Is there a future for magazines? Soothsayers in the media may say that there isn’t, but given the number of new titles that have been launched in India in the last year, there is reason to believe that business is booming.
As various stakeholders of the trade get together in New Delhi later this week for the fifth edition of the Indian Magazine Congress, and while the deliberations at the event haven’t put up this question in the agenda, the fact remains that almost everyone seems to be asking whether there is a future for magazines.
A disclosure: Since ‘impact’ is part of the work I do and the exchange4media Group publishes a slew of magazines, there is a vested interest in evangelising the trade and seeing that magazines aren’t rubbished the way they often are. Pardon my indulgence with these five pointers…
Quality wins: One of the best ways to win a war is to outsmart the enemy. Figure what its strengths are and attempt to neutralise them. Magazines are at a disadvantage that newspapers can carry all the stuff they can, at a lesser cost and with better frequency. That’s true, but it’s not impossible to beat the papers if your product is right. Take the case of Time Out in Mumbai. The city’s newspapers had sufficient guides to the arts and leisure, but thanks to its time-tested international format and good content, we saw a top quality mag that we haven’t tired of.
Cash in on the mediocrity of the papers: If Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd had woken up some years back to the pleasures of long copy, it could have checked the growth of an India Today, Outlook and The Week. Although there are many who like Crest (the new Saturday paper), I think it’s come a little too late to create an impact. A good Sunday newspaper would’ve made life difficult, but mag-owners need to thank the paperwallahs for the mediocrity that exists there. And I don’t think it’s going to end in a hurry. Rejoice!
Web disappoints: Print magazines could’ve been in trouble if there were robust web avatars in the business. But that’s not to be. Although the number of Internet users have grown, save blogs, standalone online media hasn’t blossomed the way it ought to have. The content you see today on some quality sites like Rediff.com is an apology of what it used to be. I am sure this state of bliss won’t last forever, but until then: make hay!
Television rules, but print is king: The Network18 Group needn’t have stuck its neck out in these recessionary times and bring in the Indian edition of ‘Forbes’, but I guess the rub-off it offers means most positive ‘awaaz’ than half a dozen news channels. The response to ‘Forbes India’ is super, Editor Indrajit Gupta told me last week. He needn’t have: the magazine’s good, has had some ‘hat ke’ features and grows on you.
It’s all about the Packaging: Of the various recaps done post 26/11, the one that I found most striking was by ‘People’, a celebrity news mag with heart. Not all our magazines can boast of the writing we see in international titles, but with better talent coming into magazines, it will get there.
It’s India, and it’s ‘saare jahaan se achcha’ for our mag merchants. Yes, there are several malaises that afflict the business, but clearly that’s not going to dampen the spirits of the trade this week.
(The views of the writer are personal. Post your comments or below or email firstname.lastname@example.org .)