Printing (Thomson Press) is what they started with. During Emergency, with a little help from Mohammad Younus, (who, besides various roles he played, also was the special emissary of the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi) India Today was launched. It went on to redefine newsmagazine journalism during the turbulent eighties. India Today, after that, spawned its regional language clones. In late eighties TV Today too came into being with its hugely popular monthly news video – Newstrack. Before launching Aaj Tak a year ago, their “Sab se tez” news channel in Hindi, TV Today remained a News/ Current Affairs progamme vendor to DD. With their successful foray into television, and the group’s Radio Stations almost nearing their launch, Living Media Group is now close to realising its on-again off-again ambition - a daily newspaper.
According to sources, the group is launching an afternoon newspaper soon. Rather than launching a new brand, the group is contemplating taking over an existing title ‘The Metro Today’, which is reported to be with a Bangalore based entrepreneur. Media watchers say that the move, apart from filling in a gap in the product line for the group, is being launched to capitalise on the impending ‘Metro Rail’ services, in Delhi. The obvious inspiration is Mumbai’s Mid Day. It is seen as a move to capture the traveling public during the day. Mid Day, the hugely popular daily in Mumbai, owes a large part of its circulation to the lifeline of the city; the Suburban train services. Mid Day had tried its luck in Delhi during late eighties but withdrew soon after, leaving a rump behind, called Delhi Mid Day. The eveninger still shows up once in a while at the traffic signals, more as a ruse for beggars than a commuter’s news-fix.
While Mid Day’s success may be an obvious inspiration, news readership trends in Mumbai and Delhi are as different as chalk and cheese. According to media sources, the key to a successful afternoon newspaper in Delhi would be the delivery points. Unlike Mumbai where the public transport system is more organized and the number of newspaper delivery points like stations, traffic jams provide a good opportunity, Delhi due to its lack of a mass public transport systems has a higher private vehicle usage ratio. This in turn means that people either read newspapers at home or in office. Mumbai though presents a different trend where people can be found reading papers even in crowded trains to optimize on their time.
The newspaper will cost a buyer two rupees and is slated to be launched as early as March 2002. The preparations for the same are on at a hectic pace. The online division of the group, India Today Group Online (ITGO), is spearheading this project. Kalli Purie, the daughter of the Editor-in-Chief and the owner, Aroon Purie, heads this division. For the past one year, ITGO has been trying hard to push its online daily ‘The Newspaper Today’. They were also the first ones to go pay for this daily. Manoj Sharma, India Today’s Ad sales head for North India has been moved to drive the Ad sales.
According to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation the first phase of the service will be functional starting the end of this year. Phase I of the service has been designed with a carriage capacity of 19.5 lac passenger-units per day and will be fully operational by 2005. Assuming every person takes a round trip and the afternoon till evening (prime time) traffic accounts around 60% of the total traffic, we arrive at a figure of 5.85 lacs as the potential market. If one were to make a conservative assumption that 10% of them would buy the newspaper, Metro Today could get a circulation close to 0.6 lacs only from this segment (assuming it stays as the only dominant player in the market by then).
Sales are obviously expected from other quarters as well. Tapping the afternoon office crowd would be another potential market, which hasn’t been exploited as yet. But if the group pulls off yet another success here, most interesting fallout might be the change in Delhi’s image. This Puppy city is rumoured to be more of a Butter Chicken country than serious news junkies’ abode. But then, who ever said that eveningers are for serious news.