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Exclusive | Game of Chess - Round 1 advantage to Ebela

Within two months of its launch in Calcutta, the youngest newspaper from the Anandabazar Patrika group, Ebela has created a flutter. Targeted at the ‘young at heart’ generation, the response to morning tabloid’s since launch has been beyond imagination. As per audited figures given by Delloitte Haskins and Sells (one of the top 4 audit firms globally) Ebela’s circulation is 2.79 lakhs as of October 2012. And the November circulation has grown and crossed 3 lakhs. Compared to the short timeframe in which Ebela achieved this significant milestone, the Anandabazar Patrika, the flagship newspaper of the group and market leader in Bengali newspapers has a circulation of 6.99 lakhs after 90 years, and Bartaman has a circulation of 2.08 lakhs after 28 years.

So what does that mean?

This means that Ebela is already the 2nd largest circulated Bengali newspaper in Calcutta and also the 3rd largest circulated daily irrespective of language (the 1st and 2nd spots go to Anandabazar Patrika and The Telegraph, both belonging to the ABP group). Says an excited and hugely satisfied Supriyo Sinha, Vice President, Bengali Dailies, ABP & Ebela, “Honestly, we are overwhelmed by this response and this goes to reflect that Ebela has fundamentally created a new readership space in Bengali newspapers.” He was speaking exclusively to Adgully. Although the battle in the market place is not over and may have just began, the group may have snatched the first mover advantage in the new category and in creating a new readership class.

The response from both the young readers and the advertisers has been exceptional. Adds Sinha, “we all know that the demographic profile of our country implies that the growth over the next few decades (at least) will be driven by the young generation. Moreover, we have indeed been able to generate tremendous readership interest in this young generation already. Hence advertisers are very keen to join hands with us and address this audience which is a target group for them as well. In fact, even as we had launched, over 70% of the ad space in the paper was already pre-booked for over a month. The advertiser interest in Ebela has been steadily growing since launch.” The ABP group has in fact entered into a partnership with one of the leading banks in India for an online focused multimedia program anchored by Ebela. Advertisers from all over the country are showing interest and many of them have gained a lot of response from the ads placed in Ebela.

In addition, ABP’s fundamental approach for Ebela has been to address a readership need gap - the young generation was not getting what it needed in Bengali language. Now, it has got that through Ebela and they are liking it a lot. Even while it address this readership need gap, it is constantly making appropriate moves to strengthen the flagship Anandabazar Patrika brand. “We believe that with these two publications, we can address the entire gamut of newspaper readership needs in Bengali language, and hence consolidate our leadership position as the ABP group,” avers Sinha.

On being asked about the steps being taken to reinforce the brand in the eyes of its customers and advertisers, Sinha says, “The motto of the brand has been ‘Ami Amar Moto’, which, translated, means "I am like myself". We will remain true to this spirit. In all brand initiatives, we will focus on "few" things that are unique, rather than a laundry list of activities.” The group plans to disclose what this means and the exact nature of these initiatives in due course of time. At the moment, it is making a significant effort to meet clients and agencies in person and sharing the success of Ebela with them. Further to showcase Ebela, a separate communications too has been designed for advertisers.

As for the offline and online marketing strategy, the group looked at a series of engaging campaigns on specific occasions in the offline space. Says Sinha, “we have executed two big ones - one during launch and the other during Durga Puja. Such major campaigns will continue on special occasions, marked by ongoing ones in between.” As far as online is concerned, Ebela is already on Facebook and “we have executed a series of highly successful FB campaigns, e.g., photo contest, World Aids Days, World Disabled Day, Fashion etc,” he adds These Facebook campaigns have resulted in a large "Likes" base of close to 38,000 with more than 50% of those being Active Users. “We also have an e-paper which people can use to access Ebela from any remote location,” says Sinha.

The initial success is commendable but the future is uncertain and the ABP group aware about this, will have to manage the same efficiently. Ebela has been well accepted in the market. But given the current economic scenario and perception about East/ Calcutta as a market, sourcing advertisements is a challenge (it is for the entire print industry). Says Sinha, “we will have to work hard and ensure sustained level of ads in the paper. Also, given increasing levels of newsprint costs, we have to ensure cost competitiveness as well.”
As for competition from Ei Samay from the Times group launched after Ebela’s launch, Sinha states, “it is a traditional paper, which appears to be one amongst the 14 odd other similar papers that exist in Calcutta today.” As compared to that, Ebela has without doubt created a new category of Bengali newspaper readers in Calcutta.” Ebela is well ahead in the game, he further adds with due respects to competition from Bartaman, Aajkal, Ei Samay and others,

However Ebela’s growth cannot and is unlikely to happen on a linear scale. Agrees Sinha and says, “we are not constraining Ebela's growth prospects. Based on business economics we will take a decision in due course of time, regarding the optimal level of circulation. For now we are very pleased to note the immense response to Ebela without any cannibalization of Anandabazar Patrika at all.”

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