The Pitch Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2012, after revising its figures for the magazine industry has estimated the ad revenues for the industry at Rs 1,149.5 crore. Put together, the India Today Group, World Wide Media, Outlook Group, Delhi Press and Malayala Manorama Group, command almost 45 per cent of the magazine pie. Some other big players include Spenta Multimedia, Infomedia18 (Rs 35 crore; Infomedia18 is a listed company) and Condé Nast India.
But overall, considering the slowdown in the economy, revenue growth for magazine publishers, especially English remained flat. The months November and December of 2011, followed by the first three months of 2012 have been bad. Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group, describes 2011 as “a roller coaster year.” The year, for the group, started on a positive note and saw revenue growth at expected levels. But the onset of the second half brought in caution. “However, our learnings from the 2008-2009 downturn stood us in good stead and we saw the year through successfully. This was addressed through innovations and non-traditional revenue and profit initiatives, to enable above average growths,” says Bagga.
Amrit Rai, Publisher, Elle India (part of the Ogaan Publications), too feels that leaner and more effective measures continued to be adopted in 2011 by the group, “as the mood was still recessionary.” It was definitely a better year than 2009-10, but has not reached its full bloom, from an advertising perspective, yet.
Amidst all the gloom, cheer came in from new categories exploring magazines as a medium to reach out to consumers. While, according to Maheshwer Peri, Chairman and Publisher, Pathfinder Publishing and Former Publisher of Outlook Group (he still dons a mentoring role at the group), there was “zero action” for about four-five months on the real estate front for the group publications and personal finance saw a slide in spending as well, the categories that saw more spending on magazines included lifestyle and travel.
Bagga of India Today Group, too feels that education, travel and lifestyle, among others have shown more interest in magazines in 2011. Other categories that have increased their share in the print ad pie include clothing/fashion/jewellery and government/social ads.
For Condé Nast, luxury advertisers continued to show interest in the group magazines. According to Oona Dhabhar, Marketing Director, Condé Nast India, “Domestic brands in categories such as jewellery and fashion have seen highest growth rates. As compared to 2010, categories that showed high growth were watches, jewellery, luxury cars, and premium fashion brands.”
The very fact that international magazine publishers are launching new titles here means that they view India as big opportunity. That is good for the industry. According to Tarun Rai, CEO, Worldwide Media, “While it means more competition, it also means that the combined activity of all these new players will only help raise the decibel levels for the magazine industry. It will help raise the industry’s profile. And that is good for us. International competition is also good as it helps raise the bar for the entire industry. And I have said it earlier, certain spaces like the lifestyle and special interest magazines, are the sunrise sectors of Indian media. These spaces are, as yet, very small and there is a lot of room for growth.”
As compared to other forms of mass media, magazines by their very nature, filter audiences from the larger masses in order to build smaller, more engaged, better involved, and highly trusting audiences. Anant Nath, Director, Delhi Press says, “Even the most general interest magazines do so when compared with a newspaper or a television channel. Here lies the great strength of magazines with respect to advertising. When placed in a magazine, the advertisers’ communication gets all the advantages of an uninterrupted, non-intrusive, active, and repeated exposure, as the readers consume the magazine in a relaxed state of mind over a number of different sessions.”
Mitrajit Bhattacharya, President and Publisher, Chitralekha Group and Vice President, AIM shares that magazines probably are the medium where ads are not avoided. “Magazines really work for advertisers in terms of engaging an audience, which is bombarded by over 3,000 messages a day, in an increasingly cluttered media environment. Ads in magazines cannot be avoided and are a part of the overall experience,” says Bhattacharya.
Meanwhile, R Rajmohan, Publisher, Open Media, finds competition as clutter. “The increased clutter levels have become a huge challenge for magazines. Coupled with that is the diminishing attention span, due to multiple distractions. Content has to address some of these issues and smart marketing the rest,” shares Rajmohan.
