Print continues to be the strongest medium in Kerala

The extent of reach provided by Malayala Manorama in Kerala is unparalleled compared to the reach of any newspaper in any other state in India

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 19, 2021 2:11 PM
Varghese Chandy speaks to e4m

With the highest literacy level in India, Kerala enjoys the maximum reach when it comes to print. With an 87% reach, even a tough year like the one gone by didn’t impact the circulation of newspapers in the state the way it hit other states. In a candid chat with Exchange4media, Varghese Chandy talks about the Kerala market and the limitless opportunities it has for the advertiser. 

The reach of print in Kerala happens to be the highest in India, by a fair margin. It is one of the few states in India where the reach of print is higher than C&S (based on availability in the household), Internet, Radio and Cinema and The Malayala Manorama is not just the most read and circulated daily in Kerala, but the extent of reach provided by Malayala Manorama in a single state is unparalleled across India. The high affinity towards print in Kerala was one of the reasons why newspaper circulation in Kerala was least affected during the pandemic.

But why is Kerala so different from the other markets? What sets them apart?

Chandy talks at length about the nuances of the Kerala market.

Excerpts

1)2020 was a completely different kind of year where print like most other businesses suffered huge losses, fortunately for Kerala though print saw the quickest recovery. Help us understand how this happened and how Malayala Manorama managed to get not just the readers but also the advertisers’ back on board?

Kerala was better prepared to meet with this kind of pandemic. If you look at the last two years we had very devastating floods and we also had the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018 which was quite dangerous but the state managed it quite well. One of the first few cases of Corona virus was detected in Kerala and we were able to identify it pretty early because of our advanced healthcare facilities. If you look at Kerala in the Covid situation right from the beginning the people have adhered to all rules like using of sanitizers, wearing masks and maintaining social distance. 

Studies show that 21% of the national population got the virus and in Delhi it was more than 50% whereas in Kerala it was only 10.7 %. That just explains how Kerala was able to manage the pandemic and never let it go out of control. 

Our chief minister had announced how newspapers don’t spread the virus and so did INS. We have more than 15000 newspaper agents and unlike most other states where distribution happens through hawkers and shops here in Kerala it is house to house delivery and during the pandemic even micro containment areas were reached by the newspapers because of the fantastic network of agents. Therefore the number of copies circulated never got affected even during the times when other states especially in metros circulation fell by 50%.

Coming to advertisers, recovery of advertisers is the easier part. If you are able to reach the consumers then advertisers will follow and exactly that is what happened in Kerala.  

2) Kerala is a consumer state, what is your message to brands looking at Kerala?

You will find one of the most dispersed populations in Kerala in fact it is said that after Jews Malayalis are the most dispersed population.  You go to any part of the world you will find Malayalis and they bring with them their rich consumer culture and their exposure to the brands. This however didn’t happen in a day, it happened over the years. Also Kerala is a city state. You will hardly find any difference between urban and so to say rural areas in Kerala. Everything from the infrastructure to density of population is same in both catchments. If you look at NCCS, the higher end of the consumers classification in Kerala is huge, 68% of the population fall into the category whereas if you look at the rest of the country or national average it’s only 39% so you can see it’s a very plum consumer classification for the brands. If you look into any product category you will find the penetration levels of the product are very high here. For instance you will find 20% of the population In Kerala have four wheelers and about 60% have two wheelers, television would be 85% and refrigerators are at around 72%.  So if you look at the national averages it would be less than half of this therefore what you find in Kerala would be a high consuming population. The population is also less in the state. With a 3.3 crore population and lesser land masses, the density of population is high hence brands in the state are always fighting for their voice to be heard. Therefore it is only imperative for brands to spend more on the state because Kerala is a mature consuming state.

3) Interestingly, Kerala in many ways always sets trends nationally. Even for print Kerala boasts of the highest reach across any medium, more than C&S homes and Internet, what is your take on this?

Kerala is traditionally a literate state and secondly print medium has been extremely strong because of the literacy and if we speak of Malayala Manorama specifically it has got the legacy of more than 130 years. So all these factors put together alongside the huge backing of credibility of the medium the reach of print has been exceptional. As already mentioned the excellent circulation system we have is also a factor behind the reach. Newspapers are the primary source of information for people in Kerala especially in times like the ongoing pandemic when a lot of fake news is circulated in the market. People actually depended on print to get authentic news. 

 

4)  It is often said that a lot of Malayali’s know English but even those who know prefer the Malayalam dailies for their news. What do you have to say about that? How does Malayala Manorama keep their readers engaged?

In Kerala, Malayalam dailies reach 82% of the state versus a 5% reach for English dailies. Along with the 130-year-old legacy and one of the other main reason behind the success is also because the way we have managed the brand with utmost professionalism.

If you take a English newspaper and a Malayalam newspaper you will hardly find any difference in the international news coverage or even the national news coverage. The only difference you will find is in the coverage of hyper local news which Malayala Manorama. This is because we, have more than hundred local additions and the kind of news that you get in these local editions is not possible for any other medium to cover.  Also if you talk of the 5% English papers readers it is important to understand that they also read a Malayalam newspaper which means the incremental reach that the English newspaper can give to an advertiser is actually zero.

As for keeping the reader engaged, our editorial content is keeping up with the changing times and changing interests all the time. We also do a lot of research with our readers where we find out their preferences and their changing behaviour and then we change our offerings accordingly to cater to the requirement.


5)  Kerala has many shopping seasons like Vishu, Eid, Onam and Christmas but as we understand the market behavior has been different since the floods two years ago-tell us about the changing trends?

The festive season in India starts with Onam in Kerala which falls either in August or September. The window between the first of Chingam (first day of Malayalam Calender) and the Onam day is the most appropriate time for advertisers to advertise and the marketers to sell the products. This period is called the Onam Window. 

There was a time when 50% to 60% of consumer durable sales happened in that window but then the floods happened during the Onam period in 2018 and 2019 and it gave a reminder to the marketers to not put all the eggs in one basket. You need to spread your marketing season across periods so even if you lose one there is more to cash on.  

Alongside the many festivals we have in Kerala we also trying to create more festivals. For instance we have created seasons like NRI season when the non-residents return to Kerala 

Talking of trend, it is interesting to see how large supermarket chains are opening up across the state like Lulu. Similarly, you will also find large electronic supermarkets across the state and all of them are having multiple large outlets all over. This reflects on the recovery satiation in the state because the greatest parameter of recovery is when retail is live.

6) Malayala Manorama has been inspiring newspapers and also brands on how to popularize the 'essence of local' and also make the offering profitable. Tell us how you plan to keep your growth story going and lastly your plans for 2021-how do you plan to make it bigger and better?

The biggest growth for Malayala Manorama has come in the last 10 years during which print has co-existed have also coexisted with digital and television. At a time when the story of newspapers across the world is not very encouraging the Kerala story is very positive and I would say it will continue to grow for many years to come. The sole reason behind this is the investment that we are doing to take care of the needs of the readers. We do a lot of exercise with the school students as well and we have pages dedicated for the students which they look forward to. This shows that the young population is also not going away from the habit of reading newspapers.

 2021 is a year of hope and 2020 was a year where everybody lost so if you talk of March 2021 we have almost reached the recovery stage which means that we have reached almost close to 2019-2020 figures. Since we have already touched rock bottom we can only go up from here.

This content is created by exchange4media in partnership with Malayala Manorama 

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