As per the IRS 2011 Q2 results, general interest magazines have witnessed a decline in readership. While they have registered a 4 per cent de-growth over last year, the drop in average issue readership (AIR) as compared to the IRS 2009 Round 1 figures is around 15 per cent, the highest decline witnessed in Round 1 among the ‘Special Interest’, ‘Women’, and ‘Business’ magazine genres.
Surbhi C Murthy, Associate Vice President, Allied Media, lists some possible reasons for the downward trend. According to her, “The decline in readership of ‘General Interest’ magazines is primarily because it is news-based content. Today, readers are more demanding than they were 5-10 years back. A discerning reader has easy access to news on TV, and the growth of the internet, which offers a wide array of opinions, could also have an effect on the readership. Moreover, there is instant availability of news on the mobile and through social media.”
In the ‘General Interest’ magazine genre, regional, Hindi, and English language magazines have recorded a steady decline in readership.Among the top 10 magazines, from IRS 2010 Q2, the three magazines recording the highest loss in AIR are language periodicals Kungumam (20% decline) with an AIR of 7.22 lakh, Ananda Vikatan (19% decline) with an AIR of 8.47 lakh, and Kumudam (16% decline) with an AIR of 10.66 lakh. Incidentally, the same three periodicals have lost the highest percentage readership from Round 1, 2009. Ananda Vikatan has lost 37%, Kungumam has lost 35%, and Kumudam has lost 31% of its readers.
However, in terms of number of readers, the highest loss has been sustained by No.1 Saras Salil. The magazine lost 5.05 lakh readers from 2009 R1 to 2011 Q2. Second comes Readers’ Digest, down by 3.29 lakh readers (25% decline), followed by Ananda Vikatan (-3.82 lakh). The only magazine to record a rise in AIR over a 2-year period is MathrubhumiThozhilVartha. The magazine with an AIR of 7.9 lakh has added 1.4 Lakh readers (2% rise). From last year, the only periodical to reflect this trend is weekly Malayala Manorama (+1.76 lakh/14% gain).
The English edition of India Today has gone from an AIR of 19.55 lakh in 2009, R1 to 17.71 lakh in 2010 Q2 and 17.24 lakh in 2011 Q2. India Today (Hindi) saw a higher loss from R1 2009 (-3.51 lakh/23% decline) as compared to a yearly drop in AIR (-1.57 lakh/12% decline). Karmasangsthaan comes in at No.9 with an AIR of 7.38 lakh.
Mohit Joshi, Managing Partner India, MPG, noted, “There is clear fragmentation in the magazine domain. Readers have a larger number of periodicals to choose from now and international magazines have also come into the market.Magazine used to be more a leisure reading format and unfortunately, leisure time has been going down over years (especially in the upwardly mobile, metro communities).Moreover, new media has come in a big way and both Online and Mobile provide news-on-the-go.This is the trend seen in most SEC-A metros. Dailies have not had much impact as many readers still prefer to read newspapers as part of their everyday routine but there alsostagnation is seen. These trends (specially the mobility trend) is relevant to markets beyond the metros as well and is the core reason for readerships of traditional vernacular magazines losing out, especially in TN, Kerala and the Hindi belt. As regards Saras Salil (which targets the Hindi heartland), the other reason for falling readership could be the significant increase in the C&S penetration in the erstwhile low C&S domains of UP and Bihar (after the DTH phenomenon caught speed).”