ABC move to include free copies riles publishers

The two sides are trying to thrash out solutions which include not considering the free/complimentary copies for the next audit period, say sources

e4m by Sonam Saini & Javed Farooqui
Published: Sep 26, 2022 9:09 AM  | 5 min read

The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC)'s decision to count free and complimentary copies as part of the circulation audit for newspapers has not gone down well with some publishers. 

According to sources close to the development, certain publishers like The Hindu, which is a founding member of the ABC, have decided to give the January-June circulation audit a miss since they want the ABC to continue following the old method of counting only paid newspapers in the total circulation figures. Sources also say that two leading English dailies too have chosen to exclude some of their editions from the ABC reporting for reasons not related to the methodology.

Sources further claimed that the decision by ABC to consider discounted/free copies for the circulation audit is presently under consideration for the years 22-23. Complete clarity on the move is awaited.

“ABC has come out after a hiatus of two years. Many of the so-called leading English dailies are not being reflected. English dailies in TN have not gone in for this audit. Only two leading language dailies in TN have been certified with circulation figures for the period Jan-Jun 2022,” said L. Adimoolam, Publisher – Dinamalar.

Explaining ABC’s move, a top official from a leading newspaper publishing company, shared, "Till now, ABC was only counting copies for which full price was paid. Only net paid newspaper numbers used to get published and somewhere in the back they used to say complementary so much and discounted so much,"

He added that the counting of free/complementary copies will defeat the entire process of auditing newspaper circulation. "A lot of publishers have asked the ABC, rightly so, that they should not do so," the official said.

Explaining the implications of this move, the official said that the net paid circulation figures reflect the strength of a newspaper. "In the readership survey, this doesn't matter if somebody has got the newspaper for free or at a discounted price because they are only counting the number of readers. But ABC is supposed to count sales copies and not discounted or complimentary copies," he contended, adding that the move will hurt publications that have fewer discounted/free copies.

A senior industry person, added, "I don't think they are including free copies but only copies sold below 'raddi rate'. What it means is that they have this time included marketing activities like giving six months subscription at a lesser rate also into the ABC data. However, I believe those who have something to hide are running away from it,"

Sources, meanwhile, say that ABC is making efforts to pacify the angry publishers and has requested them not to back out from the audit. They added that the two sides are trying to thrash out solutions which include not considering the free/complimentary copies for the next audit period (July-September).

"We have been showing free copies separately for the last many years in Part B and continue to show the same way even in January to June 2022 period circulation figures of which are available on the ABC website. Secondly, no large publication group has to date left ABC recently," said a source. 

IPG Mediabrands India CEO Shashi Sinha, who is part of ABC's Council of Management, however, denied that any newspaper publisher has pulled out from the audit process. 

Sakal Media Group Chairman Pratap Pawar, who is also the Chairman of ABC, too said that he is not aware of any publication pulling out from the audit. He noted that some stakeholders might have some issues which ABC is committed to resolving.

"I don't think this information (newspapers pulling out from audit) is true and it could be a rumour. There are always some issues based on the situation and people have some genuine difficulties. The job of ABC as an organisation is to resolve all these problems of the members. This is not one man deciding the policies, it's a team," Pawar said.

He also denied the fact that there are any changes in the audit methodology. "Changes cannot be done until the committee approves it. I am not the decision-maker. Even if there is any issue that I don't know yet, we will discuss it," he said.

The promoter of a leading South-India-based publication said that the ABC has given options to publishers to opt-in and opt-out for the audit period January- June 2022 if they have any issues with the methodology. "Currently, there is no currency to measure the circulation of publishers and if everyone or the major ones opt-out, it will impact the credibility of print as a medium," he stated.

He further mentioned that some newspapers are opting out because they didn't recover from the Covid-19-led impact. ABC is audited circulation numbers where your actual circulation numbers are measured, hence there is less scope to change the methodology, he asserted.

A senior official with a South India-based publication concurred with the promoter quoted above. "ABC communicated to either opt-in or opt-out for the January-June period. We are not opting out. We are taking the certification. Some of the publications have chosen to opt-out," the official added.

In November 2021, ABC issued a notification informing its publisher members about the resumption of circulation audits for the January-June 2022 period. The ABC requested all publisher members to adhere to the bureau’s audit guidelines as prescribed in 'A Guide to ABC Audit'.


