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Sanjay Gupta

CEO and Editor | 13 May 2011

Television is a dynamic medium, and we are a dynamic group. We are proud to be in print at this moment, because of the credibility of the medium and the way it is being run. I don’t want to be seen in the clutter of the way television… You hardly see news channels making profits. We are not averse to television, but we are not getting into television for another four to five years.

Jagran Prakashan plays a tough game every day, and why not? It is the largest read daily in India, and on some forums, industry leaders point out, that Jagran is amongst the largest read dailies on a global level. As CEO and Editor, Sanjay Gupta plays the challenging role of ensuring this leadership and widening the gap against competition. Given its web strategy, or its move to acquire Mid Day to gain foothold in the English print industry, Jagran is gearing for the future.

In this interview with Noor Fathima Warsia, Gupta speaks on the print industry, what lies ahead and the role that Jagran will play in the future.

Q. Last year was a busy year for Jagran, given the Mid Day acquisition and rebranding of the Group. Tell us more on how the rebranding is shaping up from the readers’ and other stakeholders’ viewpoint...

Since it was a corporate rebranding, it would mean more to other stakeholders than readers. We are a corporate entity, and being a public company, the company needed to have its own identity. So the whole thing was created for financial markets, advertisers and any corporate relations. It is also for the readers, because the logo is being derived from the word Jagran, and hence there is a connect with the main newspaper Dainik Jagran. So far, the change has shaped up well. It reflects on the way we work, and it will start reflecting on daily work habits, HR practices and things like that. There is a guideline book that we have come up with along with this. It’s a little slow but a steady process, where people will include small, but cultural shifts in their approach.

Q. Would the changed logo be seen across every product from the Jagran Group?

As long as the product is a part of Jagran Prakashan Limited. If, however, JPL is holding a smaller percentage in a company, then maybe not. We would be very careful about where we would want to put the logo, because it should also add to that brand’s own identity, and not just impose.

Q. Let’s speak on the Mid Day relation now. Are Mid Day’s results reflecting in your results yet?

Right now the results are separate, but it would all be consolidated from now on.

Q. Acquiring Mid Day got Jagran foothold in the English space. What were some of the first steps that were undertaken for group synergies?

All purchases are immediately centralised, like news printing and plates, and hence, we have a lot of savings there. On the advertising front, we have already started cross selling. We have also started cross printing at different locations. Even on the content front, there are areas one can collaborate. The two publications track each other’s news. You see Mid Day news in the newspaper and that gives us an edge in terms of reporting. For example, in cricket, Mid Day is very strong, so we get an edge there.

Q. But Mid Day is a tabloid, whereas Jagran is a very serious paper?

But that does not stop Mid Day from coming out with good news.

Q. The other area where we have seen you busy is digital. In fact, Hindi publications have been very active in the space. Are you seeing results as expected?

The tie-up with Yahoo! has been beneficial. Ever since we have tied up with them, the hits on the site have increased dramatically -- it’s literally become three times or maybe even more. Digital very clearly is a very strong medium for news. For us, Delhi is the largest Internet market and Maharashtra is the second largest. Maharashtra is, in fact, interesting, as we don’t circulate there at all. The e-paper and Jagran.com get the second largest hits from there. So, as far as expectation from the medium is concerned, it has really been an interesting and encouraging experience. Today, in India, there are many who are living away from their hometowns and that adds to the ‘need to know’ – Maharashtra, for instance, clearly has a large audience that is keen to know what is happening in cities in Northern India, and hence we are seeing that kind of readership.

Every newspaper should have a website today and not just for hygiene. How well you run the website or how spontaneously you can innovate or how fast you can upgrade – all of these matters. We are even working with videos now. So, maybe in a year or two you will see more videos coming in. So, there is no question about the strength or the future of the medium, but it has yet not delivered in terms of advertising. For a company like us, that is both good and bad. Good, because in a way it means people still believe that print and television are more powerful, and bad, because unless Internet as a medium doesn’t begin showing some revenues, investment in the medium may not happen.

Q. Are you expecting digital revenues to happen?

In specialist websites, absolutely – it really is a matter of time, but not in plain newspaper websites.

Q. Which is why we are seeing companies such as you working on video content?

A company like Jagran Prakashan is essentially a content company. As content company, if we send a reporter or a photographer to cover something, it is important we also find a way for that reporter to be equipped for a multi-media setup. In all seriousness, for videos, all you need is a camera and you can create something good enough for the web. We have, in fact, made it part of the KRA (key resource area) for our teams to inculcate this multimedia outlook. The web helps in making news more efficient, and the kind of monies it requires is small. It’s not that we have gone overboard, so why not prepare our teams for the future. Don’t forget that even as we create specialised websites like ‘JeetLe’ or ‘KhojLe.in’, which we would be looking to monetise in due course of time, newspaper websites, because they are newspaper websites, will always remain with us. Even though we cannot actually sell or monetise them, we will have to add to them – we will have to make it an experience for readers, and then see where we go with it.

Q. Another step we have seen newspapers take to add to reader experience is creating hyper-local editions. As we move forward, how do you see hyper localisation shape up?

As long as there is a substantial community living in a local area, it can happen, and the proposition may grow fruitfully as well. That’s the flexibility a company like Jagran has. We go down to edition as small as 5,000-6,000 copies, but not below that.

Q. But how does a 5,000-6,000 copies edition help in the longer run?

Such small editions give you a foothold in a focussed community or township. We make 5,000 copies, and there are four more newspapers again with 5,000 copies each. That becomes a 20,000-25,000 copies market. And it’s a growing community, so today’s 25,000, is tomorrow’s 50,000 copies. It becomes substantial in itself then. These hyper local editions are basically investments in the future. It takes a relatively smaller investment, but it also allows you to put hyper-local advertisement.

Q. And hence make some money?

Yes.

Q. So, after a busy 2010, what are the plans for 2011?

Well, we cannot disclose precise plans being a public company, but on a broad note, you will definitely see circulation rising for us in this year. We are looking to strengthen our leadership further. We have attracted many new readers in the last four to five years. We feel that we need to add more. In many areas where we are competing as the No. 2 player, we are now aiming to become the lead player.

Q. Would you like to mention any?

No. But that’s the basic philosophy we are working on this year.

Q. Any other vertical we can see you expand in?

We have our verticals in place, and all these are performing well. Outdoors and below the line solutions are performing extremely well, and we would look to strengthen these even more.

Q. From a Group viewpoint, do you miss being in television?

‘Miss’ would not be the right word. Television is a dynamic medium, and we are a dynamic group. We are proud to be in print at this moment, because of the credibility of the medium and the way it is being run. I don’t want to be seen in the clutter of the way television, especially news channels, is being run. Television is an effective medium given its audio-visual nature, but it has more minuses than plusses. You hardly see news channels making profits. As a company, therefore, we do not miss being in television. We are not averse to television, but we are not getting into television for another four to five years.

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