On June 7, Economic Times (ET) launched its Cochin edition. Interestingly, the publication will take a break on Sunday. The pricing too is different from other markets. Given the low existing readership base and sluggish markets, what makes Times so bullish?
Lets look at the numbers first. According to ET, the current Chennai edition sells close to 12,000 papers in Cochin. Given some timelag in reaching Cochin, ET believes that market can grow significantly. However, National Readership Survey 2001 doesn''t offer a rosy picture. According to NRS 01, ET is read by only 8,000 readers in Cochin. Hindu Business Line also records similar numbers. Even established Chennai edition of Economic Times is read by 26,000 readers only. A far cry from Mumbai readership of 2,20,000 readers.
What is interesting to note is that ET is going to be available six days a week only - Monday to Saturday. No edition on Sunday, that is. The pricing war unleashed by the Times Group all over the country will not be as fierce here as the group has priced the weekday edition at Rs 3 (ET in Delhi and Mumbai sell at Rs 2) and the Saturday edition at Rs. 9.
Expecting that the newspaper will sell 15,000 copies (up from 12,000 right now), it will just about make Rs 45,000 per day i.e, 10 Lacs per month (including Saturday edition) from subscription. Advertising hence forms a critical component of the game plan.
So how do the media planners react to this move?
Says Srikant Raman, Media Director, Optimum Media Solution says," Cochin is an upcoming metro that has a population of around 10 lakhs with a growing number of entrepreneurs and corporate houses coming up in Kerala. With the launch of ET Cochin edition, they have targeted decision-makers in corporate, stock market savvy people, entrepreneurs etc. There are only two dailies, which have a strong hold in this market; Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi. But both the papers are also targeted to the lower SECs. If one had to release an Airline Ad, then there was no choice but to take these two editions, which would result in huge amount of spillage. Not any more."
Not everyone is so convinced about the move though. Says Sai Nagesh, GM, Maximize, "In Cochin, people also like to read newspapers which come from outside the state and hence cover areas outside Kerala. It would have been better if they had improved their logistics and provided the Chennai edition much faster because Chennai edition anyway had an acceptance in Cochin. Advertisers will use the hugely read regional dailies anyway and given the limited allocations to Kerala market, advertising in ET Cochin will be remote."
Recent readership trends may be encouraging ET. According to IRS 2001 Round 2 data though the total readership of Malayalam Dailies fell by 1.4%, the fall was witnessed primarily in the SEC C category. SEC A & B, which would be the prime markets for the Cochin edition saw a growth of 14.3 % and 9.2% respectively.
Says Praveen Tripathi, Consultant, Communication and Media Effectiveness, " This is a very good strategy to cover the whole south market as earlier they had Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad edition and now Cochin. I think it would be more cost effective option to reach key decision makers."
While not everyone may be bullish, given Times Group''s researched strategy and marketing muscle, Cochin could well have a new catalyst in the growing business environment.