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HT Media ad revenue sees 12% uptick in FY23

PAT margin decreased to 13.6% in FY 2022-23

By e4m Staff | Sep 22, 2023 8:24 AM   |   3 min read

HT Media

HT Media's revenue from operations rose by 14.0% to Rs 1,711 crore in FY 2022-23, as compared to Rs 1,500 crore in FY 2021-22, according to the company's annual report. Total income for FY23 grew to Rs 1862 crore from Rs1677 crore.

The company's revenue from the sale of newspapers for the year FY 2022-23 grew by 17.53% to Rs 236.41 crore against Rs 201.15 crore in FY22. Advertisement revenue for the financial year increased by 12% to Rs 1,064.83 crore against Rs 949.32 crore.

Revenue from airtime sales grew to Rs 140.82 crore in FY23 from Rs 99.68 crore in FY22. Meanwhile, income from digital services stood at Rs 132.21 crore against Rs 131.73 and job work revenue and commission income was Rs 42.13 crore against Rs 32.55 crore.

The company's EBITDA margin decreased to 0.7% in FY 2022-23 from 12.2% in FY 2021-22, according to the annual report for FY 23. The company said that this decline was led by higher newsprint costs along with new business investments in the fiscal year.

Subsequently, PAT margin decreased to 13.6% in FY 2022-23 from 1.3% in FY 2021-22. The company reported a loss of Rs 251.75 crore against a profit of Rs 18.99 crore.
In the annual report, Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director of HT Media said that over the course of the last financial year, HT Media witnessed growth in revenue, marking a significant recovery from two challenging years of the pandemic and the consequent industry-wide slowdown.

"During the year, our businesses showed resilience in the face of geopolitical strife, broken supply lines, increased raw material costs, and a relatively subdued festive season on the back of sluggish retail spending. Nonetheless, we ended the year on a positive note with top-line growth in our key businesses and a relative softening of input cost inflation, especially in the second half of the year."

She added that while the group's emphasis on journalistic principles and quality content remains steadfast, HT Media continue to constantly find ways to grow readership (across platforms) and be the voice of the common man.

"As part of our effort to reach a wider audience, our focus has shifted to 'phygital', combining physical and digital approaches for thought leadership events, consumer outreach and enhanced user experience."

She added that the group's radio business also experienced robust growth, mostly on account of the sustained strength of the FCT (Free Commercial Time) and non-FCT performance both of which have seen an upswing post-pandemic. The social media presence and relevance of radio brands led by Radio Fever and Punjabi Fever has grown and they dominate the metro city landscape in regions where they operate.

The company's digital businesses continue to show growth promise with Mosaic reinforcing its position among prominent enterprise tech-led business investment intelligence platforms for both individuals and corporates.

According to her, the Indian OTT space is one of the fastest-growing segments of the Media and entertainment industry. "To tap into this emerging opportunity, we launched, a platform that aggregates OTT content with a focus on choice, convenience, personalisation and affordability.
"In the ongoing financial year, our focus remains on sustaining our growth trajectory from the previous year as we manoeuvre through the overarching macroeconomic conditions and the evolving media ecosystem. It is an approach that is rooted in our long-standing journalistic values, that is cognizant of the emerging opportunities, and which understands the changing needs of both our readers and advertisers."

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DB Corp ad revenue up 25% in FY23 

The group’s total revenue has increased by 21%; circulation revenue by 1.5% 

By Sonam Saini | Sep 21, 2023 8:25 AM   |   5 min read


DB Corp Ltd has reported an increase of 21% in total revenue to Rs 2168.2 crore for the financial year 2022-23 against Rs 1788.5 crore for the fiscal ended 2021-22. As compared to the fiscal 2020-21, FY23 reported a growth of 42%. 

According to the 2023 annual report, the group's advertising revenue for FY23 grew 25% to Rs 1482.7 crore against Rs 1182.7 crore in the previous fiscal. The advertising revenue for the FY 2020-21 stood at Rs 1008.4 crore. The company’s circulation revenue for the financial year 2022-23 saw an increase of 1.51% to Rs Rs 462.7 crore against Rs 455.8 crore. The circulation revenue of the company in FY 2020-21 stood at Rs 418.6 crore. The company’s PAT grew 19%  for the FY23 to Rs 169.1 crore against Rs 142.6 crore in FY22. 

Sudhir Agarwal, Managing Director, DB Corp highlighted that the group businesses performed well on all parameters. He said that the company's EBITDA had gone up 12% to Rs 3,611 million (Rs 361.1 crore) in the backdrop of investments in the company's digital business as well as steep newsprint prices for a large part of the year. 

