exchange4media Conclave 2008, which got underway in the Capital on March 11, saw an interesting discussion on ‘Is the future of daily print under threat from digital and specialised publications?’ Newspapers today are working under an advertisement-driven economy, but it is not yet time to write the obituary of print. According to Vir Sanghvi, there would be multiplicity of media and print would play an important role, but it may not be the king anymore.
NDTV Media is the Presenting Sponsor for this mega industry event which will next held in Mumbai on March 13, followed by Bangalore on March 14, and concluding in Kolkata on March 15.
The first session was moderated by DNA’s Pradyuman Maheshwari, while the speakers included Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group; Vir Sanghvi, Editorial Director, Hindustan Times; Lloyd Mathias, Director-Marketing, Motorola; Sanjay Gupta, Editor and CEO, Dainik Jagran; and Venkatesh Kini, VP-Marketing, Coca-Cola India.
Starting the discussion, Sanghvi said, “This is not a new debate, because in the 70s television news had become a big thing in India. Again in the 90s, the demise of the newspaper was widely predicted. In certain American cities there is only one newspaper. Given such a scenario, there is not too much to worry about in India as here it would take another 10 years for such a scenario to emerge.”
Gupta, however, felt that in India the newspaper industry was growing. It was dying in the West because they made huge investments, but did not have control on the costs, he added. “We need to learn from their experiences. Western culture doesn’t make sense to India as the model here has been different. Now with growing literacy rate in India, state-specific print media will have more impact. It is because of the iconic status that print media enjoys, the type of journalists involved and the way news is covered that readers come to print again and again,” Gupta added.
Kini, however, had a different view altogether. According to him, kids today did not talk to each other, but preferred SMSing abd chatting online. They did not read newspapers, but checked the websites. Citing the media consumption habits of his 13-year old son, Kini said that today’s kids were used to emails, web and multliple media consumption.
“In an era where newspapers no longer provide news because it is stale by the time the newspaper reaches the reader, newspapers need to reinvent themselves. In the next 10 years, newspapers would be in a radically new space as children growing up in a digital era would communicate differently,” Kini pointed out.
Mathais came to print’s rescue, quoting a US study to say that given a choice, 72 per cent people preferred content in the print form because of convenience. “For advertisers, it is the ability to localise that helps, whereas advertising in the digital format is taken as an intrusion. In the long run, there would be multiplicity of media and print would certainly be a part of it,” he asserted.
According to Bagga, there were two cornerstones of print media, which included credibility and a brand built with huge investments over the years with content at the back of it. “Print is doing well and would continue to do well, but there are opportunities in the digital platform that need to be leveraged. We must make sure that print thrives and not just co-exist. Today, newspapers are more views oriented and less news oriented. Today, there are exclusive niche web magazines, which need to grab the attention of the reader. Let print rock together with digital media,” he added.
He then went on to say that editors should remember that advertisers paid their salaries. “Editors should ensure that that what they are doing should be attractive to the advertiser, and this would come by an infusion of user-generated content and your own content that is strong and credible,” Bagga added.
At this, Sanghvi remarked that editors could not be made to toe the line of advertisers and added that he was liable to his readers and not the advertisers. According to him, it was the fault of the structure, wherein consumers were not paying for the media they consumed completely while the cover price covered nothing, and hence, there was dependency on advertisers.
Kini added here, “Let me first clarify this assumption that advertisers are paying editors’ salaries. Advertisers are not paying anyone. They are paying to get the audience, since that is the consumer base that would then pay for the advertisers’ products, and that is what the advertisers are seeking.”
Speakers more or less came to the conclusion, though after much debate, that digital media was not a threat to the print industry, but could be taken as a great opportunity.