Just as gross numbers for English dailies refused to divulge the internecine conflicts in the segment, an overview of Hindi dailies also suggests an absolute calm. What else would you call less than 1% change in the gross readership levels over the last one-year. But there are interesting developments just under the surface.
Beyond the large multi-edition chains of dailies in Hindi, there exists a layer of lesser known, often barely two/three edition strong, 6-8 page strugglers. For decades they managed to survive under the shadows of the bigger and mightier of their ilk. (Calling them rivals would be exaggeration) Such newspapers often offered an option- a low-cost one, for both, the readers as well as the advertisers. Not to talk of sheer plurality of perceptions.
These dailies seem to be coming in for a rough time. The big and mighty among Hindi dailies have suddenly grown an appetite. They are no longer content sitting in their traditional strongholds. They are moving out into newer territories and waging a cover-price war. The fight that the multi-edition biggies fight among themselves, have made their life even more difficult. The scale of resources needed to fight in such a contest makes even the idea of doing anything unviable for the small newspaper. Doing nothing is surer way to closing down, sooner than later. Caught between the Devil and the deep sea, they have begun to see not only the growth disappearing but also their base shrinking.
Not all of them have existed on the margins always. Among the cognoscenti, Nai Duniya is still considered among the best newspapers in Hindi, if not the best. The richness of its contents, the reference material, originality, credibility, printing, the profile of its readers and almost every thing about it has been the envy of its rivals. However, the daily refused to join the race for opening more editions. It stayed put in Indore. It remained a veritable giant till early nineties. In mid-nineties, when Bhaskar overtook Nai Dunia by a whisker, Indore saw a week of festivities by an exuberant Bhaskar, leaving the media world rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Today, Nai Duniya (833,000) is languishing at number three in Madhya Pradesh behind Bhaskar (42,75,000) and Nava Bharat (42,75,000). In Indore, Nai Dunia is (131,000), a little more than a third of Bhaskar’s (365,000) readers.
Janasatta is another such daily that shot up like a meteor. From the Express stable in Delhi, it set new standards in Hindi journalism. Despite its short tenure at the top, it wielded disproportionately high clout among the Hindi-reading elite (This expression was not such a contradiction in terms then). It did not venture out for numbers in the Hindi heartland. Instead, Janasatta chose to open editions in the metros such as Mumbai and Calcutta besides Chandigarh. In IRS R1-01, Janasatta (3,80,000) has earned the dubious distinction of losing its readership the fastest among all Hindi dailies- 45% in less than a year.
Over two decades old eveninger in Hindi from Delhi, Sandhya Times has chronicled the blood and gore and spice of life in Delhi at its hilarious and sensational best. It has, over the years, transformed from a relaxed commuters companion in the babudom of Delhi to the shopkeepers evening ‘fix’ in the lanes and bylanes of Chandni chowk, to a beggars alibi at the busy traffic lights. It has lost another 15% in less than a year to return a base of 2,88,000, which is a mere 10% of its broadsheet sibling Navbharat Times.
Similarly, other dailies like Nav Jyoti, Choutha Sansar, Rashtriya Sahara, Desh Bandhu, Ranchi Express, Sanmarg, etc. have shown a drop in the readership. Each one is, in a big or small measure, a victim of the emerging trend that is pointing towards consolidation behind a handful, sweeping down from Jammu to Patna. Who are these handful? Bhaskar, Jagran, Amar Ujala, Rajasthan Patrika, Hindustan. Each one of them has registered growth, even if small, on their already bloated bases. Is this happening to other languages too? Keep clicking-in to stay informed.