“We took proactive measures in response to the pandemic’s impact, and the cost optimisation actions we adopted are now firmly embedded in our ongoing business practices. By maintaining a steadfast focus on cost management, we aim to fortify our earnings to ensure resilience even in challenging circumstances,” Agarwal said. 

He also mentioned that the Dainik Bhaskar Group has remained resilient and patient to tide over the challenges while retaining strategic focus to become future-ready with continued emphasis on being reader-centric. “We are strong believers that through timely and widespread dissemination of relevant and hyper-local information, we empower millions, and this helps in accelerating our readership growth.” He also highlighted that the company's debt-free balance sheet ensures financial stability during these difficult times.  

According to Agarwal, due to the editorial strategies of Dainik Bhaskar and its market dominance, advertising revenues have increased significantly across the board, especially with print continuing to be the centre point of advertisers for both traditional and new age to run their hyperlocal marketing campaigns. 

He added, “We are seeing this trend continue and we are happy to report that we closed the financial year on a good revenue run-rate. We are encouraged by the performance of our radio division as well as the increasing digital presence, as we work to develop our content and enhance our omni-channel platform to give information that is accurate, concise, and useful.”

Agarwal also stated that while CY2021 was severely impacted by Covid-19 and attendant restrictions, CY2022 began with geo-political tensions. However, the Print Sector continued the path of recovery despite these challenges. What is particularly heartening was that while advertising in Hindi and regional language publications recovered to around 90% whereas English newspapers advertising recovered to only 71% of pre-COVID-19 levels, according to a report by FICCI-EY, underscoring the strength of the markets that DB Corp operate in. The print media industry is on a strong recovery path as the ad space per publication in CY2022 grew by 16% compared to CY2021, according to a report by Adex India, he said.

Agarwal said Indian language print media have not only made a strong comeback but are demonstrating strong growth over new-age media segments.

“The growth in Tier-II and III markets has further driven the growth in the Print segment and as the clear market leader, the Dainik Bhaskar Group has been a strong beneficiary of this shift as it offers clear advantages to the advertisers and as a result the Group recorded ~25% growth in advertising revenues in FY23 over the previous year.”

Speaking on circulation strategy, he said Dainik Bhaskar’s long-term efforts to extend its leadership by increasing readership continue to yield benefits. “We rolled out several initiatives for our readers and trade partners to drive more reader acquisitions. Our teams continue to deepen our market presence and increase our circulation by taking several initiatives with trade partners as well as readers. Ongoing campaigns such as Personal Contact Campaign (PCC), One Nation One Number (ONON) helpline for bookings, Rebooking Drives in some newer markets such as Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand and Punjab are all yielding results.  “

“This dominant position has also allowed us to take nominal increases in our cover price in some markets during the year with headroom for more,” he added. 

Speaking on the radio business, he said the Retail / local advertisers’ share of ad volumes increased 10% over CY2021 to reach 49% of total ad volumes in CY2022. Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had the highest ad volumes. “At the Dainik Bhaskar Group, MY FM continues to connect with audiences and augment listeners' engagement activities through innovative content creation. This was demonstrated in the strong 20% growth in revenues and an almost ~30% increase in operating profits. We continue to believe that this business has strong potential.”

According to Agarwal, on the digital business for the past three years, the group has put in renewed focus on strengthening our digital business as it looks to create an omni-channel mechanism to reach its readers. “Our ability to innovate clearly puts us ahead of the competition and with a highly personalised product experience.” 


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Reliance Entertainment joins hands with Mid-Day

This collaboration is expected to yield a variety of content across mediums, including films, web series and documentaries

By e4m Staff | Sep 20, 2023 12:01 PM   |   2 min read


Reliance Entertainment and Mid-Day Infomedia Limited (100% owned subsidiary of Jagran Prakashan Limited) have joined forces. This innovative partnership aims to leverage the strengths of both entities to create captivating content inspired by real-life stories.

The collaboration between Reliance Entertainment and Jagran Prakashan Limited (through its 100% owned subsidiary Mid-Day Infomedia Ltd.) marks a significant step towards enhancing the quality and diversity of content available to audiences across various platforms. Through this collaboration, the two industry leaders will combine their expertise and resources to bring to life an array of compelling narratives drawn from the rich tapestry of human experiences.

Chhitra Subramaniam, Sr. Vice President, Creative & Production, Reliance Entertainment, expressed her enthusiasm about the partnership, stating, "We are thrilled to join forces with Jagran Group, a venerable institution in Indian media. This collaboration reflects our shared commitment to delivering impactful and engaging content to audiences. By blending Reliance Entertainment's creative & producing prowess with Jagran Group’s deep-rooted understanding of real-life stories, we aim to create content that resonates deeply with people from all walks of life."

