ABC figures show decline in newspaper circulation; industry calls it 'artificial drop'

The audit, which was conducted for the January-June 2022 period after a gap of two years, showed a decline of 20-30% in the circulation figures

e4m by Sonam Saini & Nilanjana Basu
Published: Nov 2, 2022 9:19 AM  | 5 min read
newspaper

The newspaper industry believes that the drop in circulation numbers reflected in the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) data for the January-June 2022 period is “artificial” and not “perpetual” as many newspapers either did not participate in the process or excluded most of their editions.

The ABC recently conducted the audit for the January-June 2022 period. The audit, which was conducted after a gap of two years, showed a decline of 20-30% in the circulation figures.

According to Hormuzd Masani, Secretary General of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it is unfair to compare the two different time periods and conclude that the circulation figures of the publications decreased. “This decline is artificial. Those are different periods and time zones," explained Masani.

Furthermore, he shared that many publications did not submit their circulation figures, which was the cause behind the decline. “We offered all publications a voluntary submission period from January- June 22. So many of them submitted while others did not. As a result, there is a decline, albeit an artificial decline." This was the first time that ABC offered opt-in and opt-out options to publishers because they certified figures after two years.  

“It's only valid for one period, it's not perpetuity. So for the next period, most of them and all of them should be filing for July-December 22 and that would be the right figures to see the long-term trend. One can't conclude that print publications have gone down. Some of the topline publications did not submit their figures at all.”  

The ABC data, accessed by exchange4media, shows that some national Hindi and English newspapers didn’t include all of their editions. For instance, HT Media only listed three editions for Hindustan Times, Lucknow, Patna and Ranchi. The Hindu didn’t list any edition for the audit. Similarly, Lokmat listed only Akola editions for both its Hindi and Marathi newspapers. Only some publishers, like Punjab Kesari, Malayala Manorama and Anandabazar Patrika, listed all their editions. 

While speaking to exchange4media, Dhruba Mukherjee, CEO, ABP shared that during the lockdowns, newspaper circulation was hit initially due to supply side issues. “Though the supply side issues got sorted out over a period of time, extended lockdowns saw sales at outdoor stalls and institutions getting affected.

Also, there was an underlying fear amongst a small section of the society that Covid virus may get transmitted through physical newspapers, making them stay away from it.”

“All of this affected newspaper circulation by 30-50% in the initial months. After a prolonged recovery cycle, this has now stabilised to about 10-20% loss. A part of it (maybe 10-15%) will never come back as media consumption habits have changed for a few over these two years, but the rest will,” Mukherjee added.

According to Mukherjee, every newspaper is working on content, pricing and marketing strategies to take their circulation to the pre-Covid levels. Given India’s vast population and increasing literacy levels, the opportunity is large, and backed by the unputdownable trust factor that print media still enjoys over all other forms of media, there is optimism on the trajectory, he shared.

“We got our regional daily Anandabazar Patrika (all editions) audited in the Jan-Jun 2022 period. We intend to get both our regional and English newspapers audited in the Jul-Dec period,” informed Mukherjee.  

Similarly, Amit Chopra, Joint Managing Director, Punjab Kesari, shared that they listed all their editions for the audit. “However, the current audit figures show a decline in circulation numbers. After Covid there was a fear among people and hence they stopped buying newspapers for a while and the circulation for every publisher came down to 40-50%.”

“Subsequently, there has been a recovery of up to 85% in many places. But the recovery has stopped at 85%. Even if you look at the average, it will show a similar trend. Lot of people have just moved to digital and we don't know if they are coming back. All newspapers are really trying hard to bring them back by introducing new schemes and more, but will see the results in five- six months.” 

Chopra also mentioned that the ABC data is very important because there were no certified numbers in the last two years. “Advertisers know what happened during Covid and this data gives a clear picture.”

Print publishing went through very difficult times during 2020 and 2021 in terms of distribution and advertising, said Varghese Chandy, Vice President, Marketing and Advertising, Malayala Manorama. The publication also listed all its editions for the audit. 

Chandy added that though the situation has improved this year, newsprint availability and prices have now become a new challenge for the industry. “With this in mind, and the fact that the base year for the comparison has been taken as Jul-Dec 2019, it is quite natural to see a drop.”

He informed that publications in Kerala had the least drop in circulation across India. It showed less than a 14% drop. “We were fortunate to have the support of the government which ensured that our distribution network remained intact and had also assured the public that newspapers were least likely carriers of the virus. Along with advertising, we are now seeing a revival in our circulation as well and are moving towards our pre-Covid numbers.”

