The publishers are splashing optimistic colours on the canvas of niche magazine space. Cementing this fact is that large publishing houses and corporates alike are all eyeing this space in a big way.
The launches of special interest magazines are tailored to fit the needs and desires of varied segments of the literate society. Infomedia India, the erstwhile Tata Infomedia from the Tata Group, Cyber Media and Jasubhai Digital Media have all been in this space for a long time.
It is this strong growth possibility in niche magazines in India has thus prompted BBC Worldwide and the Times Group to come together to form a 50:50 joint venture to publish magazines in India. Living Media India Group, the publishers of India Today are also in the race along with the publishers of Outlook.
Pradeep Guha, President, Times Of India, says, "The world over, niche magazines are doing well (in circulation and advertisements) as they cater to definitive communities. These niches are segmented either by interest or by geography. In contrast, the mass-scale magazines (with a few exceptions) are finding it tough to cope within this highly customised scenario."
Adds Hoshie Ghaswalla, President - Publishing, CyberMedia India Limited, "The IRS figures validate the growth of niche magazines, indicate that the specialty publications had 30 per cent share of the overall English magazines readership as per IRS 2002. The current IRS 2003 shows that the share of these specialty magazines has grown to 32 per cent. Thereby indicating that niche specialized magazines is growing within the overall English magazines readership pie."
Sharing the media planners' perspective, PRP Nair, Senior VP, Media Direction, RK Swamy BBDO, says, "This is the era of specialists. For a specific health problem, you approach a 'specialist' doctor and not a general practitioner. So is the case with the magazine segment. The readers are becoming choosy which translates into tremendous opportunity for the birth of a number of niche magazines in the near future."
However, Manjiri Kamat, GM - Maxus Mumbai, has a contradicting view of the same. She says: "The special interest magazine space is not growing. Most clients are restricting their budgets to the top rated magazines and niche magazines hardly get any share of the clients' spend. Unless the magazines launched in future have some specific Unique Selling Proposition (USP) catering to some specific TG, there will be no place for them in the media plans."
The current media segmented scenario has given birth to a lot of niches, which make possible to reach your the target group (TG) with the least of wastage and spill over. Does it imply that specialized media space is becoming the order of the day?
Despite clients putting in their advertising spends on to the most well known and reputed magazines, the readership data indicates that over the last few years the highly circulated general interest magazines have seen decline in their readership.
Even, the psychological dependence and interest in the magazine medium as a whole has reduced in comparison to television. Does the television medium actually have a role to play in this trend?
Elucidates Ghaswalla, "Dependence and interest in mass and entertainment magazines could have come down due to the available alternate option. However dependence on specialized publications does not seem to have reduced as they play a very important role in helping readers understand, buy and use products and services unlike any other medium. And hence the dependence on specialized publications will not reduce at a later stage too."
"Monies are surely getting diverted to TV in a big way. But, finally the onus of showing an advertiser how the multiplier of print and TV works well than a single medium lies on the media planners. It is the media planner's job to prove to a client how other medias can be used, to look beyond television and find better and newer ways of touching their target audience," adds Kamat.
The special interest magazines may not garner a huge fan following but then they are not meant to. Readership and circulation will be the wrong yardsticks to measure the success of these publications. In the words of Guha, "The future for magazines lies in entering niches and creating brands, a process which has just about begun here in India."