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FICCI Future of Print: Afternoon session – Content confusion continues

28-September-2005
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FICCI Future of Print: Afternoon session – Content confusion continues

The afternoon session of FICCI initiative, The Future of Print Media, comprised known names in the Indian print market scrutinising factors that would lead to growth in the sector. Amongst points like forging alliances and exploring new areas of growth, experts threw light on content being the biggest driver. One school of thought was that entertainment had to be fused with information and the second was to report unreported India to form a bond with the reader.

The second session delved on the subject ‘The Business Dynamics of Print Media’, where Pradeep Guha, Board of Directors, DNA & CEO Zee Telefilms Ltd, was moderating the session. Guha began the session with an international comparison, indicating that India and China were the only markets where print was growing. “This is a very positive sign and it is very important for us to shape this growth,” he said.

Guha began with the challenges, bringing two points here – the challenge of being relevant to the youth reader and fighting Attention Disorder Deficit Syndrome (ADDS). The solution to this would come from content leadership, “which would be largely driven by entertainment,” he said.

“We are seeing a fusion between entertainment and information today. On the larger picture, there is a three way convergence taking place – readers need for uninterrupted entertainment, advertisers need to reach a critical mass and media’s need to reach the relevant target,” he stressed.

Elaborating more on the challenges that the medium faces, Guha said that unlike other mediums, which where 24x7, print could be updated only once or at the most twice a day. Unlike other mediums, where the consumer had a choice, content was pre-selected for newspaper and that accentuated the challenge.

With this he opened the discussion and the first to take the floor was India Today’s Executive Director Ashish Bagga. Agreeing with Guha, Bagga said, “There are two broad issues here – the reader has to pay more for the content and so the content has to be richer and differentiation is important. Differentiation can be done in various ways but the key is that the reader should be aware of them too and that is where perception comes in.”

Drawing examples of Reader’s Digest he explained the ways in which brands needed to reinvent themselves in order to survive in the industry. Another important point that Bagga brought forth was the importance of revenue sharing with other entities. “We must know how to forge alliance and mutually beneficial partnerships. We need to review our assets and see what is there that can be converted into revenue generating models – that is only way forward,” he pointed out.

According to Mid Day Managing Director, Tariq Ansari, there were four points that were important in the print business today. “English Disease. I think that we are so intent in evaluating what we are doing and what we should do that we miss on the real success stories, like Dainik Jagran or a Malayala Manorama. What these publications have done is ridiculously simple – they know their audience well and they speak what is important enough for the audience.”

The second point was the need for differentiation and third was addressing the circulation revenues. “We are the cheapest newspapers in the world and it is our fault. We believe that we will be read more if we lower our costs and we get in to pricing wars, which are a problem for the industry at large. If this continues we would be highly dependent on advertisers.”

The fourth area to look into, according to him, was valuations. “I think there has to be a commonly held accepted way of valuating money. The course ahead will have mergers and acquisitions and we should be better prepared for that situation,” he added.

Dainik Jagran’s Sanjay Gupta brought similar points to the table of the challenge that content faced. He explained that not only was content becoming expensive, but print was competing with various mediums and there was a need for innovation to stay on a growth streak.

An area he thought that needed to be addressed was to remove the divide of corporate advertising focussing on English papers and political advertising focussing on language papers.

The key point that Abhijeet Pawar of the Sakal Group brought out was the importance on human resources. He shared that HR was one key area where the paper had focussed its energies and was undertaking various programmes to ensure that the people power was retained. “All the problems that have been brought out on this forum can be addressed effectively if you have the right people to handle it,” maintained Pawar.

He concluded by saying that, “We have seen the problems of poaching and no key officials of Sakal has quit – for us that is true success.”

The final presenter for the day was Delhi Press Group’s Paresh Nath, who explained the need for the reader to pay more for content. He said that print didn’t just give profits in return but also satisfaction, and that was an area to look into carefully. “Most publishers today are second and third generations publishers and they have proved this. The battle is also for satisfaction and that is what brings life to this medium,” he stressed.

On the point of people paying for content, he said, “That is the only way you know that they appreciate the content. No one values anything when it is free. Also this is the area from where more growth can come in the medium.”

Quoting examples of Saras Salil, he concluded by saying that as far as growth was concerned, print sector’s growth was guaranteed.

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