The latest round of IRS 2010 is music to the ears of the publishers of language dailies. Barring exceptions, the readership trend is positive for most brands. While newspapers are supposed to be a sunset category in the West, it is simply amazing to see a 63-year old leading brand like Navbharat Times Delhi grow its readership in Q3 IRS report by a significant figure of 4 per cent. It’s interesting to note that over 6 crore people read a Hindi newspaper daily in India. The figure is growing despite the onslaught of Bollywood stars on a variety of GEC shows!
The macro factors driving language dailies seem to be firmly in place. Besides rising literacy and improving living standards, the aspirations of language readers are being tapped by the language brands very well. The functionality gap between English papers and the language ones is also being bridged. While the pagination of language dailies is up, so is the quality. Young, savvy and growth-hungry language publishers are borrowing consumer marketing practices from the FMCG industry (with or without borrowing their executives). This marries well with the rising incomes of language homes.
Is the language readership glass half empty? Are the markets mature or could they absorb yet another well-differentiated language brand? These are important million dollar questions. The last 10 years have seen several new and successful language brands. They have expanded the readership pie and have brought new values to the category. Initially, the new proposition may have been ridiculed by the incumbent newspaper. But what is the value of a new idea if it not opposed and made fun of? The language homes have began appreciating brand values, which were earlier associated only with English papers.
Also, to the credit of the language publishers and editors, the content and packaging is increasingly a seamless blend of tradition and modernity. This is helping expand the appeal of a language daily.
Top brokerage houses like Kotak are, therefore, bullish on the growth prospects of language dailies. It is felt that there is a significant phase lag between the consumption levels and the ad spends among the language homes. While circulation revenue is a well established strength of language brands, the ad revenue growth may accelerate in the coming years. The enhanced ad-edit ratio would be a driver for increased readership. The language reader is hungry for information on new products and services. This can be met only with higher volumes of advertising. I see a virtuous cycle emerging, which may create higher traction for language dailies in the coming years.
In other words, language dailies seem to be Paisa Vasool for its readers. The party may have just began…
(Ranjeet Kate is Director, Languages Business, at Times Group.)