Smaller format dailies have found a firm foothold in the market and are set to establish themselves as a major segment with high growth rates within the print media. Current players in this segment see a definitive change within the next five years.
At the same time, they also want readership bodies like MRUC and NRS to formulate appropriate parameters to measure the smaller format newspapers as they have a clearly distinct and different readership from that of the broadsheets.
These thoughts were expressed on Monday, March 31, 2008, at the exchange4media Roundtable on ‘Is the Indian market ripe for smaller format (compacts, tabloids, Berliners) dailies?’ held in the Capital. exchange4media Roundtable was held in association with and sponsored by
iNext of Jagran Group. Taking part in the Roundtable were Suresh Balakrishnan, COO, Mail Today; Alok Sanwal, Project Head, iNext of the Jagran Group; Sameer Kapoor, President, Metro Now; and Sunil Mutreja, President-Marketing, Amar Ujala Publications representing Amar Ujala Compact. The roundtable was moderated by Kalyan Kar, Editor, exchange4media.
In many ways, 2007 was a watershed year for the smaller format dailies with the launch of business daily Mint, Mail Today, Metro Now. Even the Hindi language media joined the bandwagon with the launch of iNext by the Jagran Group, and Amar Ujala Compact from the Amar Ujala Group. Till then, the market only had Mid-Day and the Afternoon Despatch & Courier, mainly in Mumbai.
Mail Today’s Balakrishnan made an interesting observation on the strategy that propelled the smaller format. He said, “Globally, newspapers went from broadsheet to compact size in order to revive sagging circulations. It was a defensive strategy to regain market share. But in India, it is a totally different story. Here, newspaper houses are going the compact way more as an aggressive strategy to expand the market, and particularly targeting the youth and female readership.”
Agreeing with him, Metro Now’s Kapoor said that there was a large chunk of untapped readership among the youth and women. He added, “Metro Now was launched to target the youth and women, who may not be all that interested in subjects like politics. They have different interests and espouse an entirely different lifestyle. Our target readers are in their 20s, we believe that ‘bulls-eye’ reader for us is 23. The smaller format daily newspaper has brought in the era of segmenting newspaper readers.”
Kapoor further said that in a city like Delhi, the Metro rail commuting reader, which would be around 2-3 million people soon, was a potential target customer.
Amar Ujala Compact’s Mutreja proffered a different reason for the success of compacts. He said, “There are three reasons behind the success of the compact – content, convenience, and cost factor. For us, it was a move to tap a readership in the Uttar Pradesh market that was not willing to pay Rs 3.50 for the mother brand. So, we brought out Amar Ujala Compact at Re 1. It was like a stripped down car, but it helped us expand the market. And we could also avoid getting into a price war situation with Dainik Jagran.”
Sanwal of iNext explained that market expansion was a key factor for launching a compact. He observed, “For Dainik Jagran, there were two options – either do something with the existing product or launch a differentiated product format with a different price point. The publication opted for the compact format to tap the urban youth readership in the mini-metros of Uttar Pradesh in the 18-35 age group. We also adopted a writing style that reflected the language of today’s youth that mixed English words and phrases in their spoken Hindi.”
All the participants were unanimous on issues pertaining to revenue generation and advertising. Balakrishnan strongly advocated that bodies like MRUC and NRS needed to take cognizance of the fact the smaller format dailies needed different measurement parameters.
He said, “Advertisers always follow the readers, and we know from our own surveys and research that readers adapt to new formats much faster than advertisers. But, till the time you show up numbers, advertisers will remain skeptical.” He further pointed out that the situation of smaller format dailies was similar to what channels like MTV, Disney, NGC or Discovery had faced initially as they were catering to niche audiences and were finding it hard to convince advertisers.
Mutreja added, “A compact newspaper will work well for both retail and corporate advertisers. Compacts are better suited to defining and segmenting audiences, and therefore, advertisers. At the same time, they can also tap advertisers who go to magazines.”
The participants agreed that MRUC and NRS would have to bring in segmentation with specific psychographic profiling to provide a clearer and more focused definition of audience.
exchange4media Roundtable was held in association with and sponsored by iNext of Jagran Group