According to Chandy, circulation numbers are important to assess the strength of different publications and in the absence of IRS, ABC becomes an even more important currency for advertisers. “Internally, we are striving hard to reach the 2019 circulation numbers and should be able to reach our target in the next couple of months.”

The publishers made the decision to exclude their various editions from the audit due to the pandemic's impact on circulation numbers.

"We excluded some of our editions from ABC reporting for the period Jan-June 2022 because the numbers were low," said a senior executive of a national Hindi daily.

The last audit was conducted in 2019 for the period July- December. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2023 to be a growth story for print

Industry leaders predict the print sector will see a growth spurt in 2023 as advertisers return to the medium; stabilising of newsprint prices to help further

By Sonam Saini | Jan 5, 2023 8:58 AM   |   6 min read

Print

The year 2022 was a period of recovery as well as a challenging one for the print industry. While on one hand, a majority of players surpassed pre-Covid levels in terms of advertising revenue in several markets, a rise in newsprint prices did have an adverse impact on the business. 

However, as we begin 2023 industry leaders are optimistic that the sector's challenging period has passed. Newsprint prices too have stabilised and is likely to drop further in the upcoming months. 

According to MV Shreyams Kumar, Managing Director of Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing, 2017 and 2018 were the golden years of print and the sector is operating upwards of 75-80% in revenue compared to that period. “We are estimating to get closer to 90% in 2023 and surpass the golden period’s numbers by 2024. If we look at a decade of print starting from 2017 and our projections till 2027, one could undoubtedly say 2017 and 2018 were the golden period of print,” he asserted.

Kumar further added that there have been various discussions about print AdEx getting adversely impacted by digital. The growth of digital and digital channels of communication are undeniable. However, there is also an equal realization that the impact marketers were able to create in the minds of consumers is lagging behind, in the hunger of chasing last mile and performance-led parameters on digital, he said. 

“The eroding baseline of the brands is getting marketers concerned and it will be hard for them to forsake traditional media, particularly print in that context. Even in digital the growth is mostly happening from the vernacular market. While Jio disrupted the accessibility framework, almost 90% of those new customers have also come in from tier 2 and 3 markets. Vernacular holds a big story for the future. And as a vernacular newspaper, we are optimistic of getting the benefit of that.” 

Speaking of the market that they operate in, Kumar said that Kerala is the only state in India where Print’s reach surpasses that of TV. “Kerala has huge untapped potential for every single category. To educate advertisers about the same and offer them a never before solution, we have just launched a unique proposition #GatewayToKerala. It brings all our assets together - Print, TV, Radio and Digital - to create a surround impact. Content, community, engagements, experiences, quality first-party data and real RoI are part of our offerings here. As against the traditional campaign-led approach, any client can throw a specific market challenge at us and we go back with a tailor-made, efficient and compelling go-to-market strategy.”

According to a recent CRISIL Ratings report, while print media will see a healthy ad revenue growth of 15% year-on-year next fiscal, it will still trail the pre-pandemic level by 800-1000 basis points. This is due to a slow recovery in ad yields, particularly for English editions.

As for Malcolm Raphael, Senior Vice President, Times Response, "The growth of print advertising volumes in 2022–2023 compared to 2020–2021 indicated the dominance of print as a compelling option for marketers for new launches, topical communication, and brand messages."

Some of the patterns expected in 2023, as per Raphael are, a rise in consumer spending on tangible goods and services, real estate, cars, travel and tourism, retail, clothing, appliances, and consumer durables.

"The current social media upheaval and the widening gulf in trust between users of existing digital platforms present a chance for print to improve its product offerings and enhance consumer engagement. Due to the likelihood of a recession in the developed economies the following year, we may witness increased investments in developing economies like ours, which would increase demand for consumer goods and boost advertising," explained Raphael.

He also pointed out that the bigger advertisers returned in 2021 and 2022 but 2023 might be the year industry will see the smaller advertisers return as local businesses like retail stores, travel agencies, salons, and restaurants begin to recover from the impact of Covid. "In the most recent quarter, we have already noticed this."

Varghese Chandy, Vice President, Marketing & Advertising-Sales, at Malayala Manorama, shared that 2022 been the year of recovery for most media, particularly print. “We have seen that we reached the 2019 level in the last quarter. Most of the retailers have done well in catering to the pent-up demand and print has been the primary medium, especially during the festive seasons. Newspapers in Kerala saw the least drop in circulation even during Covid. We are all working towards pre-Covid numbers now,” he shared.

