer expo, displaying their products and services for the newspaper printing and publishing industry.

The event concluded on 19 September with a panel discussion by CEOs of leading news media organisations, Jayant Mammen Mathew, Executive Director of Malayala Manorama, Pawan Agarwal, Dy. Managing Director, D B Corp. Ltd. and Sanjay Gupta, Editor & CEO, Jagran Prakashan Ltd. discussing the challenges and opportunities of print and how its life can be extended. After the conference, a visit to The Times of India printing plant in Manesar was organised for the delegates.

More about the conference, additional coverage

Complete details of the programme and the list of speakers are available here.

More information from the conference can be found on Facebook at and on Twitter with the hashtag #WII2019

For a calendar of upcoming WAN-IFRA events, please visit

More stories from the conference can be found here.

Neha Gupta

Multimedia Journalist

Share via
Copy link