Lockdown 2.0: Why print media is not worried

Even with the second wave of the pandemic hitting the country, print is confident of keeping the growth story going with integrated offerings to brands

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Apr 16, 2021 9:54 AM

Fighting circulation roadblocks and dwindling toplines, print made a strong comeback in the final quarter of FY21. Albeit ad rates were lowered to keep the ads coming, ad volumes touched 90% compared to pre-Covid times in the last three months. Even with the second wave of the pandemic hitting the country, print is confident of keeping the growth story going.

According to experts, the print growth story has been getting a strong boost from the non-metro tier II and tier III markets, which is also a new favourite for advertisers.

“With the extreme lockdown conditions being eased in most parts of the country, the consumer demand and spending are back to its previous levels. There is a definite possibility going forward that the trends will continue and 'local' demand for categories like Automobiles, Consumer Electronics and Durables, Mobile Phones and FMCG will spur growth. Real Estate is showing signs of re-emergence and so is local retail - particularly the Modern Trade and Lifestyle categories.  In the coming months, we are working hard on the ground and expect the positive and normal business sentiments to continue in the long term, barring some temporary disturbances due to the current Covid surge, however, with vaccine availability, it is expected to remain short-lived,” said Girish Agarwal-Promoter Director, D. B. Corp Ltd.

According to him, during the first and second phase of Covid, election and vaccination, readership time and reader engagement have tremendously improved for his brand, indicating people’s preference and subsequently getting advertisers on board.

Turns out, print ad volumes per newspaper per day remained almost the same during January 21-March 21 compared to January 20-March 20. As per the latest TAM AdEx data, the top categories to advertise on print also remained the same during both periods.

But is the trend here to stay?

‘Why not?” said publishers.

“Time and again, the print industry has always proven its worthiness and importance in any situation given. During the outbreak of the pandemic, it was the print industry that stood firmly as a strong pillar and was regarded as the most credible source of information to its readers and advertisers. 

"The advertising industry has always had faith in us and as the 4th pillar of democracy, print continues to deliver and flourish. There is a positive sentiment prevailing amongst brands and advertisers as the tough times are over and the economy is also working towards a revival path. The regional markets will deliver better performance than the national players in the long run,” said MV Shreyams Kumar, Managing Director, Mathrubhumi.

Will advertisers be incentivized with discounted rates to close deals?

For Kumar and most others, heavy discount is not on the cards for the new fiscal.

“We don't have plans of giving rate cut/ heavy discounting as the market is trying to revive, no change in circulation,” said Kumar.

"Convincing the brands about the medium has already been done. Especially in the wake of fake news and controversies around TV news, brands want to associate themselves with a medium that is authentic. A lot of brands starting from real estate to FMCG have increased their print budget substantially last year and the second wave of the pandemic will not change that. Print will not take any extra hit this time," said another print expert. 

" As far as deep discounts are concerned there are no such plans because the industries have opened up and consumer sentiments have also bettered in the last couple of months. Brands would need communicating and print will provide the credible platform for such communications with discounts being offered only as part of factors like relationship building and loyalty. While we see no immediate growth in ad rates we also do not foresee any sizeable drop."

Another driving force for the sector is digital offerings. News apps over the last year have seen close to a 50% increase in time spent on them, building not just a new readership trend but also a new focus area for advertisers.

How is print benefiting from the hits and clicks in this new regime?

Talking about new trends Mayank Bhatnagar, executive vice president, head west and south, Carat India, a dentsu International India owned media agency, said brands are now looking at integrated solutions. “The reach of print was heavily impacted during the early days of lockdown last year but at the same time, readers moved to digital offerings of the same brands they are used to read on print for credible news. That habit sticks on, making it the new way of news consumption. As a result, brands are looking for integrated deals with print publishers for greater coverage over both offline and online offerings.”

“Such plans are also more cost-effective for brands,” he said.

According to Bhatnagar, categories such as BFSI and technology are keen on such integrated solutions and other sectors are also fast catching up.

So while the contribution of print in the overall AdEx is expected to go down from 25% to about 21%, offering integrated solutions is one way to keep the boat afloat for print publishers said, Bhatnagar.

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