Is it the sunrise for the language print media?
Guest Column: L. Adimoolam, Publisher – Dinamalar, writes on the Audit Bureau of Circulation resuming its audit and the power of regional print media
Yes, it is, I am very positive about this. About two and half decades ago, the buzz that lingered in my ears was that, “It is the sunset for the Print Medium.” This was repeated again and again very often by media stalwarts. But as the owner and Publisher of a language daily I see it far from over.
Now ABC has come out after a hiatus of 2 years. Many of so-called leading English dailies are not being reflected. Many leading agencies are wondering on the unfair rates that they have paid to English dailies. Now with no ABC or badly reduced figures, will they be able to buy them at a proportionate rate. It is also unfortunate that the curtains are falling hard on them because of the hype that they had over the years and also ill logically supported by the big-wigs of a few advertising agencies. Over the last few decades, it appears to me that clients’ interests were truly not on top of the agency agenda. It was more seen as an earning potential, and for this they used the highly-priced English dailies to help them and to make money as well because of the exorbitant rates that they charged. The industry is suffering because of this over-hyped rate charges by a handful of publications, specially few English publications.
On the other hand, language dailies - though to a great extent ignored or exploited - were always conservative. It was like this, if you speak well in the English language you were high and mighty and if you weren’t fluent you were low and a discard.
Another reason for this is that, many leading agencies were parking more than 20 per cent of the Print spends of clients with one or two publications in the English space and language dailies were given crumbs like spends that were remaining. This was also the reason for language dailies to be exploited and degraded. Do you remember great brands that took off in India with high magnitude of spends with English dailies are not now in India - for instance, Ford, Chevrolet and many more that you can fill up. With agencies promoting national reach and coverage, and thereby supporting English dailies language dailies have proved its worth and existed with strong local retail advertising. With these language dailies were able to sustain even during the tough times by giving more pages and with minimal reduction of pages as we need to provide local content, since the reader pays a higher cover price too.
Now, why do I say all this. Let us divide this era. Post and Pre Covid. Many dailies stand totally exposed (more so the English dailies). Many English newspapers never had the ethics to abide by the industry norm. I am referring to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). This is the true certified number of copies that a newspaper sells in the marketplace. It should be the sunset for the English dailies sooner than expected. It all started with some newspapers pushing copies in the disguise of invitation pricing and pricing an intellectual product as low as Re 1 and unimaginably increasing the advertising tariff and making many medium and small advertisers move to digital media. Many leaders in some markets and challengers were killed by this unfair tactic.
Unfortunately, English dailies in TN have not gone in for this audit. Only 2 leading language dailies in TN have been certified with circulation figures for the period Jan-Jun 2022, proudly Daily Thanthi and Dinamalar. However, many standalone language dailies have gone in for certification and many and mostly the so-called leading English dailies have not been certified and those that were certified have shown a very huge drop as well. The English dailies are not certified as they are afraid that the low numbers will shatter their perception of audience delivery. On the other hand, language newspaper drop has not been that steep. Even with some English dailies not being in ABC, agencies have preferred to pay very high values/rates to some publications. If it is Rs 2 crore for a jacket for a daily with 3 million circulation, a language publication with 1.8 million copies is not paid even Rs 50 lakh.
A positive point for language dailies is that the recovery from the drop in circulation has also been good. Please note that the language dailies do have a higher cover price too.
A few of my closing requests and suggestions:
The leading advertising agencies should also understand the power of the language press and the local market strength besides some statistical figures they have. I hope at least in this post-Covid era established advertising agencies who help brands grow will also look at including a larger share of advertising.
Claimed circulation figures by English dailies and high rates/prices paid followed by the sudden downfall and many English dailies going out of ABC to hide the real figures, clearly brings out that the curtains are falling hard on the English press. Will the clients/agencies see this? Will they appreciate the boldness of many language dailies? Will the rate corrections happen in English media? Will this money be ploughed into the language space or will it go to other media? I am sure all will realize that Print media has some uniqueness that cannot be replaced.
I also appeal to my comrades; we are considered as the fourth estate of our country. Print is known for its credibility and this drives our business. Let us as an industry follow ethical practices and not break them to make moolah the wrong way.
I am sure that if we do course correction now, our industry, as a whole, will grow and add greater value to both the reader and the advertiser.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com
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