The 4th Annual South Asia conference leg of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) got underway in New Delhi on November 9, 2010. ‘Redefining the newspaper business’ is the over arching topic of this two-day conference, which includes keynotes and sessions by eminent panellists.
The conference began with a welcome address by Tariq Ansari, INMA South India President and Managing Director, Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. The conference was moderated by Bharat Kapadia, Board Director, INMA South Asia and Director Lokmat. The topic of the first session of INMA was ‘How newspapers initiate positive change in our society’.
Challenges faced by Indian Newspapers
The Keynote address was delivered by Ravi Dhariwal, Vice President, INMA Worldwide and CEO, The Times of India, on the topic - ‘The Challenges faced by Indian Newspapers’. In his presentation, Dhariwal spoke about the journey of the print industry – from challenges to opportunities. He refused to agree to the claims that the newspaper industry is under an eminent threat of extinction.
The first challenge that Dhariwal identified was the challenge of readership and stressed on the need to increase readership. He pointed out that even as circulation was increasing, readership was not, which was a drawback for publishers. He pointed out that once the newspapers could earn from advertisers, only then the readership grew, not when the circulation grew. Even as several members in the industry have raised their concern over low cover price, Dhariwal maintained that having low cover price was still the key. “Whenever we have taken our cover price up, our growth has gone down... Newspapers can’t afford to be expensive in the free content world,” he added. Also, in the metros, youth readership is not growing. To grow readership, the print industry would have to customise the product according to the needs of the consumers, he said.
The second challenge that Dhariwal pointed out was managing volatility. He said, “Recession didn’t create volatility as advertisers were always present. What created volatility in the market were other factors such as the newsprint prices. We need to manage money our costs prudently.”
The third challenge today is to check advertisers influence on edit. “Our edit is what differentiates us as a medium and it is essential that we make it clear to the advertisers,” he said. For newspapers, according to him, maintaining editorial integrity is the most essential thing.
Yet another challenge, probably one of the most pertinent in the eminent future, is newer media forms. Dhariwal said, “The world-wide internet is eating into print, therefore, advertisements too are coming under pressure... Mobile is a tremendous opportunity, but it is an opportunity we must harvest properly, as it should not affect our print business.”
The Brainsnack sessions at INMA was a short and intriguing session of presentation, where three media houses gave an instance of ‘How newspapers initiate positive change in our society’.
Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, Managing Editor, The Siasat Daily, spoke about some of the initiatives they took to bring about a social change. The Siasat Daily took upon the responsibility of teaching children and empowering women in a conformist society. The group also gave out several scholarships to students with merit and made people aware of the various government sponsored scholarships available. The group also gave training to over 15,000 boys/ girls for BPO industry who now have jobs.
Neville Bastawalla, Head - Marketing, Mid Day Infomedia Ltd, Mumbai, spoke about the initiative his organisation undertook to stop ‘Harassment by taxi and auto drivers’ in Mumbai. The RTO and Police were taken into confidence and the four-week long campaign was launched. The ‘Meter Down campaign’ over the weeks saw increasing participation and changes in the attitude of taxi and auto drivers.
Prothom Alo, a daily from Bangladesh, too had a story to narrate of social change. Matiur Rahman, Editor, Prothom Alo, narrated the story of how the newspaper, even under severe pressure and opposition, took it up to empower women. The newspaper stood against acid attacks on women by writing extensively on it. The newspaper also worked on the rehabilitation of acid attack victims. The newspaper also worked for victims of national calamities and disasters. Scholarships were given to the poor meritorious students. The newspaper also propagated the use of the Bengali language, the national language, through various competitions.
Aman ki Asha
The highlight of this session was the case study on ‘Aman ki Asha’, a joint initiative by the Jang Group and The Times of India Group. Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director, Jang Group, Pakistan, and Rahul Kansal, Chief Marketing Officer, The Times of India, New Delhi, were the two speakers on the case study. The two representatives of the initiative spoke about the difficulties and intricacies of the initiative in details.
Hasan said, “We saw that there were various problems in Pakistan today, but we realised that if there was one thing that could change for Pakistan was India’s relationship with Pakistan.” He said that the group faced various problems in going forward with the initiative as many sectors of the society accused them of being pro-India.
Kansal said that the Times of India had to re-visit its plan again and again too because of the public outcry on the Mumbai terrorist attacks. However, he said, “It is incorrect to see Pakistan only through the prism of terrorism.”
The Jung Group and The Times of India got together and decided on the logo, song, TVC, mission and other details of the initiative together before beginning the initiative on January 1, 2010. After that, events on both sides of the border were organised to take this initiative forward. The speakers said that it was an emotional and touching moment for them to see so many come together with this initiative across the border. The initiative received accolades from various dignitaries across various forums, including Spikes Asia 2010.