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A new-born in Kolkata

23-May-2002
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A new-born in Kolkata

exchange4media news service

On Thursday, The Statesman launched its afternoon edition in Kolkata. On the face of it, it is a "first" of its kind. Anywhere, that is. There isn’t another broadsheet-morninger, in India or, arguably, the world that has an afternoon edition, and that too as a tabloid. The Statesman researched the product among its likely readers. Mr. Ravindra Kumar, the Managing Editor, in an exclusive chat with exchange4media, claimed that the dummy-editions evoked an extremely good response.

The (tabloid) format is not the only difference between the morninger and the "afternoon" edition. On being asked if it was going to be an extension of The Statesman, Mr. Kumar said that, in terms of the content too, it is quite different. "Overall, it has a more fun presentation and it is a younger newspaper in terms of content and presentation. For example, it also has a section, which sums up the mornings stories in one page. This gives an evening reader, who didn’t have enough time to go through the morning newspaper a chance to keep himself up-to-date on the happenings." Mr. Shivaji Samaddar, General Manager in New Delhi, added that to emphasize the difference, there would be a regular column on horoscopes that The Statesman has never carried.

Kolkata is no stranger to afternoon tabloids. In the March of 1975, a broadsheet-morninger from the Anandabazar Group-The Hindustan Standard - yielded two publications. Its Sunday supplement was spun-off into a popular weekly news-magazine called Sunday. (Under its founder editor MJ Akbar, Sunday went on to become a phenomenon that heralded a veritable magazine-boom in India.) The other one was an afternoon tabloid. All it could do was to keep the name-The Hindustan Standard - alive. The ritual lasted a little over seven years, till the July of 1982. In the cacophony of Anandabazar group launching The Telegraph, nobody even noticed the disappearance of The Hindustan Standard. Thus ended the first afternoon daily of Kolkata (then Calcutta).

Five years later, in the March of 1987, The Metropolitan was born. Battle-hardened ABP group, flush with the success of The Telegraph, made another attempt at the afternoon slot. This attempt too lasted barely two years. The Metropolitan was last seen in June 1989.

How viable is this attempt? Well, lets look at the facts. At sixteen pages, for three bucks, the circulation will not kill the tabloid, as paradoxically happens to most English dailies in India. With 90 paise going to hawkers and Rs. 1.20 as the marginal cost of production (Statesman will use its idle machine-time and the existing people-infrastructure), the tabloid will pocket close to a buck per copy sold. Advertising rates ranging between Rs.110 (B/W LHS) to Rs. 200 (Clr. RHS) will fetch some more, hopefully. Strategically, the tabloid could be positioned to cushion The Statesman. The Ad tariff of The Statesman are facing an ever increasing pressure, more so as The Telegraph has relegated it into the second position. Instead of a rate-cut, The Statesman could now offer a free ride or a marginal extra on the afternoon edition and secure revenues.

But the moot point is whether the city that lacks a good distribution system for eveningers (Sandhya Aajkal notwithstanding), has a chaotic traffic and extremely harassed commuters find this new offer worth their while. The next few months will tell.

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