The argument that pure play print publications are facing existential crisis is not new. While the decline of print is no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’, there are some legacy media houses that are fast transforming into digital-first entities to stay relevant.
Worldwide Media (WWM), a fully owned subsidiary of Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL), which publishes 13 magazines such as Femina, Fimfare, Lonely Planet, Top Gear, Good Homes among others and another six B2B titles, is adopting a new strategy to appeal to contemporary audiences.
In pursuit of this transformation, WWM recently forayed into video content by rolling out ‘Famously Filmfare’, a first-of-its-kind celebrity chat show, on both television and digital platforms. This was followed by the launch of a travel show which will premiere on Discovery Channels (Discovery, Discovery Turbo and Discovery HD).
Speaking about this foray into digital and TV content, Deepak Lamba, CEO, WWM said, “Our vision is to become India’s leading entertainment and lifestyle provider by being platform agnostic. Usually brands get anchored to platforms, but great brands are those that exist apart from platforms. If we have to grow exponentially, it is important for brands to transcend platforms. The easiest way to increase reach is through digital and television and that has been our strategy. We believe that each of our brands should take an initiative to reach out to as many people as possible and video storytelling is a great way to reach out to consumers. We have already launched two such shows and a third one is around the corner.”
Talking about the transformation process, he said it’s understandable that such a change is not easily achievable, especially for a brand that has been in business for decades. Explaining the challenge of transforming legacy brands into relevant entities, Lamba stated, “For me, transformation of a legacy brand into digital first is like changing the wheels of a moving car. You cannot adopt the stop-start approach because there is existing business that is still generating big revenue, and yet you have to look at the future. If you are not able to drive it with enough rigour, then the change will not happen. Last year during the Filmfare Awards event, we partnered with Facebook and Twitter and got over 300 million page views much before the awards featured on television. We also managed to get over 28 million video views, out of which 27 million were viewed only on Facebook. Now, my brief to all my colleagues is—think digital first, think experiential. We are just trying to build digital as a culture in everything we do.”
About the future of pure play print media houses, Lamba thinks that the Indian story is going to be different from the rest of the world, “I think print is not a homogenous entity. It is daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. We have a robust future ahead and a magazine has to be just one manifestation of the brand. It cannot be the only manifestation of the brand. So, the brand has to be supreme and you should have a print, digital, television, events and syndication presence. These are important things that a brand should do in order to stay relevant for the consumer today.”
Though digital first might be the strategy adopted by WWM under Lamba’s leadership, however the revenues from digital are just a fraction of the company’s revenue. Sharing details about the WWM’s revenue streams, Lamba added, “Around 25-30% of my business comes from pure play magazines and a lot of this is event heavy, Filmfare Awards being the big daddy of our events. As a company, we do about 60-65 events a year. However, the challenge with digital, which is not exclusive to us, is selling just pure play inventory and you have to sell in kilo-loads to make a certain amount of money. I think that will take some time to stabilise. We are focusing on creating unique experiences for our clients on digital properties rather than just offering mass digital inventory because that won’t be a very lucrative business for us in the immediate future. Talking of digital revenue, I will be happy if it becomes 5% of my turnover by the end of this year.”