Day one of the Indian Magazine Congress 2006 saw some interesting discussions on 'The future of magazines' and 'Powering growth strategies for magazines in English and Indian languages'.
Prior to the commencement of the morning sessions, Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group, in his opening address said, "India is currently experiencing an unprecedented growth in mainstream magazines, niche publications and B2B periodicals. In a relatively more liberalised policy regime laid down by the Government of India, which addresses JVs, licencing and syndication for print media, magazines have benefited the most with over 50 applications receiving the government's approval in just one year."
He also pointed out that the Indian magazine media landscape was still underleveraged in terms of its share of advertising revenue when compared to newspapers and other media forms.
According to him, magazines faced several daunting challenges today – real-time constraints such as unrealistic norms for certifying paid circulation by the Indian ABC causing a mass exodus of magazines from its membership; research methodologies for national research studies were skewed towards newspapers; and huge pressure of talent acquisition and retention.
The opening session of day one explored 'The future of magazines'. Moderated by T N Ninan, Editor, Business Standard, the panelists for this session included Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today; Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook Group; Donald Kummerfeld, President, FIPP; and Jacob Mathew, Editor and Publisher, Malayala Manorama.
Purie was first off the block when he promptly said that the first thing that he foresaw for magazines was that cover prices would go up. He saw it as a healthy development. "The opening up of the print policy in terms of FDI and licencing will expand the market."
Outlook's Mehta lamented the fact that the Indian magazine industry as a whole had not been able to counter the dismal picture presented by the national readership figures for magazines. "We have reacted rather poorly," he said, adding, "Why are more magazines being launched if it was such a loss making business?"
In order to survive in the future, Indian magazines needed to reinvent themselves, Mehta stressed.
All the panelists agreed that the digital media offered an opportunity to magazines instead of being a threat as it provided, among others, a low-cost opportunity in terms of distribution. "Net is not a threat, but an opportunity for Indian magazines," said Purie.
Kummerfeld felt that search engines could be tapped to the benefit of the magazine media. "Ways have to be found as to how we interact with search engines. It is a great challenge as well as an opportunity," he said.
Speaking about the English language and regional language media, Purie said that the current ad flow was not much towards the regional media. "Even though they have 70 per cent of the circulation, they got only 30 per cent of the ads," he noted.
The second session of the morning dealt with 'Powering growth strategies for magazines in English and Indian languages'. The moderator here was Rahul Sen, Promoter, Alchemy Social Infrastructure, while the panelists included Paresh Nath, Managing Director, Delhi Press; Mahesh Peri, President and Publisher, Outlook Group; Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today; and Pramath Sinha, Managing Director, ABP Group.
Peri felt that the sub-30 age group offered a great market for magazines and should be tapped and brought into the readership field. Agreeing with Nath said that youngsters needed to be presented with a medium as and when they liked.