Are marketers in sync with the publishers as far as the issue of engagement in magazines is concerned? Anisha Motwani, Director and CMO, Max New York Life Insurance, while agrees that magazines have a longer shelf life, and so does the communication riding on it, she feels magazines are largely restricted by reach of the medium itself. “No real growth has been forthcoming over many years. With other options in print becoming more expensive and the need for advertisers to narrowcast, magazines remain a good option from a targeting standpoint. Growing localised retailing also presents an excellent opportunity for magazines,” she says.
There is another set of advertisers, who look at magazines beyond shelf-life and are looking for a particular set of readers, for example, Bharatmatrimony. According to Murgavel Janakiraman, Founder and CEO, BharatMatrimony, each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. “We have found that magazines allow us to reach highly targeted audiences in a more focussed manner. Magazines cater to specific audiences or have editorial content that appeals to specific segments. As such, targeting is more focussed and precise. High reader involvement and better quality paper are two other benefits,” he says.
Another premium offering from the group, EliteMatrimony is a big advertiser in magazines. “The website caters to an affluent readership because it is a premium matchmaking service for the creme de la creme of society. You will find EliteMatrimony ads on in-flight magazines of Jet Airways, Good Housekeeping, Inside Out, Newsweek, Business Today, to name a few,” he adds.
The creative edge
Emmanuel Upputuru, who was the National Creative Director of Publicis India till last month, representing the creative fraternity, says that magazines are more open to innovations and possibilities. “The fact that it is more economical than newspaper and gives you leeway to be more experimental,” he says.
Since there is no immediacy like in newspapers, Upputuru feels that magazines give creative men and even the reader a luxury of time. “You can have a teaser in the beginning, and the main ad towards the end. There is no pressure to sell and you have the luxury of time to persuade the consumer into a brand thought,” he adds.
KV Sridhar, NCD, Leo Burnett and better known as “Pops” in the industry too vouches for the quality of time one gets to design a creative for a magazine. He believes that marketing is not about fighting for shelf space in the mind but heart.
“Magazines are more engaging than any other medium. People spend time reading a gossip column or engaged with the character in a story. This is the mindset one is targeting, and you can create intelligent copies, depending on the magazine you are going with,” he says.
The niche way
The way forward is to go niche and get in the special interest space. Speaking for the India Today Group, Bagga, says that general/news genre in terms of advertising growth was slower than the lifestyle segment, even though circulation demonstrated good traction. “Lifestyle, women and niche magazines such as Cosmo, Harper’s Bazar, Good Housekeeping, Prevention, Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine and Robb Report are witnessing a consistent increase in acceptance among the readers as well as advertisers,” he says.
Adds Sandeep Khosla, CEO (Publishing), Infomedia18, “Contrary to belief, we have experienced a huge traction for special interest magazines resulting in advertising growth in them. Even when general as well as entertainment (film) magazines are rapidly losing out to other medium such as TV, web, radio and daily newspapers. Good quality and relevant content from special interest magazines will continue to increase traction.”
Peri adds, “And now with FDI in single brands being opened up in India, new premium brands that make an entry into the country, will try and find space in special interest magazines to reach out to the right fit. Advertising with general interest magazines and newspapers would be an unnecessary wastage.”
The way ahead
While ‘caution’ is the buzzword for the magazine players in the outlook for 2012, magazine players are optimistic about growth. Khosla of Infomedia18 expects the Group’s ad revenues to grow from the current Rs 35 crore to about Rs 42 crore in 2012. He expects “more traction” in the auto segment in 2012 with big plans from BMW, Audi to garner a bigger share of the Indian consumer wallet. “Luxury brands will increase advertising. I also think, gadgets and gizmos such as smartphones, iPads, Android devices, etc. will definitely advertise more,” he says.
However, the final word comes from the AIM President, as Rai feels that the industry deserves more attention from advertisers. “We can do more to get their attention. Our aim is to raise the profile of our industry and we are focusing on it this year. Magazines are a powerful medium and the most engaging. We will be taking this message across to advertisers and media planners based on the findings of the Engagement Survey AIM had commissioned,” he concludes.
With inputs from Shree Lahiri, Dipali Banka, Deepika Bhardwaj and Neha Goel