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impact Roundtable on Compact Newspapers: Format lends to content, and content matters

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impact Roundtable on Compact Newspapers: Format lends to content, and content matters

impact, the weekly from exchange4media Group organised a Roundtable on Compact newspapers in Mumbai on August 28 to delve on whether compact newspapers were the future of the newspaper industry. The panel that included members from publications, advertisers, advertising agencies and research agencies stated that at the end of the day, it was the content that mattered. However, in the evolving Indian industry, compact allowed segmentation and hence, better targetting. Aakar Patel, Director, Hill Road Media moderated this discussion. The impact Roundtable on Compact Newspapers was presented by Yuva.

The panellists included Manajit Ghoshal, CEO, Mid Day Infomedia; Meenal Baghel, Editor, Mumbai Mirror; Abhay Desai, CEO, Yuva; Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal; Sandeep Lakhina, MD, India – West, Starcom Worldwide; Premjeet Sodhi, EVP, Lintas Media Group; Rajneesh Chaturvedi, Director, MEC Access; Sabina Solomon, General Manager, MRUC; Manish Bhatt and Raghu Bhat, ECDs, Contract Advertising; and Abdul Khan VP-Marketing, Tata Teleservices.

Patel kicked off the discussion with a brief overview on compact format. Giving global examples, he said that Europe had a clear future for the compact format; in Spain, there are no broadsheets, as is the case in Asia and Malaysia. In Japan, all major papers are broadsheets. India, America and Australia too are broadsheet countries.

Compact format allows clutter-breaking amidst broadsheets

Most large publications in India are broadsheets. In a sense, this explains the recent upsurge in compact newspapers. With most Indian homes getting at least one broadsheet, wisdom was in competing on another front. Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL) perhaps had little choice. One of the first compact newspapers that made way on the Indian scene was Mumbai Mirror in 2005. The Times of India from BCCL already dominates the market, and Mumbai Mirror was BCCL’s flanking strategy. Mirror was given away free with TOI and media agency heads believe that the strategy worked.

Meenal Baghel explained here, “It made no sense to give a replica, and it would be difficult to distribute two broadsheets as one package. It was a very logical thing and our job was cut out. Mumbai Mirror immediately dictated what to expect. We told ourselves that our competition is The Times of India, and how can we be different. Compact needs to have an emotional bond – it is about attitude, relevance, and proximity, and that is what we were working towards.”

Nandini Dias said here, “The BCCL strategy to distribute Mumbai Mirror with TOI made sense. One, it got two papers in the house at one stroke – that solved the question of whether the consumer had the wherewithal to buy two newspapers. Then, TOI was a lot more serious, and Mumbai Mirror brought in a different dimension altogether.”

Sabina Solomon reasserted that more than the format, it was the content that mattered. She explained that DNA had a skew towards women, and the paper’s content was more colourful and lively. Speaking on the Mumbai Mirror example, she said, “The display of the paper itself is different. It has so many more pictures, the front page is done so differently. End of the day, it is the content that matters, and the compact format lends itself to the content.”

Sandeep Lakhina was of the opinion that the format was more of a psychological aspect. He said, “From a pure planning point, numbers are the driver.” Premjeet Sodhi agreed with that and added, “But the important point is that we are moving from just creating media plans to crafting communication strategies. Things like content-product integration come in play here and when you are thinking at that level, then size matters.”

Are there too many compacts in the market already and does that make a difference? Rajneesh Chaturvedi replied, “It would to the quality of the product. In fact, the very idea of the compact stems from the fact that what is it that can be offered more. Competition would make the editorial content better, and then the differentiating factor would be the key. For instance, when Mail Today enters Mumbai, what would its selling proposition be?”

More segmentation, better targeting

One advantage that all the panellists agreed that a compact format brought to the table was the opportunity to segment the market further. Abhay Desai explained, “We are still in the age when broadsheets are talking down to the readers. By its very nature, a compact doesn’t do that. The youth doesn’t like to get into the broadsheet for that reason. And that is why compact draws in younger audiences.”

Manajit Ghoshal also raised the point on crisp content and said, “The ivory tower talk days are gone. We are very clear that we don’t want to get into the broadsheet space. The reader wants the news quick and then they want to discuss it. The YUMPI positioning to target the young office audience that too is of that mindset. The compact format allows you to do that, and a broadsheet wouldn’t.”

Solomon seconded the point that the compact format had a younger skew in its readership. For the panellists, size mattered on other counts too. Manish Bhatt explained, “For some of the ads like real estate, the size does matter and what format is the publication then had a role to play. More importantly, where your ad appears can be a thrill or a pain.”

Abdul Khan also made this point. He said that the environment in which the ad appeared also was of significance. Khan stated that compact journalism wasn’t immediately equated with tabloid or yellow journalism and that if a compact newspaper had content that kept the reader engaged on the page longer, it made sense for the advertiser as well.”

Sodhi added here, “Ultimately, an ad by itself is of no use, it rides on the content. From the overall newspaper point of view, if the ad covered more space than the content, the time spent on the page is minimal, and the opportunity to see goes down.”

Dias reiterated that agencies such as Lodestar Universal did tend to look at the format and she cited the examples of Kumudum and Reader’s Digest to point that sometimes the numbers were there, but the size was a problem. Lakhina stated that segmenting would allow focussed targeting. Also the compact format meant more local news.

The panel was of the view that the two formats of compacts and broadsheets would co-exist. And as Abdul Khan put it, the future could well be about compacts that were as compact as devices such as mobile phones and the discussion then would be of m-papers and e-papers.


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