The game of thrones over print numbers in Delhi NCR saw a new twist this morning, when readers woke to up a scathing piece in the Hindustan Times. Without naming names, the newspaper carried an article about an alleged case of 'missing copies.' “Whodunit: Removing HT market copies to win ‘morning challenge’?” is the national daily's latest salvo in the ongoing battle with The Times of India, which had earlier challenged the HT circulation figures by launching an advertiser's initiative (TOI retaliates to HT's IRS embrace, launches advertiser initiative)
The HT story says,
“As the strongest and the largest read newspaper of Delhi NCR, Hindustan Times (HT) is used to facing challenges from various quarters. But, over the last few days, HT has been confronting a peculiar challenge: readers complaining about copies not reaching them.... For the last couple of days we have not been receiving the HT,” said Kriti Prakash of east Delhi’s Jhilmil Colony.
Prakash isn’t alone.
Mohd Hafeez, another HT reader, also reported similar experience. “For some reason, the HT has not been delivered to our home over the last few days,” said Hafeez, who stays in central Delhi’s Tilak Marg.
Over the last few days HT offices have been receiving calls from readers from across the National Capital Region (NCR), complaining about not receiving copies of the newspaper.
The article says: The HT’s circulation department, which began a trail from the press to the reader, stumbled upon a startling fact: a group of people descending on various centers early morning, and buying up thousands of copies of HT, sometimes at more than double the cover price.
The fact that complaints were pouring in from areas located more than 50km apart only gave rise to the suspicion about a seemingly organised attempt to keep HT copies from reaching its readers, stated the article in HT.
Quick estimates showed that more than 1,00,000 HT copies were removed from the market forcing an FIR at the Ranjit Nagar Police Station. Some of these copies were even whisked away to Mumbai.
The article also said: In one instance, acting on a tip-off and alerted by complaints, the CRPF confiscated several cartons containing 20,000 copies of HT, which had gone missing from Delhi, shortly after these were being unloaded from the Rajdhani Express and loaded on to a hand-pulled cart in Mumbai.
It still remains a mystery why someone would be removing, stealing or buying HT copies other than the sole reason to ensure that regular readers miss copies of their favourite newspaper, says the article, adding how, “in the same weekend during which thousands of HT copies disappeared from the market, a competition newspaper launched a publication called ‘Morning Challenge’.”
No points for guessing which publication is being referred to here.
HT has set up a help line to address the issue.
In an earlier interaction, Shantanu Bhanja VP (Marketing) and Business Head HT Media said, "HT is conclusively ahead of TOI in Delhi and Delhi NCR for the last several rounds in both Circulation and Readership. Using various cuts of ABC for determining leadership using various strange slices among artificial audience, price and city cuts to claim leadership! - Surely, no one takes those seriously?!”
exchange4media asked Bhanja this morning if by any chance the TOI challenge is impacting their advertising, he replied, “Not for sure, advertisers are smart people.”
He also said, “They are doing this (referring to the aggressive campaign) ever since IRS has come out.”