Elections 2009: Magazines turn on the political heat

Elections 2009: Magazines turn on the political heat

Author | Puneet Bedi Bahri | Wednesday, Mar 25,2009 8:20 AM

Elections 2009: Magazines turn on the political heat

With the Lok Sabha elections less than a month away, the media is on a poll overdrive. exchange4media had covered what the various news channels have up their sleeves as part of their election coverage some time back. This time, exchange4media takes a look at the election coverage in magazines and how they plan to go about the great Indian poll show.

Elections sure are good times for publishing houses to boost their revenues. Magazines come up with very comprehensive poll coverage, offering a systematic consideration of various factors. Credible analysis, expert opinions, a cross-section of views, special supplements, exclusive interviews with major party candidates, past performances, constituency-related news – all are there to woo the readers. Of course, the increase in political advertising by various parties and candidates is the icing on the cake for magazines.

Advantages and disadvantages of being a periodical

According to Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group, “Given their frequency, news magazines such as ‘India Today’ are known to provide readers with credible analysis, perspective and insight, rather than report an event minute by minute. Our websites, however, will be updated more frequently and will offer the best of both worlds. Either way, it is a win-win for our readers.”

India Today will also be coming up with several special supplements and initiatives as part of its election coverage.

Suresh Selvaraj, President, Outlook, too, said that elections are not a minute by minute event. “It is a process. Being a periodical, we can watch the events that unfold, analyse them and give the readers a whole perspective. Magazines could also provide background information and a cross-section of views (not necessarily the chosen few on a dais). Readers tend to read them at their leisurely pace to understand the intricacies of the issues at hand ruminate and share opinions,” he added.

Sandipan Deb, Editor, RPG Publications Pvt Ltd, noted, “I think it’s neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. It is just that TV will do the minute-by-minute coverage, while a magazine like ‘Open’ will take a more reflective approach. We will do analytical stories and stories from the fields that are distinguished by good writing and great photographs. TV coverage of elections can sometimes become strident or frenetic, so we will use the benefit of more time that we have to give a more balanced and quieter assessment of what has been happening.”

Good time to boost revenues

Considering that the industry is reeling under the economic slowdown, the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections are being seen as giving a good boost the magazines’ revenues.

Commenting on this, Bagga said, “There will certainly be an increase in political advertising. It is difficult to estimate the actual quantum as this will depend on the budgets of the political parties.”

Selvaraj pointed out, “Unlike dailies, magazines do not attract political advertising revenues. However, there is a change in the mindset of a few national parties, who might look at magazines for their advertising, considering the ‘influential nature’ of the magazines and their readers’ ability to be opinion leaders.”

Jacob Mathew, Executive Editor, Malayala Manorama, noted, “Elections do not give us a business advantage by way of revenue increase. There could be an increase in circulation, the additional revenue from which is going to be marginal, particularly since the economic meltdown has affected ad revenues.”

Special areas of focus

“At India Today, our forte has always been more than just news, such as detailed analysis and conclusions of election-related news, opinion, trends and projections. So, where a TV channel will report the happenings, the readers turn to India Today for expert opinion and for useful key takeouts that will impact his life and decisions,” Bagga added.

Outlook’s Selvaraj informed, “We have introduced a political fantasy game called ‘Cabinet XI – My Dream Team’. The objective for the contest is to think beyond parties and ideologies. Readers have been invited to select the best and the brightest and be bi-partisan in their minds. If Nehru could have a Jan-Sanghi Shyam Prasad Mookerji in his council, and a Democrat Barack Obama could have the Republican Robert Gates, why can’t India think differently now? This game would make the readers to think outside the ballot box.”

He further said, “We are providing various optional names, cutting across party lines and politics, for the PM and 11 portfolios of ministries. Readers choose what they think is the best combo for the nation. If their choice matches with the jury/panel commissioned by Outlook, we give away 545 prizes with the bumper prize being a trip to London to visit the House of Commons.”

On the special focus, Sandipan Deb said, “We will overall look at the upcoming elections and everything about it through a human lens, whether it is a big leader or a common voter or party policies and strategies. I can promise that ‘Open’ will not have arid and clichéd analysis, or stuff that you have already watched on TV or read in the papers four or five days ago.”

None of the magazines exchange4media spoke to have spoken about increasing their advertising budget during elections. However, Selvaraj did say, “We will not be exactly increasing our advertising rates, but would be doing some activity in the trade circles like web mailers and newsstand promotions, among others.”

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