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Past perfect future tense? Catalyst & pointers for the print industry

Technological and digital modernisation has left several questions that are often directed towards the future of print media. The print side of things has declined in recent years where the decline is simply caused by technological advancement. The Internet has been one of the major reasons print media has declined in readership in the past decade. Even large magazines and daily newspapers aren’t able to keep up with latest news that can be found on television, tablets, computer and mobile screens. 

Calling himself a myth-breaker, Sathyamurthy NP, President & Head, DDB Mudra Group, was up on the stage on Day 3 of the 19th FICCI Frames conference to address a keynote on how much are Indians reading taking into consideration the recently launched Indian Readership Survey. Coming after a hiatus of around four years, the IRS 2017 Report covered a full year sample of 320,000 households – the highest ever in the history of any readership study in the world. 

Further, with the intention of breaking various myths surrounding the Indian print industry, Satyamurthy touched on the 5 big data points that matter. First, the NCCS (new consumer classification system) D and E shrinking rapidly, indicating that readers in this segment are moving upwards to C & B. This also provides an opportunity for all media to tap in. Secondly, many language newspapers are growing in Total Readership (TR). He also pointed that readership pattern is similar across languages and growth in the regularity of reading is an opportunity. Digital has impacted some of the languages, including English, so much that not a single English daily figured in the Top 10 – The Times of India being at No.11. Growth is across NCCS, more so in B & E, across age groups – were the third and fourth points of discussion. Highlighting the growth of magazines, Satyamurthy stressed that magazines reported a 75 per cent growth in their total readership during the three-year period. And last but not the least, he emphasised that online readership constitutes only 4 per cent, while exclusively read online number is small. It must be noted here 1that total readership of newspapers (including the smaller local t1itles that are not registered with the INS) has crossed 40 crore from the earlier number of 29 crore-plus readers. 

The keynote session was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Past Perfect Future Tense? Catalyst & Pointers for the Print Industry’. Moderated by Ashish Pherwani, Partner, EY, the panellists included Sanjay Gupta, CEO, Jagran Prakashan; Devendra Darda, Managing Director, Lokmat Media; and Satyamurthy NP, who assessed what the future of the print industry will be, given the growing popularity of digital. 

Ashish Pherwani started the discussion by asking the panel that while TV is growing at a rate of 5-7 per cent CAGR, print is at 0.2 per cent. How is that impacting the industry? To this, Sanjay Gupta replied that when one compares the numbers of TV vs print, definitely TV is growing at the backbone of entertainment, whereas print is by and large news and little bit of entertainment. It is not exactly an apple to apple comparison, where we see sprouting of entertainment channels which are taking the share of advertising away. “I won’t be so disturbed about this comparison where we tend to compare it with television. All I can say is that not all the advertising that is flowing into the entertainment channels is really sufficing for increasing market penetration,” he insisted. 

The one month IRS data shows a CAGR of 11-12 per cent. Is that growth something to see as an opportunity and what are some of things that you plan to do around it? Gupta continued, “Yes, there is a headroom there where corporations look for an opportunity to increase their penetration in the markets. Publishers are again wary of the cost of newsprint. So they very well know how much one should push their publications into the market and how much monetisation will happen in terms of advertising. Let’s not forget that cover pricing in India is low, products are subsidised and the only revenue that can run publishers is from advertising.” 

Pherwani then handed over the mike to Devendra Darda to know his views on the de-growth of 0.1 per cent in the Marathi print space. According to Darda, the de-growth that is seen is because there are a large number of readers and copies which actually get accounted for in the ABC. So the readership is slightly different. He added, “Maharashtra is a mature market compared to others, but we also have very intense competition, which has led to the de-growth, whereas some of the other markets where you have just 2-3 players, we see the market share being evenly distributed and the overall readership improvement happening. So, the intense competition to some extent has hurt the readership, but if I speak about myself (Lokmat), we grew up 34 per cent of the total readership of the state. We have seen a significant growth and I know that my nearest competitor has also seen some growth.” 

Is it the industry where the winner takes all or the top 2 or top 3, which will survive or is there space for top 5 in each language? Here, both Darda and Gupta agreed that there is no space for the Top 5. It is going to be the Top 2 and certainly a lion’s share to the leader, some of shares to the No.2 player and crumbs for the rest of them. “As we go forward, it is going to be more severe,” Darda cautioned. 

Advertising’s share of print compared to total advertising is down to about 33 per cent from 40 per cent a few years back. Yet there are a lot of brands and sectors who have increased their ad spends. What’s driving this growth? Commending the IRS 2017 data, Gupta pointed out that now they have a case to take to the marketers which will make them increase their spends on print and the medium will see an insurgence of growth. You can do much with print and get exclusive eyeballs which television cannot. That is the one very big plus point that print has. 

Pherwani then questioned Satyamurthy on how he saw print in the overall advertising pie. In reply to this, Satyamurthy explained, “When there was an emergence of Radio, Doordarshan and satellite TV, everyone said print is dead. Now, we are talking about digital and we saw the numbers. If I don’t have 40 spots across news channels in a day we won’t get one opportunity to see of that 2 lakh people who watch English channels. Compared to that, with a newspaper – English does about eight times that number, all languages put together do about 20 times the number – first is the surety of the reach of the medium called print. People are used to the habit of reading a newspaper, whether you agree or not. The medium allows you a conversational point and captivity. Community conversation is on a rise. The only one thing that goes against print is that if I have to do a national level campaign and take 200-odd newspapers, the aggregate cost is quite substantial. Many advertisers don’t need to reach 30 per cent of Mumbai or Delhi city at one go, most campaigns target 7-8 per cent of the population. From an advertiser’s perspective, instead of real estate pricing and advertising they it can commit X amount of money to the publisher.” 

On what print industry should focus on in 2018 for success, Gupta commented, “Any cost cutting.” Darda emphasised on breaking the perception that print is dying, while Satyamurthy advised to move away from real estate pricing to customer’s value based pricing.

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