Chandy believes the current challenges will persist in 2023, but certain categories may be able to overcome them.

"Yield has been and will continue to be a challenge. So will the bottom line, as newsprint prices have risen to levels not seen in a year. A lot of categories, such as consumer durables and mobiles, will return to print in a big way because print is definitely delivering results. Tourism and related businesses such as hotels and airlines will thrive. Retail will continue to grow and will contribute significantly to print advertising. Print will continue to be important in areas such as health and education. More emphasis will be placed on transforming space sellers into solution providers. As a result, the emphasis on events, activation, BTL activities, strategic partnerships, and so on will increase," Chandy explained.

According to Amit Chopra, Joint Managing Director, Punjab Kesari, "The second and third quarters of the current fiscal year have been very encouraging for the print industry. In some cases, we surpassed pre-COVID advertising revenues last year, beginning in July. The year 2022 was superior to the years 2020 and 2021."

He also stated that the way a large portion of circulation has returned shows that the print industry is not going away anytime soon. People who return to print after Covid will do so for a longer period of time.

Chopra expressed his belief that the print industry will continue to grow in advertising in 2023. Because the Indian economy is doing better than the European and American economies, he believes that the number of advertisers and spends will increase in 2023. Also, nine state elections are coming this year which will also lead to an increase in political ad spending.

In terms of circulation, he stated that everyone is now attempting to increase their circulation numbers by launching new schemes and conducting door-to-door campaigns. Chopra also believes that the higher cover prices have been well received by readers, compensating for any circulation loss and higher new newsprint prices.

Regarding newsprint prices, he said after touching a peak of $900-950/tonne last year it has gone to $650/tonne and is likley to decline further to $600/tonne. "The newsprint prices have gone down and stabilised, which will drive profits for newspapers in 2023."  

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Will always remember Atul Maheshwari for teaching us the art of decisiveness

Atul Maheshwari was then our hero, a media maverick who could pull rabbits out of hats and make things happen, writes Saurabh Tyagi

By Saurabh Tyagi | Jan 3, 2023 9:07 PM   |   3 min read

Atul Maheshwari

Looking back in time, my memories of working with the Amar Ujala are laced with what was once perceived as the ‘’learning institution of the print media industry.”

Atul Maheshwari who was fondly referred to as Bhai Saheb, carved out an image for himself as a professional who had huge passion & equally high emotional intelligence in whatever he did. He was indeed & truly a complete 360 degree expert.

In a classic hierarchical structure in 1999, a nod from him or a word of recognition would make us feel superior to our peers. Though as Management Trainees we formed the base of the pyramid, secretly we recognized and knew that we would manage to perform well simply because of the leadership we were working for.

He had revamped the entire vernacular print media industry starting from brand positioning, editorial, design, business strategies and properties for each business vertical.

Atul Ji was then our hero, a media maverick who could pull rabbits out of hats and make things happen. A man of many facets, he was larger than life, and yet had a humane side in him that common people could also connect with him just like the industry seniors who in spite of their success recognize him as their mentor.

He would let out a dry laugh and say a few kind words. Years later, when I moved to TOI, I had informed him, “Sir, I had an opportunity.” He said, “God bless you Pandit ji ,its a great institution , go and learn.” 

Amar Ujala came from his extraordinary ability to appear not only as Confident but also as the Courageous one to lead from the front. I am talking of the 2000’s. Group had embarked to launch on 2 distinct markets to give Amar Ujala the much needed competitive edge. One was to infuse Creativity in the way business was to be carried out – whether it was the introduction of Dak edition rates (a unique pricing structure aimed to milk the hyper local advertising or to make the existing product(s) more market-friendly or tapping of new advertising segments, even with the introduction of niche brands(Country’s first vernacular Business Daily – Karobaar). And the other thing was also to create a great sense of Optimism for the Regional Print industry specially when TV was beginning to emerge. He was able to set new paradigms for the industry. As I said it was a different era and it had little room for Flexibility. Whatever happened backstage, for the people, both inside and outside, the always buck stopped at Bhai Saheb. He was the Empowered one.

That era has gone and so has bhaisaheb. But whatever foundation stones that were laid down then, helps Amar Ujala even today. I will always remember Atul Ji in gratitude for teaching us “The power of Communication” & “The Art of Decisiveness” as key learning for self growth.

