The might of The Times of India was unchallenged in Mumbai and the market was living in a monopoly of sorts as far as the English newspapers domain was concerned. The other players were Mid-Day and Indian Express. A turning point was seen when between May and July 2005, three more players – Mumbai Mirror, Hindustan Times and DNA – were added to the market. And today, the situation has changed.
The choices have multiplied for readers and advertisers. Even as TOI is still a favourite amongst the marketing community when the objective is to reach a broad target audience, the newcomers are increasingly playing larger roles in comparatively low budget campaigns. Perhaps the most important aspect is that these new publications have managed to increase the English daily reader base in Mumbai. DNA’s CEO KU Rao gave a figure here and said, “The new entrants have expanded the overall print market from a level of 6.5 lakh copies per day in 2005 to a level of 15 Lakh copies per day.”
According to the IRS data, TOI is dominating the English readership in Mumbai and with a margin. Round 1 of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2008 shows that the publication has a readership of 1,571,000. In the last round of the survey in 2007, this number was at 1,553,000. Sibling Mumbai Mirror, which is a compact, is the No. 2 player. The current readership of the publication is at 737,000 in comparison to 719,000 that it had in the last round. DNA, too, has had an increase in its readership – 622,000 in this round from the 603,000 of the previous round.
Mid-Day has a readership of 538,000, up from the 516,000 that it had in the last round. Hindustan Times’ readership is at 381,000, up from a readership of 354,000. However, Indian Express has seen a dip in its readership at 68,000 from the previous 81,000.
TOI dominates, but replacements are available
Nikhil Rangnekar, Executive Director, India -West, Starcom Worlwide, said, “While HT and DNA have managed to gain a decent circulation and readership, they still have a long way to go before they can be considered as serious competition to TOI.” He also said that TOI still dominated the market, but the extent of its domination had definitely gone down.
TOI made a brilliant strategic move by launching Mumbai Mirror, and barred the entry of a second English newspaper in a lot of households. The actual performance of the two new entrants was, therefore, below par. However, they have given an option to advertisers who are looking for low reach high frequency campaigns and for options for getting premium positions like front pages and catching the financial news reader.
Speaking on the impact on the overall print market in Mumbai, Kunal Jamuar, GM, Madison Media, said, “It has definitely damaged the second and third rung publications that were there earlier. TOI has also been impacted, but not to the extent that Mid-Day and Indian Express have been. It is definitely not a monopoly anymore.”
Bringing another point of view here, Divya Radhakrishnan, Senior VP, TME, said, “Although the new publications have managed to increase the English daily reader base of 22 lakh in 2005 to 25 lakh in 2008, this is not as substantial as it could have been with two new entrants. At a gross level, DNA and Hindustan Times add 10 lakh additional readers to the 15.7 lakh reader base of TOI. Hence, they are a great supplement, and at times even a replacement.”
According to Radhakrishnan, both DNA and HT had added 40-50 per cent additional readers to their respective bases since 2006, but TOI had not been able to regain the 1.7 lakh readers that it had lost in 2006. “Thus, it has plateaued,” he noted.
Harish Shriyan, Joint MD, OMD India, on the other hand felt that TOI was still dominating, and still had a monopoly in the market. He said, “If we see the last 2-3 years, the readership base is widening due to these new entrants. Readers and advertisers have more choices in addition to TOI. TOI will still be a first choice for many reasons, but the other publications have a major role to play.”
The established players as confident as the new
DNA’s KU Rao is of the opinion that the word ‘war’ is a bit over the top. Speaking on DNA, that had made quite a lot of noise in the market on its third anniversary, he said, “DNA has delivered to plan and has emerged as the second most circulated daily in Mumbai. Readers now get different view points to a subject than one staid view as in the past.”
Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer, The Times of India, said, “The experience has been very good for us. This is the market where we have enjoyed dominance for many decades, and today we are the No. 1 and No. 2 players. We have continuously grown both in terms of circulation and revenues.”
Commenting on the overall print market, he said, “Overall print in Mumbai has grown very well in terms of competition. It has grown faster than other cities over the last three years.”
Between Mumbai Mirror, Hindustan Times and DNA, DNA has been the most active during its third anniversary. Not only did the paper celebrate the anniversary with its readers from July 28-30, and showcased the ‘DNA Book of Lists’, it also announced its expansion plans in other markets across India, especially in the South.
Despite repeated attempts, Hindustan Times and Mid-Day did not offer any comments for this report.