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Battleground Marathi dailies

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Battleground Marathi dailies

Maharashtra, one of the most affluent states of the country, corners 23 per cent of the country’s overall print industry ad-pie and has witnessed a growing literacy rate of 78 per cent. The state is set to witness some keen battle in the Marathi dailies sphere with the Bhaskar Group set to enter the Marathi dailies market in May 2011. The Rs 1,000-crore ad-market, with no significant hike in readership trends in the last few quarters, will not only throw a big challenge for the new entrants, but for established players too.

With the overall readership of ‘Any Marathi’ dailies hovering at an AIR (Average Issue Readership) of 1.89 crore (as per IRS Q4 2010), the challenge for Marathi dailies is not only to add more readers, but also to expand ad-pie as well.

However, there has been growing interest of big brands in a market that has more than 20 big and small Marathi dailies.

Why Marathi?
As per industry experts, the Marathi language newspapers market, which sees around 35 per cent of the total print spend in Maharashtra, still has cities with less than 40 per cent newspaper penetration. These cities could further absorb an increase up to 50 per cent – a silver lining for newcomers.

Ranjeet Kate, Director, Times Group - Regional Publications, which has Marathi newspaper Maharashtra Times, noted, “Not all existing newspapers are fulfilling the rising aspirations of Marathi readers. Hence, a better positioned brand could switch readers and also expand the readership pie.”

Besides Maharashtra, Marathi dailies also cover neighbouring state of Goa. According to experts, more than 6 million copies of Marathi newspapers are circulated in Maharashtra and Goa, and during the period of July-December 2010, there was a 15 per cent growth in circulation over the July-December 2009 period.

Jwalant Swaroop, Director Advertising, Lokmat Media Ltd, felt that the market would see further growth. He, however, said that the challenge was how to increase the share in the total pie of the print advertising.

As per industry figures, on an average 13 lakh people join the literate brigade in Maharashtra every year, hence the market is expanding. This has resulted in more big brands being interested in the Maharashtra market and Marathi dailies genre as well.

A Daunting Task
As in any market, it’s a daunting task for any newcomer to carve out its share of the readership pie, and the Marathi dailies segment is no different. This is particularly true of the Maharashtra market, which has some strongly entrenched existing players, hence reader acquisition would be a huge effort, involving high cost.

However, Indranil Datta, Senior Vice President, Sakal Media Group, sees an opportunity for all existing players as well as the new entrants in the Marathi newspaper market. He believed that the existing players would be able to create segmented offerings to their readers as they already had the domain knowledge about their readers and the market. “The advertisers will see it as an opportunity to minimise wastage, therefore, they will use those options more to build brands,” noted Datta.

Meanwhile, Divya Marathi, which is going to launch from Aurangabad in May this year, has roped in Kumar Ketkar to head the editorial responsibilities. Prior to entering the market, the Dainik Bhaskar Group has carried out a survey to understand the needs of the readers. In the first phase of its interaction, DB Group covered 1.4 lakh households. The Group claims to have a huge advance booking of the newspaper before the launch.

Sanjeev Kotnala, VP, Dainik Bhaskar Group, noted, “Our research has shown the need for an unbiased newspaper. Readers are hungry for a medium where the promoter’s interest is not linked with politics - this is also our prime strength.”

But will the entry of new players fragment the market? Janardhan Pandey, Associate Vice President, Mudra Max, didn’t think so, as he said, “The market is heading towards consolidation. All existing big players are already in the race to expand and consolidate their markets.” However, he did feel that with these developments in the market, the small players would be the casualty.

With some aggressive marketing activities anticipated, the market size is also likely to expand. And readers and advertisers would be a happy lot, as readers would get more choices, better content and product at lesser cost. Meanwhile, advertisers would get a wider media choice, better reach, more circulation, more innovations, newer markets and the best rates. However, the RoI for publishers remains an elusive issue.



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