Shailesh Gupta, Director of Mid-Day Infomedia Limited and Whole-Time Director of Jagran Prakashan Limited, also shared his perspective on the collaboration, stating, "Our collaboration with Reliance Entertainment aligns seamlessly with our mission to connect with audiences on a profound level through meaningful narratives. The power of storytelling is immense, and together, we can harness this power to bring stories that inspire, inform, and entertain."

This collaboration is expected to yield a plethora of content across various mediums, including films, web series, documentaries, etc.

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‘No pretence at all of a critical analysis: Malini Parthasarathy criticizes The Hindu

“Becoming a brazen apologist for the hate propaganda spread by @arivalayam (DMK),” Parthasarathy wrote in a tweet

By e4m Desk | Sep 11, 2023 3:08 PM   |   2 min read

Malini Parthasarathy
Months after resigning as The Hindu chairperson over a possible difference with the Board, Malini Parthasarathy has yet again hit out at the publication accusing the newspaper of “becoming a brazen apologist for the hate propaganda spread by @arivalayam (DMK).”

“As a major stakeholder in The Hindu Group, yet rendered powerless as of now, am deeply disappointed by @the_hindu becoming a brazen apologist for the hate propaganda spread by @arivalayam. Today’s piece is another case in point. “At a time when regional parties need ideological clarity, Mr. Udhayanidhi seems to be retaining in him the vestige of the core values of the Dravidian movement, though it often backfires. He does not seem to be intimidated by the criticisms. However, whether he will remain the Athiveeran of Maamannan, who vent his anger on injustice, or make compromises is to be seen.”

“No pretence at all of a critical analysis here as required by good journalism!,” she mentioned. LLLLLL


In June 2023, Parthasarathy resigned as The Hindu Chairperson. At the time of her resignation, Parthasarathy had hinted at differences with the Board, Parthasarathy, in a LinkedIn post said, “My term as Chairperson of The Hindu Group Publishing ends. However, I have also resigned from the Board of the THGPPL as I find the space and scope for my editorial views shrinking. My entire endeavour as Chairperson and Director, Editorial Strategy was to ensure that The Hindu Group revives its legacy of fair and unbiased reporting.”

Malini had two stints as Executive Editor of The Hindu. Her last stint was from 2015 to 2016.



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Ads and festivities: Celebratory time for print industry?

With Q3 of 2023-24 just around the corner, advertisers are waiting to go all out with their festive deals and discounts. Here's what the print media players expect from this festive season

By Chehneet Kaur | Sep 11, 2023 9:13 AM   |   4 min read

print industry

As the season of festivities closes in, every advertiser is optimistic about their ad spends, especially in the print sector, which has bounced back spectacularly after the Covid lull. Print promises to be a lucrative medium for advertisers during this period.

Taking a look back at TAM AdEx numbers, during the festive season of 2022, ads with festive themes of Diwali topped the advertising category list with a 45 per cent share, followed by Navratri/Durga Puja and Independence Day with a 12 per cent share each. 

Similar to previous years, there is an anticipated significant increase in large-format advertising this year. Clients are expected to witness substantial outcomes through impactful advertising campaigns.

Subramanian Swaminathan, Senior Vice President- Response, BCCL shared, “Advertising during the festive season accounts for a sizable portion of total advertising spends for the industry. Focus on large format advertising like Innovations, Gatefolds, Jackets, and Full Pages, which deliver impact and give brands visibility and recall.”

Newspapers are the only advertising medium where advertising is not seen as intrusive but as a part of the content, said Satyajit Sengupta, Chief Corporate Sales and Marketing Officer, Dainik Bhaskar. "Readers actually look forward to their newspapers becoming thicker as the festive season approaches."

During the past festive seasons, the retail, durable goods, electronics, and jewellery sectors consistently allocated substantial budgets for advertising throughout the festive month. Additionally, the BFSI sector has remained robust in its festive promotions, capitalising on the optimistic retail sentiment.

The BCCL executive shared, “While conventional festive categories such as e-commerce, clothing, F&B etc. will be on print, focus on other categories like furnishing/home renovation/improvement, media/OTT, local retail is expected to be aggressive.”

On the regional front, Onam was recently celebrated and consumers looked forward to offers and discounts from their favourite brands and at their preferred retail outlets.

Newspapers uniquely offer large format advertising along with the opportunity for consumers to pause and go through the content with ease. Newspaper advertising is hence very effective during the festival sales push by brands and advertisers, according to Varghese Chandy, Vice President of Marketing and Advertising Sales, Corporate Publicity at Malayala Manorama. 

