What led to Deccan Chronicle bowing out of Kerala and Karnataka?

The company will reportedly wind up Asian Age newspaper’s Mumbai based operations also

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Updated: Jan 9, 2020 11:04 AM

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Deccan Chronicle

The print media industry is going through a challenging phase with a decline in readership and ad revenue and the digital onslaught from technological giants. The Indian print media industry is facing the extra burden of demonetisation, GST, and 10 per cent customs duty on newsprint. When the decline in the readership of newspapers in India is being debated, Deccan Chronicle (DC) has shut down its Bengaluru and Kerala editions on December 27, 2019. According to reports, the company is going to wind up the Asian Age newspaper’s Mumbai based operations also.

Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited (DCHL) was founded in 1938 as a printing and publishing company. They started publishing their flagship English newspaper Deccan Chronicle as a weekly newspaper which was later converted into a daily. In 2005, DCHL acquired Asian Age Holdings and in 2008, they launched their financial newspaper Financial Chronicle. According to industry experts, DC dominated the local advertising in English print media in Hyderabad during the early 2010s. They were the fourth largest English newspaper in India in 2012.

So from a printing and publishing company which was growing leap and bounds within a short span of time, it seems DCHL couldn’t maintain the growth trajectory. DC which now runs 11 editions across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana was operating in three editions in Kerala namely- Cochin, Calicut, and Thiruvananthapuram. Deccan Chronicle was unshakably No 1 in undivided Andhra despite The Hindu and New Indian Express being in the market, and the competition from Times of India. It expanded to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and was able to grow at its own pace without any survival pressure.

Also Read: Sanjay Bhatla, Vice President of Deccan Chronicle steps down

“It’s not just The Deccan Chronicle. Almost every newspaper organisation in Kerala including the language papers are struggling now. Sure, digital media is one reason,” observes Vinod Mathew, Senior Journalist and former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Pune and The New Indian Express, Kerala.

“This becomes evident when we look at the ever-shrinking advertisement portfolio of the Kerala editions of English dailies. This has become a stark reality over the last year or so,” added Mathew.

Confirming the death of print theories Mathew said, “Until recently, advertisement supplements provided 70 per cent revenue for some of these newspapers. Now, even that route has dried up. As a result, many organisations are either seeing a natural drop in the circulation numbers while some are going to the extent of pruning numbers to balance out high newsprint cost.”

Mathew continued, "It's a Catch-22 situation as reduced circulation translates into reduced advertisement potential. Some take the extreme step of closing down editions. Others make do by cutting down costly designations. No debating this - print is in the throes of its last gasp fight.”

Varghese Chandy, VP-Marketing & Ad Sales, Malayala Manorama attributes DC's demise to external market forces: "Economics of a newspaper is decided by revenues from circulation and advertisements. The survival of any medium also depends on factors such as economic conditions and competition. "

"Therefore they may have realized that the future potential is not rosy based on the current earnings and future potential. So they may have resorted to a commonsensical conclusion to focus on the editions that are making money," he added.

According to John Thomas, media veteran and journalism teacher, the shutting down is not because of the financial difficulties. Thomas said, ”The case of Deccan Chronicle folding up in Kerala and Karnataka, closing its Financial Chronicle and ceasing printing of Asian Age (which effectively is DC for northern India) is not because of the financial difficulties due to a fall in readership and resultant revenue, but because of the collateral ruin to the publications caused by the proprietors' unwise non-publishing vanity ventures -- notably the IPL venture Deccan Chargers.”

He continued, “We have the example of Vijay Times (2002-06) of the Vijayanand transport group which did so well that it was threatening TOI Karnataka in a matter of three years that BCCL bought it out (along with the sister publication Vijay Karnataka) and killed the competition.”

“Vijay Times became buyable because its proprietor started the Kannada Nadu Party single-handedly and funded all the candidates for an assembly election leading him in crippling debt," Thomas added.

According to Babu Mather, a media veteran, Deccan Chronicle had been struggling for the last couple of years due to financial crunch and poor marketing, “Editorially the DC was not bad though, of late, some good journalists too had jumped off the sinking ship, seeking greener pastures. Many journalists and other administrative and marketing staff have become jobless,” said Mather.

He added, “DC was way behind The Hindu, Times of India and New Indian Express in terms of circulation and ad revenue. In my opinion, DC’s marketing was below average and I also guess DC didn’t do their homework foolproofing before launching the daily."

"It’s really sad to see the unceremonious exit of DC from Kerala," he concluded.

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