The Times of India has finally arrived in Chennai after a long wait, and the effects of it are already being felt. The immediate fallout is that the market leader for long, The Hindu, which has been successfully resisting the temptation to bring down it cover price, has finally done it.
With effect from April 14, the cover price of The Hindu has come down from Rs
3.25 to Rs 2.50 on weekdays and from Rs 4.50 to Rs 3 on Sundays. However, the cover price of the other editions of the newspaper in Tamil Nadu has not been altered yet.
Meanwhile, Express Publications (Madurai) Ltd’s The New Indian Express has donned a new look from April 11. The new-look paper was unveiled three days ahead of The Times of India’s launch in Chennai. The New Indian Express has undergone a complete makeover and it front page jacket on the day of the relaunch read ‘Ahead of The Times; Tomorrow’s paper today’.
However, few media planners feel that the revamp of The New Indian Express is at least a couple of years behind schedule. With The Times of India also entering the fray, The New Indian Express has to set the pace or match the pace of the market for the new, revamped product to bear results. But the paper seems to be on the right track and is at par with or, in some ways, even better than some of the existing dailies. If The New Indian Express manages to maintain this momentum, the daily will be able to hold it’s own.
While The New Indian Express went for complete makeover, market leader The Hindu fortified the Chennai market with an array of supplements, which have the potential to give the daily access to a segment that was most likely to sway towards the competition. N Murali, Managing Editor, The Hindu, made his stand very clear in an interview to impact sometime ago, stating, “The Hindu as a newspaper stood for certain values and it would stand by them. It has a tradition that straddles over 129 years and there are certain things that as a newspaper it cannot do in terms of content, and the supplements, which we have launched over few months, would just take care of that.”
As per ABC figures for July-December 2007, The Hindu has an average circulation of around 385,000 in Chennai, while Deccan Chronicle, which launched its Chennai edition nearly two years ago, has an average circulation of little over 300,000 copies.
According to sources, The Times of India would eye the second spot initially. A TOI executive claimed that the newspaper already had a subscription base of 2.5 lakh thanks to the subscription drive undertaken for the past three months.
The Times of India Chennai edition is currently priced at Rs 2 on weekdays and Rs 3 on Sundays. The New Indian Express is priced ar Rs 1.50 on weekdays and Rs 5 on Sundays, while Deccan Chronicle is priced at Rs 1.50 on weekdays and Rs 2 on Sundays.
Bennett, Coleman and Co already has a presence in Chennai through its business daily The Economic Times. TOI is expected to leverage the distribution strength of Economic Times to push TOI in Chennai, which will have a city-based supplement called Chennai Times to compete with Metro Plus of The Hindu, City Express of The New Indian Express and Chennai Chronicle of Deccan Chronicle.
Non-Tamilians residing in Chennai are initially expected to embrace TOI immediately.
A media planner from a Top 10 agency is of view that TOI might even become a primary newspaper in these households.
Will the launch of The Times of India’s edition in Chennai affect the advertising pie of the existing players? “Yes,” said the media planner, adding, “the launch of TOI in Chennai would have a bearing on everyone’s ad pie. The entry of a new player would not increase the ad pie. On the contrary, all the existing players and the new entrant would have to share the existing ad pie. The primary growth would come only by increasing the ad rates.” That is exactly what market leader The Hindu has done when it increased the advertising rates effective from April 1, 2008.
The launch of The Times of India in Chennai has truly shaken and stirred the newspaper market and the coming weeks are sure to witness some interesting developments.