Being in the newspaper industry, one has to constantly address an interesting dichotomy when it comes to providing news for regional markets. Readers in these regional markets have complex needs – one eye trained on an exclusively regional sensibility, demanding news on local issues and subjects, as the other takes in the larger national horizon. They constantly straddle this duality and as a large national media organization serving this group of readers, we cannot but address this dual vision in our products; we have to be the ‘Local Causes, National Voice’. Newspapers like ours – Hindustan Times, Hindustan – are in the unique position of being able to strike a balance between the local and the national, which is the critical need in regional markets. While nothing about striking this balance is a simple process, following are seven universal ways for national dailies to make their mark in regional markets:
Be adequately local: Connect strongly to and champion local issues and customs. Have the readers’ immediate needs at the heart of the product. Give them the news and information that is most relevant to them, and show how it affects their day-to-day lives.
But at the same time, be strongly national and international too: Play on one’s strengths of access to the best of national, international and business news, which regional dailies will not usually be able to provide.
Quality, quality, quality: The universal truth. Leverage the editorial quality and design standard that comes naturally out of a national scale. A reader is a reader is a reader, whether you segment him as national or regional. Every reader cherishes a well-produced paper.
Transfer of best practices: As much as differences across the length and breadth of our country are profound, there are also deep and resonant similarities. Leverage learnings and successes from other markets to gain in newer markets.
National causes that resonate at the local level: Some causes like universal education, corruption, malnutrition, etc., impact every local reader. Only a national newspaper can make them a national movement to drive change that provides benefit at every level.
Use one’s national network to give local issues a national platform: The advantage a national daily has over a regional daily is that of wider reach and a larger impact. Leverage national linkages as was done powerfully by the Hindustan Times and Hindustan Kanpur editorial teams in a campaign they championed to ensure justice for a little girl who was violated and killed in the city. The “Justice for Divya” campaign was able to take advantage of all the vast national networks of the publications to bring wide-spread public attention to a local issue.
Own your national status: One of the biggest drivers of readership on a regional level is the satisfaction of reading a national newspaper as opposed to one that has a solely local perspective, thus invoking the pride of belonging to a larger national identity.
(Shantanu Bhanja, Vice-President - Marketing, HT Media Ltd.)