Print readership in India still strong and growing, South Asian publishers say

“There’s a popular perception being created that newspapers are dying, but national brands are still being created on printed newspapers,” said Varghese Chandy, Vice President of Marketing and Ad Sales, Malayala Manorama Co. Ltd.

by Elizabeth Shilpa | September 18, 2019

Chandy was speaking during a panel discussion on “How to manage the challenge of advertising in print and enhance the pie,” conducted by WAN-IFRA South Asia at its 27th annual India conference.

“We hear stories from across the globe of the drop of print. But what’s happening in India? Between the last two IRS studies (India Readership Survey), around 16 million readers have been added for printed newspapers and 7.8 million have been added for magazines. We have to ensure that this is the narrative that is going around,” said Chandy, citing the example of Impex phone, a local brand that was helped by newspapers such as Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi to become a national brand through print ads.

The panel discussion was moderated by Suresh Balakrishna, Chief Revenue Officer of The Hindu Group.

Apart from Chandy, Rajeev Beotra, CEO – HT English, HT media Ltd., Sudha Natarajan, Director – Response, Bennet Coleman & Co. Ltd., and Vipon Khatwani, Senior Vice President, Jagran Prakashan Ltd, also took part in the panel.

“The more local we get, our relevance with advertisers will only go up. We need to focus on being more hyper local. Digital is not there yet,” – Rajeev Beotra, HT-English.

Agreeing with Chandy that print needs to have a very strong narrative for itself, Beotra pointed out that the community had work to do, but was still living on its laurels.

According to him, creating strong communities and great content would be crucial, with technology and analytics playing a big role in the coming days.

Diversified portfolio is key

Natarajan of BCCL noted that there are several ways print can monetise clients and their requirements, and it is important to have a diversified portfolio during this journey.

“We have the advantage of measurability, now digital also has that. Even today when a consumer picks up the paper and sees the ad, there’s an impact. But instead of calling you, he searches about the product on the phone and moves on to buy it, so attribution goes to digital while print is the discovery medium,” – Sudha Natarajan, Bennet Coleman & Co. Ltd.

Vipon Khatwani, Senior Vice President, Jagran Prakashan LTD India, spoke about how Jagran started efforts to identify their positioning years ago.

“We were trying to identify who are we to the consumer. We (print) understand the clients of all sectors like auto or FMCG, and we understand them the best,” he said.

Suresh Balakrishna of the Hindu Group concluded the session pointing out that print still holds huge trust among consumers.

“Credibility has a premium and advertisers have to be thrilled to be part of that environment. The way we are marketing and selling print to the advertiser, I think there’s a long way to go. Maybe revenue models will change, it will morph into something very different. But print is here to stay,” – Suresh Balakrishna, Hindu Group.


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