No signs of fatigue yet in circulation of Telugu publications:: KRP Reddy, Sakshi Group

Telugu daily Sakshi has completed a decade in the newspaper industry. Group's Director-Advertising and Marketing talks about the newspaper's journey so far

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 8:54 AM

Launched in 2008, Telugu daily Sakshi has completed a decade in the newspaper industry. Sakshi garnered recognition as the first regional newspaper designed by American newspaper and magazine designer Mario Garcia. The daily was simultaneously rolled out from 23 cities in India-- 19 from the then united Andhra Pradesh and four from Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. This record was acknowledged by the Limca Book of Records. Sakshi is also the second newspaper in India to publish all its pages in colour.

exchange4media caught up with KRP Reddy, Director – Advertising and Marketing, Sakshi Group, to talk about the publication’s 10-year journey, how they understand and analyse the expectations of their readers and much more.

Here are the edited excerpts of the interview:

Sakshi has completed 10 years in the industry, how has the journey been?

Sakshi has had a dream run since its launch on March 23, 2008. As you know, Sakshi stormed into the market with a launch unprecedented in the newspaper industry across the world. And that record is still intact in its name. Sakshi was rolled out simultaneously from 23 cities in India – 19 from the then united Andhra Pradesh (AP) and four from the mega metro cities of Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.

Prior to Sakshi’s entry in the market, the total readership universe for Telugu dailies as in IRS 2008-Round 1 was 1.88 crore. The market leader in AP then enjoyed such a wide gulf with its competitors that both Number 2 and 3 Telugu dailies put together couldn’t measure up to the market leader’s readership. The gap between Number 1 and 2 was that of 80.76 lakh readers! However, a year later in 2009 R-2, Sakshi's readership numbers made the industry sit up and take note of its arrival. The number of Telugu daily readers rose from 1.88 crore to 2.20 crore. This was achieved in a matter of months. Sakshi established itself with a debuting TR number of 1.25 crore readers. The gap between Number 1 and Number 2 was drastically slashed down to just 21.45 lakh readers.

With the position of a strong Number 2 Telugu daily in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Sakshi tried harder to keep its consumers, both readers and advertisers, immensely content. Gradually, it also established itself well in ad volume, both in the local as well as national circuit. It is now integral to the media plan for all categories. Its digital editions--both the news portal as well the e-paper-- are in regular revenue stream besides delivering huge unique audience.

How does Sakshi understand and analyse the need of the readers?

The new age Telugu reader is mostly on the move. They are now recognized world over for skill, confidence and scientific temper. Not just the people, but even the two Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are more on the ascendancy now.

Right from its launch, Sakshi had decided to reflect what the aspirant states needed. We recorded, reported and relived a typical stimulating day in the life of the people in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The younger lot, tasting the success of the IT sector and having been around the globe, was gasping for a brand that reflected their aspiration. They got a newspaper that was in sync with their kind of world.

To be a brand of aspiration, Sakshi has placed over 1900 correspondents, maintained its own news bureau offices in all major metro cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai & Bangalore and also at major 1-million-plus cities in India. Adding to this huge network are the video journalists engaged with Sakshi TV all over the two states. The daily also subscribes to a number of news agencies and news feeds from the national and international circuits.

From over tens of thousands of news feeds, the editorial team hand picks the most relevant ones that the new age readers need. These are delivered in three distinct product mix packages. A mother brand of 16 pages that is dedicated to state, national, international and other main genres. Then there is a 16-page tabloid for extensive coverage of districts. And finally, another two pages for constituencies, tailor-made for a reader from that geographical segment. So, in effect, Sakshi, which is printed from 21 printing centers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, publishes 19 main brands, 46 district tabloids and 293 constituency supplements. Such a careful planning gives the product a huge edge over all its rivals.

How does the digital content and digital distribution models affect the newspaper industry in India?

The proliferation of digital technology coupled with the progress in India's telecommunications industry may have had a disruptive effect on print and TV across the world. But in India, especially in the two hi-tech Telugu states, I believe print and digital complement each other. Even the World Press Trends reports suggest that at least 40 per cent of global internet users read newspapers online. And that in most developed countries, readership on digital platforms has surpassed that in print (WAN-INFRA, 2016).

There may have been an impression that revenue from print is on decline, but it still makes up for more than 90% of the newspapers’ revenues.

Digital audience may have been showing a steady ascent, but look at the circulation of Telugu publications. It has not shown signs of fatigue yet. It has been growing at a steady rate over the years. This growth is on account of low cover prices and expanding literacy in the markets.

Despite continual doomsday prophesy for the newspaper industry since the advent of satellite media in mid 90s, the pulp version of media not only thrives today but no brand worth its salt has died gasping for reader's interest in the recent past. Newspaper organisations and journalists are adopting new technology in order to remain relevant in a fast-changing environment. On one hand, they are swept up in the disruptive shifts in the global media economy, while on the other, they are in a unique position to convert this disruption into an opportunity.

The rise in the price of newsprint is a major concern for publishers across the world, how is Sakshi going to tackle the issue?

Debate on newsprint cost is as old a concern as the newspaper itself! Yes, it has been a major concern for the industry alright, but the industry is finding ways to overcome the issue.

According to you, what is the future of Telugu media industry?

Suffice to say that unlike other states where English or the western culture may have had a sway, the Telugu populace never felt threatened by it. As a matter of fact, Telugu's socio-cultural identity comprising its social fabric, conventions, traditions, rituals, sartorial preferences, food, literature, cinema, dance, theatre, classical music, art and craft, etc still retains its chastity. And therefore even the newspaper reading habit!

The overall look and feel of the newspaper may have undergone a sea change with the influx of technology, but the urge among the residents to consume Telugu through different media options is still there. And coming to print, the total Telugu newspaper universe in IRS 2009 [R-2] was 2.20 crore readers. It now stands at 2.52 crore readers. So where is the question on the future of Telugu media?

What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?

Business-wise, Sakshi has closed a decent summer campaign-- bagging handsome volume in all summer products such as A/C and coolers. It also maintained a healthy volume in education segment during its peak season of March-June. The state has just been through its annual 'Ashadam Sale' (monsoon sale season) when textile segment goes into unusual hype during the year. The daily has closed on a moderate volume of business from this revenue stream.

We are now on the threshold of the festive season of 2018. Festive season sets the overall prospects for the year. And as is the practice, the media industry looks up to Kerala's Onam season for early indication. Then, it is closely followed by the Ganesh festival season of the west. These two festivals give us enough indications as to how the season would unfold for the media industry ahead.

And if the media buying negotiation for the Onam, which is underway now, is any indication, we hope to have a promising festive volume ahead.

The year 2018 also has plans for the consolidation of the digital business of Sakshi. Efforts are afoot to place digital marketing team at all metro business offices. The daily has been actively engaged in formulating strategies for reaping richer digital revenue harvest through its digital properties.

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