The CEO Conference on Day 2 of Publish Asia 2009 provided a perfect platform for discussing a wide range of issues confronting the print media. There were two sessions. The morning session was moderated by Pichai Chuensuksawadi, Editor-in-Chief, The Post Publishing Public Co, Thailand.
Speaking at the morning session of the CEO Conference, Garbis Kesisoglu, media consultant at Hürriyet, Turkey, said that real threat for the newspaper industry was complacency and resistance to change. According to him, the present business model of the print media was 10 years out of date and needed radical change.
“Today’s paper is yesterday’s paper in reality, because the information is at least 12 hours old. Most newspaper websites are no better, because they usually are static replica of their print editions. They show little sense of the dynamism of the web,” Kesisoglu observed.
The era of passive consumers was over, he pointed out, adding that today’s readers wanted active participation. A generation of media consumers has risen demanding new, customised digital and print editions of the newspaper, he noted.
There has been much speculation about whether it is possible for newspapers to survive. Kesisoglu said, “In my opinion, newspapers will change and survive, but they must change if they are going to survive. Our customers are adopting new habits significantly faster than newspapers. While newspapers have changed in many ways in recent years, the pace of the change, by necessity, must increase. We must get ahead of the curve, because today’s consumer is a moving target.”
Technology has traditionally been an asset to the newspaper business, but of late, the industry seems to have lost sight of that. “The need of the hour is a complete transformation about the way we think about our product,” he stressed.
The other speakers of the morning session included Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO, Consim; and Felix Soh, Digital Media Editor, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore, who spoke on ‘Innovation for Increasing Online Revenue’.
Speaking on the topic ‘Attracting the Young Readers’ in the post lunch session of the CEO Conference, Bharat Kapadia, Member, Board of Directors, Lokmat Group, spoke about the various initiatives that Lokmat had undertaken to connect with the today’s youth. “Young readers are different, they love adventure and individualism. They also do a lot of multi-tasking and like visual appeal, adventure, romance, glamour, gizmos, career guidance, interactivity, participation and networking,” Kapadia noted.
Speaking on ‘Effective Pricing Strategies for Newspapers’, Sudipt Roy, Assistant Professor, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, observed, “More than 300 million Indians do not currently read any publication.” According to him, there was a demand. Stating that newspapers were like a Twenty20 match Roy said that it was important to have spectators at the stadium during a match. “If the stadium is empty, even the people watching the match at home on their TV sets would think that it was not an important match. But revenue from that audience in the stadium is far less than the revenue that the organisers get from sponsors, advertisements, television and endorsements. Similarly, for newspapers, it is important to have readers, but their money is not important as more money comes from the advertising. If there are no readers, there will be no advertisers,” he observed.
He further said that in the medium term, the pricing of newspapers was likely to remain stable as the GDP per capita had been growing, and literacy rate in both urban and rural areas was also growing. “It is important to penetrate and reach out to those people,” he stressed.
According to Roy, advertising would continue to be a major revenue spinner for the newspaper industry, but newspapers would have to chase the advertiser’s money, which could be achieved by building readership. “News has become like a commodity. You get news from so many sources, the Internet being one, which has resulted in erosion of brand loyalty,” he concluded.