IRS 2017: We are definitely, visibly and factually number one in Pune: Pradeep Dwivedi, Sakal Media Group

Pradeep Dwivedi, Chief Executive Officer at Sakal Media Group spoke to Exchange4Media on Indian Readership Survey 2017 (IRS 2017) and how it will influence the regional print market in India

e4m by Nishant Saxena
Updated: Jan 25, 2018 8:57 AM

Pradeep Dwivedi, Chief Executive Officer at Sakal Media Group spoke to Exchange4Media on Indian Readership Survey 2017 (IRS 2017) and how it will influence the regional print market in India. Excerpts.

What does IRS 2017 mean for regional print publications? What is the signal that it gives out?

I think at an aggregate level for the print industry overall and specifically for regional players, the survey has been quite positive. Apart from the pure numbers, the growth trends show the strength that has been witnessed over the last 4 years when there was no IRS. The relevance of regional media and the regional print is very strong and a potent force among the media mix has got reiterated and re-established. It has been very positive news for all regional publications.

Will there be growth in ad revenue? What is supposed to happen now?

I think two-three things specifically are emerging out of that, first of all, I think planners and buyers and even clients themselves are looking at tier-two, tier-three, beyond metros and emerging India. The traditional thinking has been to spend a lot more on television towards brand building and use print for a largely tactical campaign. Many of the agency seniors have pointed out that this kind of reach that print media now delivers. I think the plans will change significantly and they will have a higher frequency of exposure and even the money that regional media will receive will be higher. So, I think in terms of ad revenue there is a very significant impact. Now, that will translate as a higher OTS (Opportunity To See) for the campaign and some level of leveraging of print for brand building. So the agenda of leveraging print media will increase beyond what it was earlier.

If you see the growth of online consumption we have seen very low level. Online content is being put out by print publications, including regional. Increasingly, regional publications are also putting a lot of emphasis on building a digital capability as new millennial audience and other audiences come through these markets. So these markets will become the digital extensions of the regional publishers themselves. From a sustainability point of view and continuous business standpoint, I think it is a very good sign. Obviously, there is a lot of work that needs to be done on the digital side but overall it will be a good story for us.

Is it surprising to see magazines’ readership has grown by 75% in the last 4 years?

It has been a big surprise for everybody even within the industry. People who are publishing magazines knew all along that their product has potential. If you look at the magazine trend and split it between national and regional magazines you will find that there is a growth opportunity for both of them.

If you look at Marathi language magazines and add the readership of our two magazines we are higher than any other magazine group in our state.

What will happen now is while we continue to sort of cater advertising on the print side, we will be able to position our magazine offering far better and perhaps better remuneration and revenue on that.

How do you see Sakal Group’s figures in IRS 2017 as compared to other Marathi publications?

If you look at the ABC figures of January to June last year we have clearly got the largest circulation in the state. One of the things that affect our circulation and hence our readership apart is that we have premium audiences and mid to high-level audiences which are consuming audiences. We don’t promote our publication through schemes and gift offers just to build a circulation number and readership number like other publications are doing.

So if one of the competitors want to increase its circulation and readership in the bottom half of the pyramid and wants to use those numbers then obviously they are entitled to do that. We have a strategy which encompasses a wide variety of segment which will be valuable to advertisers. 
If you look at what our competitors have been trying to showcase that Pune market is one where they have got growth. One has to look at the actual numbers on the ground. The critical metrics for print measurement have been and will remain AIR (Average Issue Readership). If you are publishing a daily publication then what really counts is the daily readership of your paper and on those numbers we are definitely visibly and factually number one in Pune and in the higher segment of the audience in Maharashtra.

The kind of work that Sakal group does in terms of creating a positive social impact and on ground change cannot be measured in terms of numbers etc. We are far more superior to anyone or what one can dream of delivering.

 How confident are you about the methodology used this time for the survey? Any scope of improvement you expect in next surveys?

There is always a scope of improvement in anything that you do in life but the bottom line is that this survey was far more robustly done and I think the methodology prevented any kind of tampering and malpractices. There are multiple validations. I was personally part of the technical committee, although, I joined it pretty late whatever I saw in the meeting while I was there it was satisfactory. In fact, you can see it in everybody’s responses.

As compared to previous surveys, the growth witnessed in IRS 2017 is massive. Any comment?

The figures are so large because they have done it after a very long time. For example, if you compare 2014 data with 2010 data you would see it increasing. Also, in India print is still growing, the positive message out of these numbers is just not the size of growth but the direction of growth.

Concern on Print media globally has been it is declining and newspapers are not selling but here is a market, India, which is a rapidly growing market, GDP growth is more than 7%, strong economy, also one of the largest in the world, progressive economy, democratic nation and yet a very strong adoption of print which continues to grow. So it provides a different model of media to advertisers compared to what they see anywhere else.

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