Vijay Times has climbed steadily on circulation to cross 160,962 copies in the July-December 2005 period in Karnataka (Source: ABC). The publication is confident of breaking even this financial year, and several new initiatives have been launched. The circulation of the English daily from the VRL Group rose steadily from 136,243 in July 2005, to a high of 196,750 in December 2005.
Speaking to exchange4media, L Ramanand Bhat, Executive Managing Editor, Vijay Times, said, “We are positioned right because of our content. We don’t sell the paper with sensationalism, and we aren’t seen as a publication that is intended for an elderly audience either. We have something for everybody, and I think it’s the content that has contributed to the growth. While initially, we found new readers (to English dailies) coming on board, now we see a lot of conversions happening from other publications.”
Bhat admitted that the pricing was an advantage (Vijay Times sells at Rs 1.50), but contended that the pricing alone could not result in sustained growth. He added, “Initially, when the paper was launched, it was not a runaway success. If the pricing alone would have been reason enough for people to buy the paper, then we should have done well from day one.”
For the record, market leader Times of India sells at Rs 3 and so does Deccan Herald. The Times of India’s circulation was 377,157 copies (July-December 2005, ABC), up from 344,834 in the previous six-month period. Deccan Herald’s figures for July-December 2005 are under consideration.
There have been no conscious subscription drives by Vijay Times in the July-December period either. Fast decisions that helped have been admittedly facilitated with Bhat taking charge of the editorial, circulation and the production functions. An edition in Hassan was launched in October 2005. The next edition to be launched will be in Belgaum, which is scheduled to happen in the next four to five months.
Without divulging actual numbers, Bhat explained that the advertising had grown. “We have registered a five-fold growth in the last two years on advertising revenues. We are also seeing more corporate ads. We are confident that Vijay Times will break even in a year’s time. We are also confident and working towards becoming the second largest English daily in Karnataka. After we establish solidly in Karnataka, we will look at editions outside the state,” he avered.
A new system of ‘Global Editor’ has been introduced by the paper since April 18, 2006, whereby copies can be uploaded to a section of the site by its journalists. They will then be edited by ‘Global Editors’ who may not be employees of Vijay Times. So far, four experienced freelance editors, short-listed in person to ensure that they are not employed in any other publication, have come on board. This, besides increasing efficiencies, also allows for editors from any part of the world to work for the Vijay Times and get paid per job.
In a slight deviation from the print media business, the group has also created a site, www.nayanumber.com. This free offering is a simple two-page site, where one can key in an old telephone number (landline or mobile) and obtain the new number. To be traceable, one needs to visit the site, and enter the old number and the new number. Hence, the content is supplied by users, and accessed by users, rendering the site maintenance-free. The company is currently working on creating an editing option, and the software has been developed in-house. In due course, users will have to pay to access the utility service.
One initiative from the group that failed in recent times was the ‘late city’ edition of Vijay Times. It has been subsequently withdrawn. Among the reasons being cited for that not taking off is the need for a special distribution channel, and lack of a public transport system on the lines of Mumbai, which would facilitate reading on the move, and thereby, sales of an afternoon paper. With Mid Day reportedly gearing up for launch in Bangalore, the vacant afternoon daily space will see some fresh action soon.
Meanwhile, both Vijay Times and Deccan Herald would be eagerly awaiting the circulation figures of the latter, which was at No. 2 with a circulation of 154,927 (ABC figures, January-June 2005). Who will be No. 2 this time?