Bhai Saheb will always remain my beloved Guru.

(Saurabh Tyagi is a well known media veteran and marketing consultant)

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Tributes pour in on Atul Maheshwari’s 12th death anniversary

Friends and industry colleagues fondly remember the visionary journalist on his death anniversary

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 3, 2023 5:09 PM   |   3 min read

Atul Maheshwari

Today is the 12th death anniversary of Atul Maheshwari, former Managing Director of Amar Ujala who took the group to new heights. Born on May 3, 1956, Atul Maheshwari was snatched from us by the cruel hands of time on this very day in 2011.

Maheshwari, a post graduate in Political Science, was active in the media for nearly four decades. He learned the nuances of media under the guidance of his father and co-founder of 'Amar Ujala' Murarilal Maheshwari. After this he moved to Meerut in the year 1986 to launch the edition of the newspaper.

In true sense, Atul Maheshwari was not the owner of the newspaper, he was a journalist first. The understanding he had about the news or rather the hold he had on the news, is hardly the owner of any media house. He was always available for all the members of 'Amar Ujala' family. He behaved not like an MD but like a journalist.

Later he expanded 'Amar Ujala' to Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Delhi besides starting several editions in Uttar Pradesh and took it to new heights. During this, he was associated with various institutions related to the media industry. 

On the 12th death anniversary of Atul Maheshwari, tributes poured in from his friends and industry colleagues.

Recalling Atul Maheshwari's incomparable contribution to the media industry, Dr. Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of 'Businessworld' and 'Exchange4Media', says, 'Mr. Atul Maheshwari was a great gentleman and the development of Amar Ujala was a result of his vision. There is clear evidence of. Beyond his professional achievements, he was a true and passionate man at heart and was like a caring elder brother.

Senior media professional Varun Kohli, who has held important positions in various prestigious media institutions, has also paid his tribute to Atul Maheshwari remembering the things related to him. Varun Kohli says that Atul Maheshwari has always been and will be an invaluable contribution in his life. His death has been a huge blow for me personally as well.

According to Varun Kohli, 'Whatever we have learned, we have learned from Atul Maheshwari ji. The place that Atul ji has had in my life, cannot be of anyone else. He has been my inspiration and guide. He was active in the field of media for nearly 37 years and played an important role in taking Amar Ujala Group to new heights.

Senior journalist Shambhunath Shukla says, “ He was extremely humble and a gracious boss.  I had joined Amar Ujala as editor in Kanpur in August 2002 and he passed away on January 3, 2011, but in these years he left such an indelible impression which was rare. He also wished well for his ill-wishers. He believed in doing good to others at the cost of his own loss and considered his employees as his co-workers. For the editorial department, he was a reporter first, boss later.”

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Atul Maheswari's contribution to journalism remembered on his 12th death anniversary

Maheshwari was instrumental in taking the Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala to new heights

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 3, 2023 10:35 AM   |   1 min read

Atul Maheshwari

Atul Maheshwari, former Managing Director of the Amar Ujala group of publications, is being remembered on his 12th death anniversary.

Maheshwari’s association with the media industry spanned close to four decades.

A post graduate in political science, Maheshwari was instrumental in taking the Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala to new heights.

He got early training in the industry under his father and co-founder of Amar Ujala, the late Muralilal Maheshwari in Bareily. Later he  moved to Meerut in 1986 to set up the newspaper's edition there. He also expanded Amar Ujala to Chandigarh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Delhi besides starting half a dozen editions in Uttar Pradesh.

Remembering Maheswari’s immense contribution to media, Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, BW Businessworld and exchange4media Group said, “Sh Atul Maheshwari was a gentle giant and the growth of Amar Ujala is a testimony to his vision. More than his professional achievements he was a person of heart and emotions and the most caring older brother one could ask for.”

Maheswari was also associated with several organisations related to the media industry and was a keen watcher of the global media industry.



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Times Group’s Samir Jain opens his innings as a columnist

In “The Speaking Tree” column of the Times of India, he wrote a glowing tribute to Prime Minister Modi’s mother

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 2, 2023 4:17 PM   |   2 min read

Samir Jain

Samir Jain, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, The Times Group has opened his innings as a columnist.

In “The Speaking Tree” column of the Times of India, Times Group Managing Director Samir Jain wrote a glowing tribute to Prime Minister Modi’s mother.

