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Anant Nath

Director | 15 Mar 2013

New media is not eating into the pie of print content. If you pick any successful digital media portal, invariably it is a replica of the print publication. Most digital content is riding on the back of traditional media, whether it is broadcast or print… As long as we can evolve a new paid model in digital, print has nothing to fear. But so far there are no successful and sustaining digital revenue models. Some day all publishers will realise that we need to have a paid model on digital as well.

Anant Nath is the Director of Delhi Press Group and Managing Editor of ‘The Caravan’. He joined Delhi Press in 2005 and started by working in the marketing department. He has since then taken over a larger publishing role, steering the organisation towards becoming a dynamic and a well-rounded media house. Nath is also on the Executive Committee of Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) and Indian Languages Newspapers Association (ILNA).

In conversation with exchange4media’s Abid Hasan, Nath speaks about the flaws in the current readership measurement methodology, having a paid model for digital content and more…

Q. As per the latest IRS results, both English and Hindi magazine have seen decline in average issue readership (AIR). What is the reason for this decline?

From our perspective, I think problems have remained the same – we are not sure of the IRS methodology per se, how effectively it is capturing the magazine readership, what is the rationale behind the methodology, the different parameters that IRS has for evaluating the AIR, the time limit it sets for each slab of readership and so on. The IRS survey is like a black box for us, from our perspective, we can’t rationalise the degrowth of readership, there has to be some counter-balancing. Not all magazines are showing degrowth, many of the magazines are growing; hence, there is something fundamentally wrong with the readership methodology.

Q. Magazine publishers have consistently complained that IRS doesn’t do them injustice and paints a poor picture of their reach. What is your take on that?

I think it is quite possible, because for niche magazines specially, I can’t imagine how IRS will pick those readership numbers. For instance, if a magazine is selling 20,000-30,000 copies, IRS won’t be able to capture that readership since it is so small and so diffused, but it doesn’t mean that readership is not there. So, magazine publishers have the grounds to say that their subscriptions are growing, even if they are small.

Q. Do you think any other committee should be formed to do such a survey?

Such a committee is fine if it shares its methodology and makes sure that its takes the consensus of the publishers and formulates a methodology that everyone has agreed upon. I would suggest that rather than changing the committee let it reevaluate the methodology. There needs to be more transparency.

Q. But how to deal with marketers and advertisers who advertise on the basis of IRS data?

Yes, I understand they will go after the numbers, because we have only one currency; and because there is only one currency in the market, you need to be much more responsible.

Q. What is your opinion on new media, how is it growing? Is it beginning to affect print’s share?

New media is not eating into the pie of print content. If you pick any successful digital media portal, invariably it is a replica of the print publication. Most digital content is riding on the back of traditional media, whether it is broadcast or print. So in that respect it is not competing. No doubt there is a huge increase in digital consumption, but the point is that the site that users are consuming is an online version of the print product. So in that respect though the publishing house is losing readers, digital is creating a free readership. This is a negative development as the content is not paid. That’s the reason many magazines are shifting to the paid model.

As long as we can evolve a new paid model in digital, print has nothing to fear. But so far there are no successful and sustaining digital revenue models. Some day all publishers will realise that we need to have a paid model on digital as well.

Q. According to the Pitch Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2013, report, print is back on top in terms of advertising spends after a period of four years. Do you think this strong performance will continue?
I think that in the near future it will continue to be. I don’t know about the long term, but for the next 10 years print will remain on top just because the literate population is increasing, and when any country’s literate population is increasing, print will always remain the dominant media platform. Even though growth on digital will be far better, it will be a small base and digital will be far more fragmented.

Q. How is the niche magazine market shaping up in India?
Magazines by category are meant to be very specialised products, so it means that the niche sector will only grow in the years to come. India is at a stage where the magazine market is not as evolved as in the West. There is a huge potential in India for a lot more niche magazines, however, their circulation may remain small. But as long as they remain sustainable, it will work. The problem in India is distribution, which is so weak that it doesn’t allow even small magazines to stand on their feet, that’s why there are lots of hits and misses. Thus, while on the one hand 35 magazines may be launched in a year, on the other hand, 20 of them may have to shut shop because of distribution issues.

Q. What are the key focus areas for Delhi Press in 2013?
Delhi Press has dedicated this year for rebranding and promoting all its publications via various media platforms, a series of on-ground activities and revamping some its prominent offerings, including ‘Saras Salil’, ‘Champak’, ‘Grihshobha’, ‘Caravan’, and ‘Sarita’.

We are also coming up with two new magazines in April – ‘Highlights Genies’ and ‘Highlights Champs’ for the 2-12 age group.

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