impact Roundtable on Indian language newspapers put the focus on language dailies in India, often referred to as ‘vernacular media’. While Part 1 addressed the mindset block faced by language newspapers, Part 2 examines the perceptions of media owners and media planners and how to emerge above the numbers game.
The Roundtable was organised in Mumbai on September 30 by impact, the advertising and marketing weekly from exchange4media Group, and presented by Prahar.
The discussion was moderated by Kumar Ketkar, Editor, Loksatta. Other eminent panellists included Varghese Chandy, Senior General Manager - Operations, Malayala Manorama; Jwalant Swaroop, Director, Lokmat Group of Newspapers; Abhay Desai, CEO, Yuva; Nilesh Rane, Director, Rane Prakashan Pvt Ltd; advertisers such as K Ramakrishnan, GM, Marketing, TVS Motors; and media planners such as Divya Radhakrishnan, President, TME; Sanjoy Chakrabarty, COO, Dentsu Media; and Sundeep Nagpal, Director, Stratagem Media.
Looking beyond numbers
K Ramakrishnan said, “As per rate card, if you take per colour square centimetre, today Bhaskar Group is more than The Times of India.” Jwalant Swaroop added here, “Every publication has a research department to study the product, same is the case with the client. Earlier, a client used to depend on the media agency to decide on its behalf, but times have changed and now clients also study the newspaper market while formulating a media plan, which helps them take an informed decision.”
Giving a media planner’s point of view, Sundeep Nagpal said, “Media planners are expected to take a decision, slicing things down to the finest hair you can find. But we restricted to readership numbers. However, I do believe that there is a world outside numbers and that has to be studied as well. This important factor has to be communicated to the advertisers. Media owners think that if they do the research and take the figures based on that research to the advertisers, probably the advertisers won’t accept them. However, I feel media planners wait for such kind of initiative from media owners.”
Varghese Chandy observed, “20 years ago, Onam was not much known outside Kerala. But we took the festival to every state and now everyone knows about it. We educated media planners about Onam, which was resulted in a huge sale of consumer durables during the festival. We have always tried to do such kind of activities.”
Ramakrishnan pointed out, “Some of biggest innovations in the media business have been pioneered by language media houses. The concept of district wise editions and activations with the media fraternity were initiated by the language press. The concept of sales or business growth linked compensation and equity participation had also been initiated by the language press.”
Raising a concern about industry perception towards language press, Nagpal noted, “The only thing that can change the perception towards the language press is fact and figures. Only then would media planners be able to convince their clients saying that there is a huge potential in a particular language publication as against the English press.”
Speaking on measurement, Divya Radhakrishnan said, “In terms of measurement, print media is far better than any other medium, barring the Internet. You can track the masses’ response through the measurement system.”
Explaining further, she said, “A particular newspaper might have lower readership, but it might be talking to those people with whom I want to communicate. I am not interested in their positioning of the product. I want to know the important factors beyond numbers. As a media planner, we are interested in softer values that a brand holds.”
Giving the example of CNBC, she said “Look at the way CNBC is delivering softer values to the advertisers. They organise events, trade meets, etc., and, therefore, manage to get a lot of advertisements even though their TRPs are low. And trust me, it is very difficult to sell the softer values to the advertiser/ client. If I have to take this across, I will definitely need the publishers’ support.”
Media owners concentrate more on English papers
Kumar Ketkar observed, “I find that media owners give more attention to English newspapers as compared to language newspapers.” Sharing one of his experiences when he was in Maharashtra Times, Ketkar said that the Times Group had given a presentation to a multi-national company in which they had shown all the brands under them except Maharashtra Times.
On a point raised by Swaroop as to whether media planners were still prejudiced against language press, Ketkar replied, “Yes, there is prejudice against the language press, but this has come down to some extent.”
Radhakrishnan affirmed, “Media planners can’t afford to enter a particular market having a prejudice against any language newspaper. It could be that in a particular state English press is not present or the readership of language newspapers is higher than English newspapers. In this situation, language newspapers cannot be avoided. It is all geography-driven.”
“As an advertiser, I will only look at return on my money (ROI),” Ramakrishnan added.
Lack of interest amongst media owners and media planners
Speaking on educating media planners, Radhakrishnan said, “Earlier, media owners used to meet the media agency people or media planners personally to educate them about their product or newspapers. However, such efforts have gone down considerably.”
Agreeing with him, both Swaroop and Chandy were of the opinion, “There are no initiatives coming from the agencies either. There is lack of interest seen amongst new young media planners. Earlier, media planners use to cooperate, they use to visit media hubs to understand things better, but now the situation has changed and they hardly spend time with media owners.”
Sanjoy Chakrabarty added here, “Earlier, the relationship was about knowledge gaining, but now it is all about the transaction game, which has become a biggest issue.”
Where will growth for language press come from?
According to Swaroop, “If we look at it geographically, language newspapers will definitely grow. However, they need to develop competencies by launching in more languages in different states or else they have to aggregate their audiences to different mediums within the states. Building competence in terms of offerings and making sure that the reader does not get out of your hold is the only way to increase growth of the language press. We should make sure that the readers are consuming you in every aspect – be it entertainment or news. And probably growth will be forwarded in this way. Every medium has its own limitations and one cannot cater to everyone in the market.”
Chandy made a strong point when he said, “We are not just in the business of newspapers, we are in the business of aggregation of audience. Hence, it need not be just a newspaper, it could be anything like radio, TV, digital, etc.”
Ketkar observed, “So far, Ramnath Goenka is the only person who had started independent multi-lingual papers that were not copies of the main publication –
Indian Express. In the current scenario, it is easy for an established group to come up with an additional newspaper or a section, but not for just any newcomer who wants to enter the newspaper business. For that, one needs to have deep pockets.”
impact Roundtable - Part 1: Language press face a mindset block
impact Roundtable: Need to change attitude towards Indian language newspapers urged