In a scenario where Indian media is spoilt for choices with the onset of newer media platforms, print seems to be losing its charm, particularly in light of what has been happening in the West. However, there is might left yet in print as a medium, with expansion in the regional space, increasing circulation and still being popular with advertisers and audience alike.
The Indian print story presents an interesting collage, where both vernacular and English language press are gaining acceptance with the masses. And as a testimony to this, we saw a large number of titles being launched in 2007, with experimentation seen in different formats and sizes. The year 2007 also saw a lot of activity in the print medium when it came to expanding footprint across newer centers.
There are several things that the print honchos attribute as propellers of this growth. Ashish Bagga, CEO, Living Media India, feels that the performance of Indian print media has a lot do with the country’s vibrant economy. “This growth is primarily the outcome of a strong economy, with more consumer spending, more brands being launched and a strong manufacturing and service base. Industrial growth has been at an all time high and competition very keen, fuelling strong media spends by marketers.”
Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, The Times of India Group, also attributes print’s success to its reach and the great value that the medium continues to give to its advertisers. He added, “The expansion of the print into newer territories would further leverage this.”
Agreeing with Bagga, Maheshwar Peri, Publisher & Publisher, Outlook Group, attributed print’s growth to the stable and growing Indian economy. He said, “India as an economy is growing so fast, and it is this India story that is driving us.”
According to Verghese Chandy, General Manager, Malyala Manorama, “The growth is primarily due to the consistent growth in the Indian economy, with the GDP growing by around 9 per cent.”
Sharing somewhat similar views, Basant Rathod, General Manager, Brand and Strategic Planning, Jagran Group, felt that it was the fast expanding middle class that was at the helm of this revolution. He said, “One of the major trends contributing to growth is favourable demographics in the form of a rapidly swelling middle class.” According to Rathod, other factors giving a fillip to this forward march were liberalisation in the media and entertainment sector and along with other developments on fronts like infrastructure and higher literacy levels among others.
Recounting the advantages that print has over other mediums, KR Skandraaj, COO, Malar Publications which brings out Daily Thanthi, said, “The growth is purely because only print medium can give any advertiser the required response for a particular product. The same advertiser may use other mediums, but those other forms of advertising can give a brand only recall, but when the ad appears in print, the customer reacts.”
Skandaraaj further said, “Media fragmentation has strengthened the print medium as clients have really not seen any significant results in other media.”
Adding another angle to the print growth story, Sanjeev Kotnala, AVP and National Head, Communication, Bhaskar Group, said, “The process of media fragmentation has been underway for more than a decade now. However, the share of the print medium in the ad expenditure has been stable at 7-8 per cent. Quick upgradation in technology and a rapid renewal of the role that print plays in the life of a common reader, adapting to their changing habits and tastes have all resulted in print weathering fragmentation quiet well.”
Claiming that the industry had been able to weather this fragmentation remarkably well, Bagga said, “The print media has seen a record number of niche brands being successfully launched. Also, the mainline brands have also performed well.”
Another trend that ruled the roost in 2007 was expansion of the vernacular press with advertisers increasingly looking at Tier II and III towns, which have led to localisation being made part of the advertisers’ strategy for reaching their target audience. And all this is giving a fillip to regional press, apart from increased level of literacy in the Indian hinterland.
Skandaraaj said, “Marketers have woken up to these facts and we expect more categories to use language newspapers in the immediate future.”
According to Malayala Manorama’s Chandy, “Language media has gained and will continue to gain over a period of time. It’s not really a shift in the real sense of the word. It’s about which markets are considered important by advertisers, and media gets apportioned accordingly. If you look at the current reality, while the primary concentration of English media is around the top metros, language media have a far wider geographical coverage. There is lot of untapped potential in vernacular language publishing and I do see the space growing at a fat clip as the regional markets develop.”
Bagga added, “There is bound to be a realignment in spends given the proliferation of editions of regional publications.”
According to Dhariwal, “It would be too early to say that language media is eating into the English media’s press. Language is expanding because it has a larger footprint, but people still find a better deal in English.”
Jagran’s Rathod said that the decision to come out with more offerings in the regional language was based on the market considerations and as the country’s interiors were becoming important for the marketers the regional press was also gaining importance and hence, the massive amount of expansion.