Even though recent surveys point a decline in various language papers, Marathi readership one of the few that has seen a good run and publications like Maharashtra Times (MT) are benefiting from this.
Irrespective of the survey, MT has seen growth and MT officials explain a prime reason for this being the growing Marathi readership, especially in markets like Mumbai.
Beginning with some numbers, according to IRS 2005 R 1, MT is one of the few products from the BCCL stable that has seen an increase in readership. The readership grew from 1,351,000 to 1,379,000. The increase in NRS 2005 has been from a 1,357,000 to 1,517,000. What is worth noticing is that in both surveys, Marathi publications are one of the regional language papers that have seen an overall increase.
Maharashtra Times, VP, Brand Development, Ranjeet Kate threw light on the reasons that had led to the increase in Marathi readership, "The economy is opening up and the Marathi populace is moving away from what could be called as rigid and narrow minded mindsets. Marathi population in Mumbai want to be treated like any upwardly mobile audience with pan Indian aspirations and dreams. This was the key insight we had from which we embarked on different strategies."
A point Kate drew attention to was the manner in which MT had grown in Mumbai. "There are quite a few Marathi newspapers, but we are clear that we are the metro-centric brand and that is where our strength lies. Marathi readers form 51 per cent of all newspaper readers in the Mumbai market, according to NRS 2005, and we are the second largest read daily in Mumbai after TOI."
He explained that some of the recent advertising campaigns reflected the intention of the paper to target the modern Mumbai Marathi families. "We talk to those Mumbai Marathis who are comfortable reading a Marathi paper and are embracing new attitudes and lifestyles. These Mumbai Marathis are confident and are ready to compete with the best in class in the metro and they have driven the growth of the paper."
Throwing more light on this, he enumerated steps that the organisation had taken to make the brand stronger. "We repositioned the brand," said Kate, "MT offered readers editorial, events and marketing, which gave them first class treatment. We enhanced focus on sectors like career, education and finance, which were not covered properly in the existing Marathi papers by offering daily pages on these subjects, including a page called The Economic Times, which helped readers extract more out of their resources."
Among the other steps that the paper took was inducing reader interactivity. "Everyday on the masthead of MT we carry a fresh image of Ganapati contributed by a reader and acknowledged the sender's name on the first page and we offered readers continuous excitement through SMS polls and contests," Kata added.
For MT, the paper's repositioning has succeeded. Kate spoke of points like unduplicated and incremental readership that the paper offered, which was a positive aspect in its way forward.
"We deliver an incremental 84 per cent of MT readers. The reason is simple – while English would continue to be the language for career enhancement, a Marathi would always love to have the flavour of his culture delivered in a contemporary format," he noted.
In terms of both circulation and readership, MT is seeing a good phase and the paper is keen on capitalising on that by lining up new initiatives to tap on the Marathi reader. Experts have emphasised on various forums that the future of print will throw city-centric players with localised content driving growth, and Maharashtra Times is an example.