“I never had the good fortune of meeting Heeraben but when I met the Prime Minister a few weeks ago, the reverence and affection he expressed for her during our meeting gave me a vivid glimpse into Heeraben’s remarkable and extraordinary personality”, Jain wrote.

Jain also wrote about Prime Minister Modi’s extraordinary commitment to work. 

“We grieve most when we lose our mother. And the finest tribute we can pay to her is by doing what she always wanted us to do – the right thing, the right way. That was probably why the Prime Minister, after performing her last rites and fulfilling his dharma as a son, immediately returned to his duties. His decision to do so might have surprised many, but this was a son’s quiet and dignified way of expressing love and respect for his mother."

He further elaborated that there was a guiding force in our lives, and it finds reflection in what we do.

“If we take a look at Modiji’s life or analyse his decisions as Prime Minister, we will find that commitment to duty has always been his foremost priority. Renaming Rajpath as Kartavya Path has deep significance – it was an exhortation to the citizens to do their duty to the nation, a path Modiji has followed. In the Prime Minister’s public life we clearly see that the values he holds dear were part of his upbringing,” Jain wrote in his tribute.

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Millennium Post finds a new owner in publisher of Aaj Kal - Techno India

The deal is said to be a game-changer for the publication

By exchange4media Staff | Dec 28, 2022 12:32 PM   |   3 min read

MP

As with so many other industries, the Indian media landscape is going through a massive churn. We have seen major entities change hands, mindsets, and priorities as India transforms and connects to a wider global audience even as she retains her singularity. The Millennium Post is the latest publication to become part of this paradigm shift.

At a time when the print industry is recovering strongly in a post-Covid economy, Millennium Post has found fresh reprieve after finding a new majority stake owner, in what will be a game changer for the publication. 

While details are still to emerge, sources say that Satyam Roy Chowdhury (MD of Techno India Group, a conglomerate that operates education, hospitality, and healthcare companies, as well as the Aaj Kal media group) has bought a majority stake in the company. 

"We have a highly reputed media school and have had a presence in vernacular media. The purchase of an English language publication is part of our long-term business strategy, and to help our media school students to gain exposure in the field," said CEO Sanku Bose, speaking to e4m. 

The 16-page broadsheet, and its ancillary online avatar, was started in 2012 and conceived by Durbar Ganguly, former Vice Chairman and Joint Managing Director, The Pioneer Group, who is the promoter of the broadsheet. Ganguly will remain as Director and editor of the publication. The newspaper is headquartered in Delhi with an edition in Kolkata

According to sources close to the development, while Ganguly had admitted to tough times for the organisation, he said that the introduction of new capital had revitalized the publication's future and resources. While numbers remain unconfirmed, the former proprietors were allegedly willing to sell the publication, once valued at Rs 12 crore, for Rs 8 crore. Neither parties disclosed the actual sums when asked by e4m. 

As per TAM AdEx data, print ad volume rose by 14% for English dailies in 2022 compared to the pre-Covid period and 17% compared to 2021, even as it declined 7% for Hindi dailies in 2022 compared to the pre-Covid level and increased by 4% compared to 2021.

As previously reported on e4m, "While ad volumes for both English and Hindi dailies are showing growth, English newspapers have witnessed higher growth than the Hindi ones. Industry insiders say the discrepancy between the two is mostly attributable to the substantial volume recovery seen in English dailies, as well as the fact that key advertisers in Hindi dailies are retailers and local advertisers who haven't recovered fully yet."

As advertisers pivot to digital, and seek mass reach in an increasingly internet focused consumer base, Millennium Post is likely to follow the same trajectory. 

According to sources, the Millennium Post has had strong ties with Mamata Banerjee's TMC government in West Bengal, concentrated around its reader base which may perhaps explain the slacking off of central administrative advertising, given the current unifying state of politics around the world, thereby leading to its purchase by Techno India.

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Washington Post CEO draws flak for avoiding queries on layoffs

The publication has said it will go for layoffs in the first quarter of 2023

By exchange4media Staff | Dec 16, 2022 11:51 AM   |   1 min read

Fred

Washington Post CEO Fred Ryan came in for criticism from the employees for refusing to answer questions on layoffs.

The post had organised a meeting of all staff members on December 14.

The publication has said it will go for layoffs in the first quarter of 2023.

As part of this, Washington Post has already decided to shut down its Sunday magazine and let go off 11 newsroom employees.

 

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