Top media honchos from the newspaper industry as well as advertisers congregated to deliberate on the industry in India at the thirteenth Ifra India 2005 conference held in the Capital on September 21. Co-sponsored by the Indian Newspaper Society, Ifra India 2005 touched upon key issues plaguing the newspaper industry in a cluttered media space taking into account the Mumbai print war.
Delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session, William O Kok, President, Ifra, highlighted the perils that had come up with the advent of new technology. He said, "Consumers expect to get what they want, where they want and when they want, and technology is giving them the possibility to do so."
At the same time, Kok maintained, "New technology will act as an enabler not only for the newspaper industry, but for other industries as well."
He said, "Newspapers need to analyse their readers' needs, they need to segment the reader market and develop reader or moment tuned concepts. Newspapers need to offer segment specific infotainment packages to meet their consumers needs."
A Publishers Forum followed the inaugral session. Chaired by Andrew Lynch, Consultant Editor, Asian Newspaper Focus, the forum emphasised on the insights from the CEO's to succeed in competing media environment.
Addressing the session 'From the trenches: How to cope when the going gets tough', Tariq Ansari, Managing Director, Mid Day Multimedia Ltd, India specifically laid stress on the Mumbai print war.
While highlighting the cluttered print scene in India's financial capital, Ansari said that three approaches were needed to counter it – the Scaredy Cat, the Fat Cat and the Alley Cat. Elaborating further, Ansari cautioned, "Don't get led by the fallacy of history and do not shrink from looking at bad news. Fight the fight you can fight."
Presenting a case study on how Mid Day managed to ride out the onslaught of a slew of new entrants like DNA, Hindustan Times and Mumbai Mirror in Mumbai, Ansari enumerated certain key points that needed to be taken care of. On the grave issue of poaching, he said, "Prepare to be raided and plan beyond. One solution can be taking in more people that you need just before the oncoming threat, so that when you do lose your manpower to your rivals, you still have enough trained people left."
He further said that cover prices were expected to fall and focused on the hype and hoopla that various newspapers embarked on during their pre-launch, in terms of increasing outdoor signages and hoardings. "Shout louder in order to be heard, you need to be more visible," he stressed.
The next speaker was Pawan Agarwal, Director Dainik Bhaskar Group, who presented a session on 'New launches and New markets'. He took the audience through a case study on the launch of Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat. Apart from Divya Bhaskar, the other Dainik Bhaskar Group publications are Dainik Bhaskar and the recently launched DNA.
Agarwal emphasised on the pull factor. He said, "Believe in pull rather than push, unless there is a pull from the reader you can't push your product. You cannot satisfy all your readers with one single product."
He lamented the fact that the time spent on reading newspapers had come down drastically over the years and laid emphasis on the need to keep the readers glued to the newspaper for a bit longer time.
Abhijit Pawar, Group Publisher and Joint Managing Editor, Sakal Papers Ltd, India, explained about the pioneering initiatives taken by the Sakal group in his presentation on 'Technology for competitive advantage and innovations in Sakal'.
He elaborated on how technology had simplified things at the Sakal group, where everything was online and could be accessed from anywhere. His mantra for success centered around five elements – define, measure, analyse, improve and control.
The presentations were followed by a lively panel discussion on IPOs and media valuations. Chaired by Thomas Jacob, International Development Director, Associated Newspapers Ltd, the panel comprised N Murali, Joint Managing Director, The Hindu, besides Ansari, Pawar, and Agarwal.
Murali, while pointing out the hype surrounding media valuations, said, "Irrational exuberance has crept into the print media scene. The issue that raises concern is that lot of growth is on the back of flimsy economies."
Murali saw more potential in FIIs than in FDIs. He added that there was need to maintain the democratic element in media rather than go the FDI way in a full-fledged manner. Ansari countered this by saying, "Rupert Murduch sits in my living room! I can access any news at the click of the mouse of the flick or a button. It is for the companies to decide whether they want financial investors or strategic investors."
The kind of marketing buzz that was created around DNA prompted Jacob to pose a question to Agarwal on the chances of implementing similar strategies in other markets as well, to which Agarwal said, "Product is the key, I think marketing can make the reader ask for a product, but not force him to read the product. Everything is copyable today, what is not copyable is the editorial idea behind the content, and that will be the only differentiator."