Publish Asia 2009, which brings together the collective strength of IFRA India and Publish Asia, the flagship conference of IFRA Asia, got underway in Chennai to an overwhelming participation. The event, organised by WAN-IFRA, the world association of newspaper and news publishers, also saw the unveiling of WAN-IFRA’s annual report, titled ‘World Press Trends’, with the split edition of `Asian trends’.
The theme of this year’s Publish Asia 2009 is ‘Creating Value in Challenging Times’.
Addressing the audience at the inaugural session, N Murali, Managing Director, The Hindu, exhorted the industry move to a strategy of profitable growth against the present high artificial growth.
An articulate Murali, who started his speech by praising the IFRA India team for putting up a great show, said that the Indian print media had a long tradition of independence and pluralism mirroring the diversity and vibrant character of a large country of sub-continental proportion. Advertising boom, removal of newsprint controls, adoption of advance printing and publishing technology, growth of the economy, and the increase in the literacy had fuelled the strong growth of print in India, he noted.
Globally, the print media has been witnessing a churning process, especially in the developed and mature markets, Murali said, adding that a sharp decline in the print had been seen in the current economic meltdown, as a result of which, print in these markets faced serious structural and cyclical factors, not the least due to the all pervasive Internet, which had turned the economy of the newspapers upside down. In India, he said, the problems and challengers were somewhat of a different kind. The runaway growth of print during the recent boom years had masked several trends and practices that militate against sound economic and business fundamentals. “Very low, and at times predatory cover prices, have resulted in artificial circulation numbers and creation of artificial economics, where realisation from the selling price of the newspaper is less than the resale of the old newspaper,” Murali observed.
Advertising revenues, for instance, as an average of the total revenue across different categories constitute around 60 per cent. However, if one looked at the mainstream large English newspapers, it was ‘unsustainably’ and ‘staggeringly’ high at 84-85 per cent.
Considering the high newsprint cost, this revenue model has dealt a double whammy to the print media in India. Murali called for the newspaper industry to move to a strategy of ‘profitable’ growth as against high ‘artificial’ growth at any cost. He said, “Let us hope that the newspaper industry will view the present crisis as an opportunity to restructure and reform, and in the process embrace sound fundamentals. This is imperative, especially since the advertising growth is expected to remain flat or taper off in the foreseeable future.”
According to him, though online had not reached critical mass in India, it was still growing at an exponential rate. “And newspapers in India, like their counterparts elsewhere, will have to develop their online and digital businesses, though the search for a profitable model for the online edition is still elusive the world over,” he pointed out.
Publish Asia 2009 has attracted over 600 delegates, 54 speakers and 49 exhibitors. Delivering the keynote address, Reiner Mittelbach, Joint CEO, WAN-IFRA, said that the consumer had changed and that the Internet was gaining acceptance among the news consumers. Forty-seven per cent of the world’s population had no problem reading news online.
Mittelbach also unveiled WAN-IFRA’s annual report, titled ‘World Press Trends’, with the split edition of ‘Asian trends’, on the occasion.