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INC 2009: The business of newspapers, and making sense of it

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INC 2009: The business of newspapers, and making sense of it

The newspaper business at the end of the day is a business, and in India, this industry has been significantly dependent on the advertising revenues. Taking cognizance of this fact, the second session of the Indian Newspaper Congress 2009 – Making Newspapers Work for Marketers – that was moderated by K-Factor’s Shivjeet Kullar, delved on why people read newspapers at all.

Kullar spoke on how the industry should reengineer itself to continue to make sense to the current readers and attract the new readers. And in the process serve a purpose for the advertisers in the overall plan. There were mixed views from the panel, where they spoke on whether newspaper could offer the power of targeting like the Internet, whether advertisers were too skewed towards English media and whether the message grew along with the media too.

Kullar noted, “It doesn’t matter what product you are, or in which medium, you have to constantly reinvent and evolve. It is like moving from Windows 97 to Vista. One has to go back to the fundamentals and look at why people read newspapers in the first place. Are we re-engineering our products to get the readers back and retail them? Are we doing the right things to ultimately then make sense to the advertisers?”

The Marketer’s Standpoint

Ranjivjit Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, Microsoft India, who was speaking as a marketer at the INC, said, “Consumers generally have less time and they want to get things done in a jiffy. They have more choices across all domains and sectors and there is a sense of immediate gratification. Gone are the days when you could just spray mass and eyeballs were enough. Today, profiles and personas; what delights different people and so on, matter – the power of targeting exists today, and when you are looking at that upward urban India, internet is a mass medium.”

Alok Bharadwaj, Senior VP, Canon India, observed, “Perhaps one clear trend that does come across today is that advertisers don’t understand language dailies as well as they understand English dailies. That said, however, there is a big chunk of money moving to language dailies… You look at circulation five years ago, and you look at the rates five years ago. There has been a 50-60 per cent increase in rates, but the impact has not increased. There is no reason for an advertiser should pay more for lesser impact.”

L&T’s D Morada said here, “Consumerism is in. While we have different goals in the roles we play, there is a shared objective and there is mutual dependency. Newspapers need marketers. However, if you sell the newspaper low, the bills for you to be profitable would be picked up by advertisers. There has to be some alignment between the two, and we have to see how the depth in editorial can help in availing the reach in advertising.”

The new versus traditional media debate

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO (South Asia), Aegis Media, reiterated that the bottomline of the discussion was that newspapers worked and had they not been relevant, there would be no discussion on the subject. He said, “Our whole stance and approach would become different. Perhaps what does need a revisit right now is the way newspapers, agencies and clients are reacting. We have tried to be innovative year after year; we changed the way we were placing ads on top of ads, cover on top of cover and so on, but these are still gimmicks. The real challenge is to get all the stakeholders together and the look for the right solutions.”

Satyajit Sen, Managing Director - North & East, ZenithOptimedia, said, “The debate between the traditional and new media would continue. But in the mainframe, there still is a whole audience of neo literates that is emerging and waiting to be tapped. Newspapers can still reach this last mile and eventually, these people would come in the newspaper reading fold.”

Suresh Balakrishnan, COO, Mail Today, observed, “The media landscape is changing, but newspapers still continue to be the only definitive medium. It is perhaps the only medium, where you can be sure that if you have placed an ad somewhere there would be a certain number of people who are seeing it. That said, newspapers can deliver more, and we need to see how they can deliver better. We have to see how to create new audience, for instance, there is a very clear trend of increase in women readership, and we have to see how to leverage it.”

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