One of the most important things that happened in 2014 which pre occupied everybody’s bandwidth and business plan was that this was the election year, first four month of the year were all about this anticipation of what will happen. There was a sentiment that government will change and BJP will come in power.
Till one month before the election there was a question mark whether BJP will have sufficient numbers and Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister, there was an uncertainty. And because there was negative sentiment from the economy, so the planning for that was in most cases ‘let’s wait it out and let the election happen and then proactively work on it’.
I am saying this on a very strategic level though life carries on an work carries on but no big decisions were taken so the first five months were spent with that and next few months passed judging the Honeymoon period of Mr Modi and again the expectation were so high and he came with such a huge mandate. Some people started expecting overnight miracles some people started rationalising and the end reality is not much has changed in entire year.
The level of business activity has remained at a fairly subdued level. Whatever advertising agencies I have spoken to in the last few months have expressed that on the top line level ad spends have increased a little. That has been primarily fuelled by these e-commerce companies otherwise they have seen a dip in ad spends in most of the traditional sectors. If e-commerce wouldn’t have spent in the festive season the overall ad spends would have gone down.
The other important thing really happened this year that though e-commerce as a sector has really mushroomed , it’s not sustainable and one should not depend only on this sector. I think we should be very cautious about this and this is not the only sector which will define our ad spends. There was another apprehension that government advertising might take a big dip with the new government because previous government was criticized for over exposure to publicity for all their schemes and programs.
On the contrary, I have seen more money being spent from government and all towards a positive PR for either the current government or states controlled by the same government but towards that end there was no landmark end in government advertising .
I would probably want to point out that something that is a missed opportunity for publishers this year which doesn’t relate to media ad spends but far more fundamental. This is the first time that a law commission has been set up which is proactively looking at the issues of media law . The 20th Law Commission which is essentially a body that gives recommendations to the Ministry of Law. They have taken up the issue of media laws substantially. However the consultation paper the law commission had circulated in May has focused mostly on regulation of media. They sought responses on the question on paid news, opinion polls, individual privacy defamation. It is preoccupied with the question of how to regulate media. In a sense the government wants to regulate media and it is trying the best to do that and media has allowed that to happen.
A lot of media organisations could have collectively taken a more important role. Magazine industry remains in a status of continuous flux. In a way that flux is limited to magazines that are involved with news as a primary content. There is a negative sentiment attached with magazine business more than the real issue. The real issues is yes news as a genre is no longer the domain of magazines and whichever magazine is in news domain will continue to have a very strong existential crisis but if you are a special interest magazine or if you’re a non-news magazine, then you can still add lot of value to your readers, which is where most of magazine publishers should be focusing on.
The author is Editor, Caravan Magazine and Director, Delhi Press Group.