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Network18 puts its marketing might behind Firstpost weekly newspaper

Network18’s digital paper Firstpost launched its print avatar this Republic Day. Priced at Rs 8, the weekly newspaper aims to deliver high quality, in-depth news reportage. Tailored by acclaimed designer Jacek Utko, the publication has a clean layout and high pictorial quality. 

The team behind the newspaper is a versatile mix of journalists helmed by BV Rao (Editor) and Praveen Swami (Group Consulting Editor), who will be supported by a vast fleet of reporters. 

To support the launch, the paper released a campaign in the last week of January 2019, conceptualised by Taproot Dentsu, which shows how digging deeper for the truth is so important, today more than ever. 

In conversation with Adgully, Aditya Tandon, Head - Brand Marketing (CNN-News18, News18 India, News18 World, Firstpost Weekly), speaks at length about the marketing and content strategy for Firstpost’s weekly newspaper. 

How will a weekly newspaper strengthen Network18’s offering?
If you look at the newspaper, the strategic intent that we have is really the idea of giving more first to Firstpost as a brand. Firstpost has been a digital-only brand for 8 years and is one of the strongest brands as far as digital is concerned. We have been providing our users with engaging and compelling content. Over the years, Firstpost has come to stand for a certain class of journalism. It has brought strong credible opinions. Despite the growing march of digital, in India print media definitely continues to enjoy a high level of credibility. So, we believe that there will be a hero effect of the print edition on the digital brand. Given the brand of journalism that Firstpost stands for, even in the print media there is space for that kind of content. 

Will a weekend newspaper garner traction from advertisers and readers?
Given the format that we have chosen for this newspaper, we are trying to break through the clutter of what typical newspaper content is there today. We will have long format stories and to do justice to this kind of content, readers will also want to spend time with this over the weekend. As I had said, as a brand we have always felt that we have been able to provide highly engaging content and not just ‘gaze and turn over’ type of content. That’s why we felt that a weekend paper was appropriate. 

From an advertising standpoint, the newspapers are very heavy on advertising, so we saw a demand here. We are also targeting top-end discerning and evolved readers, thus providing advertisers with a very specifically targeted market. 

What will be the content strategy for Firstpost’s print edition? Will you be doing long interviews or political Vs social stories? What would be the breakup of the content?
Broadly speaking, there is the editorial part of it and the format part of it. As far as editorial is concerned, you will see hard stories; you will see coverage of politics and anything that impacts the public. A large portion of the newspaper will be focused on that. There will also be insights on serious stories on Bollywood, Entertainment and arts & culture. We will have content on sports, and while it may be more skewed towards cricket, none of it will be the normal, daily grind ‘masala type’ stories. We will make an effort to pick stories that are insightful and dive deep into issues. 

All these will be given in long form articles. The idea is to look at features and interesting perspectives, as in presenting two sides of the coin, which is a little bit of a look into the future and along with coverage on technology. Thus the format will allow deep diving into stories, which will broadly be the editorial approach. 

How are you keeping your ad rates competitive?
We are clear that we want a position-based product, which is a slightly premium product. Clearly, our advertising approach will reflect the process in terms of rates, in terms of advertising and in terms of the kind of engagement that we do. 

Firstpost already has a strong digital presence. Will you also make the print edition’s content available online?
Yes. What we are looking at doing eventually in the next few months is that we will probably put up a paywall hour. We believe that when something is valuable content, people would want to pay to read it, so yes, as a strategy going forward we will probably put it behind a paywall in the next few months. 

What would be your distribution strategy for the Firstpost newspaper?
A lot of our marketing efforts is actually more than mass media, given the fact that we are looking at Delhi and Mumbai markets to begin with. A lot of our efforts have gone into this, and to continue to do that we need to have distributors in Delhi and Mumbai. We are looking at engaging with news vendors for copy deliveries. We are also focusing extensively on driving subscriptions. We are also activating our distribution network through digital means and are working very closely with our distributors. Subscription remains the dominant part of our strategy. 

How will you continue the strategy for sustenance, will this strategy be carried out for over a period of 3 months?
We have a three-pronged approach – one is from a consumer standpoint, where we would want to consistently leverage our own considerable network assets, be it television, digital or print platforms. Our ads are already running on CNN, CNBC, TV18, History bouquet and we are looking at some of the Viacom18 channels as well. The network strength will be fully leveraged to promote the brand. 

We will also focus on the BTL side, where we will work with the vendors. 

We are instituting a programme that will be conducted in the Delhi and Mumbai housing societies and also have some strategic partnerships with other brands, such as Ola. Primarily, we would be putting our money and efforts on building a solid and robust reader base.

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