The ad space increases by a huge margin during the last quarter of the year, making more space for full-page advertisements. For Malayala Manorama, it goes up by about 70-80 per cent as compared to a normal month. 

Swaminathan said, “Last year, we witnessed seven per cent volume growth in the festive period compared with the previous year. Also, festive 2022 saw 39 per cent volume growth compared to Q1.”

But in the world of pages and columns, there exist challenges too. BCCL observed there has been pressure on certain emerging categories that are PE-funded. This could be a challenge and will need to replace some of these erstwhile high-spenders through other verticals. 

Another point to focus on is that print is a medium where inventory is limited and hence inventory management becomes a bit of a challenge, Chandy shared. It requires immense planning and management to ensure that advertiser needs are met within the space available and on the days when advertisers expect the best impact for their message.

Jagran Media’s Director Shailesh Gupta noticed that there are more advertisers and less passivation in an industry like print as of now. Nevertheless, advertisers have been realising the importance of print and are looking forward to investing their ad spends on a medium that is again picking up pace. 

Readers have continued to display engagement with the medium and the sustained recovery indicates the "enduring popularity of print media in India" and also the advantages it possesses, like the ability to provide original and credible content and sticky reading habits. Festivals often provide people with some extra leisure time, especially during public holidays or extended weekends which can lead to an increase in print readership, highlighted Swaminathan.

Print media enables businesses to connect with a diverse audience, leverage the cultural and emotional significance of festivals, and promote their products and services in a visually appealing and targeted manner.

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Ajit Ninan didn't make cartoons, cartoons made him: Neelabh Banerjee

Banerjee is the National Creative Director at Reliance Industries Limited

By e4m Desk | Sep 9, 2023 11:11 AM   |   3 min read

I grew up on Ajit Ninan cartoons. His works were my companions from school to college. The humour was simple and action-oriented.
Later, when he and I became colleagues, he told me that the power of cartoons lies in the drawing, the connect is best done without reading the caption. 
I first met Ajit Bhai at the India Today office. My brother Jayanto and he were colleagues. India Today used to bring out this beautiful magazine called Target and Ajit's famous character Detective Moochwala was a star attraction. Inspired, Jayanto and I started our own comic series Ghardhab Das for Target. Moochwala and Ghardhab Das continued for many years before winds of change set all three of us in different directions. Ajit Bhai joined Outlook magazine, Jayanto remained with Target and I was in The Times of India.
When Ajit bhai joined The Times of India, another chapter began. We would create cartoons, illustrations, and everything under the deep blue sky.
Those were fun years, Ajit bhai as an elder used to always be by my side. He would often help sell some of my notorious ideas to the Editors. He had a knack for seeing politicians' faces in objects and animals -- politicians would transform from train engines to toads! What we see ordinarily and what they are.
Ajit bhai was one for details. He jokingly told me once- if he wasn't a cartoonist he would have been an engineer doing technical drawings. I too try to do detailed drawings of objects appearing in my cartoon, true to the original reference.
Both of us used to draw with the right hand ... but he always used to point out right hand gets the credit but it is the left hand without which drawing on paper is impossible. Just try it and you will see! 
In our family and friend circle, there was a label called Ninan Jokes, some highly unprintable. One of the tame ones was: We don't need to draw caricatures of most politicians, just Xerox them and a cartoon will pop up. 
I still remember advice he used to give me as a senior cartoonist and elder brother-- He was all for the power of thought and cartoon ideas and spending more time with myself and my thoughts... His life was his cartoons and he used to live in them... somewhere the line I use to describe myself and my work -- I don't make cartoons, cartoons make me is rooted in learnings from Ajit Ninan.
Go ahead Ninan Saab, fill Heaven with more laughter!!   
(The writer is National Creative Director, Reliance Industries Limited)

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Noted political cartoonist Ajit Ninan passes away at 68

Ninan was best known for the Ninan's World series in the Times of India

By e4m Desk | Sep 8, 2023 12:20 PM   |   1 min read


Political cartoonist Ajit Ninan, known globally for his outstanding caricatures, passed away today, he was 68.

Ninan was best known for the Ninan's World series in the Times of India. Of the thousands of characters Ninan inked, 'Detective Moochwala' in the children's magazine Target was his most famous.

Ninan regularly addressed social issues and day-to-day activities in keenly observed and humorous ways that speak to some of the universal pressures of managing the family budget and raising children in an increasingly globalised society.

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