In times of economic recession what works is long term planning and having international quality editorial in localised flavour. This was the mantra for riding out the economic downturn according to George Green, President & CEO, Hearst Magazine International. He was addressing the distinguished gathering at the Indian Magazine Congress 2008, being held in Mumbai on September 22-23. The two-day Indian Magazine Congress is being organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in association with WWM, Worldwide Media. exchange4media Group (exchange4media.com, Pitch and impact) and Business Standard are the media partners.
Green urged magazine publishers to work upon long term goals or else face an early extinction. Issues like cover price and ad rates that amassed the profits did not really help a publication survive in times of economic recession, he noted.
Sharing his 19 years of experience with the Hearst Group across different countries, Green said, “Economic recession, high newsprint price and competition are part of every single market, but the key to survival is not in looking forward to short term goals like cover prices and ad rates, but to frame a long term strategy and work towards a content that the readers do not know about, rather than giving the readers content they know. Hearst as a group has always worked upon the same theme and has been successful in difficult times such as the 1933 US recession and most recently, the 1998 Russian crisis.”
“India as a market is big and has a huge scope for magazines. We, too, are eyeing to grab a share of this market. But in a diverse market like India, where there are 15 regional official languages, apart from English, the catch for us would be to up the ante for both quality of the content and the overall product as there will always be someone waiting in the wings to take your place with an even better business and editorial plan for readers,” Green added.
Citing the rise of digital space in the publication spectrum as an add-on to the main product, Green was of the view that if a magazine had a digital platform of its own then its portal should be treated as an extension of the brand with add-on interactive tools. Here he cited the example of what Hearst did in Australia. “Each and every magazine of ours in Australia has its own website with add-ons such as games, whistle, etc., and as a result of the same, we have been able to differentiate our products to different TGs across different medium,” he pointed out.
Sharing the concern on retention of readership, Green said, “Digitisation of the magazine has imposed a problem for us as 80-90 per cent of the people who read our websites, don’t read the print version of the magazine.”
As to why many international players had faced failure in the overseas markets, Green said that they allowed their size, money and track record to push them towards believing that if it worked in their home country, it would work in overseas markets too.
“We believe that the Indian and Chinese markets are very different from each other. China has one culture and language, whereas India has a diverse culture and 15 regional official languages, which is why it would not be fair to treat two different markets on the same scale despite both having a similar sort of economic growth rate,” Green noted.
Green also revealed that the Hearst Group would be foraying into the Indian market in the next two years via a joint venture and would aim to make the India business as lucrative as other markets.