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News in magazines is dead: Prosenjit Datta

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News in magazines is dead: Prosenjit Datta

With a group of investors buying Businessworld earlier this year, the business magazine has got a fresh infusion of not just capital, but also ideas for expansion as well as a secure future.

In conversation with exchange4media, Prosenjit Datta, Editor, Businessworld shares the future course of action at the magazine, emerging trends in the magazine industry, stemming the decline in magazine readership and more...

With a new management on board, what have been some of the significant changes in Businessworld?
The biggest positive of the new management coming on board has been the fact that they deeply believe in Businessworld’s content and expanding the Businessworld brand, which has been a fairly prestigious brand. With the new management, the magazine has got a lot more attention, especially regarding the kind of advertising to be done to promote the profile and image of Businessworld. There is also far more attention in terms of resources that are needed for expansion, for strengthening the digital offering as well as events.

Going forward, what will be the key focus areas for Businessworld?
We have charted out a number of plans for the magazine. For a very long time, we have been a magazine that focuses on making our readers future ready, to try and figure out what are the future opportunities and threats for corporations in Indian and industry in general. It has been really a strength in spotting trends, both positive and negative, and that remains the focus. However, they were a number of things that we weren’t able to add earlier that we are planning to add now; these include sections that we had conceptualised, which will be introduced in the next three months. We are expanding the coverage of the magazine, which will be implemented in a couple of months’ time.

Coming to the magazine industry, what are some of the key emerging trends?
There have been two critical shifts – first is digital, while the second shift has been in magazine outlook as a whole since reading habits are changing rapidly. People still think of news weekly business, but news in magazines is dead and no magazine can position itself as a news weekly. In the era of Twitter and 24-hour news channels there is no sense for magazines to focus on news. The focus should really be on long form, deeply analytical articles, which are doing better worldwide. Anybody who has stepped out of the news game is doing well. It’s really a question of how you position it well.

We have seen closure of some magazines recently. Do you think it’s a wakeup call for the magazine industry?
I don’t think this is a wakeup call, but a call for caution against expanding madly just because the money is available. It’s the nature of the business that as long as there are one or two players, they will do well, but the moment there are 50 titles, they will not do well.

India has more business magazines than the US, how do you expect these to survive if the market is limited. In the long term, magazines will move to the digital medium to survive.

As per the Indian Readership Survey data, readership of English magazines is on the decline. What do you think is the real reason for this – not enough advertising or not enough readers?
Neither, because IRS is meant to capture only print readership. If I am not wrong, IRS is not capturing digital readership data, hence there is no way of knowing about the number of people reading a magazine online. Moreover, I don’t think it’s a question of advertising so much, because advertising is the other end of the game – if you have the readership, you will get advertising and not vice-versa.

What is your opinion on new media, how is it growing? Is it beginning to affect print’s share?
I would tend to think that it is very clearly affecting readership in print across the board – whether they are niche magazines, mainstream magazines or newspapers. There is far more consumption taking in digital media for the same product.

For Businessworld, events have always been an essential part – BW Mega Awards, Entrepreneur Awards and so on. Are you planning to continue with the events under the umbrella of the new management? 
We will be further intensifying our focus on events now. We’ve had a series of events earlier that died down because nobody was paying much attention. Under the new management, we intend to not only revive these events but also take new events into the fold, all of which will have a very strong editorial fit.

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