IRS Q4 2019: Regional centres hold out hope for print

While some regional newspapers saw a hike in total readership, others witnessed growth in average issue readership. Some popular brands from across the country saw a growth in both TR and AIR

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: May 12, 2020 9:29 AM

Amidst one of the most turbulent times for print media, numbers from non-metro cities in the latest IRS report brings much-needed cheer for the industry. The glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel comes from the regional centres as they continue to provide growth to the publishers.

The latest IRS report that is based on a rolling average of data from 3 quarters IRS 2019 (Q1), (Q2) and (Q3) and one fresh quarter – Q4 gives an overall sense of decline in readership for print across centres. However, a closer look at the numbers clearly shows a growth pattern in news centres outside of metros.

While some regional newspapers saw a hike in TR (total readership) some witnessed growth in AIR (average issue readership). Incidentally, some popular brands from across the country like Amar Ujala, Lokmat, Daily Thanthi and Bartaman saw a growth in both TR and AIR.

To start with Hindi in Uttar Pradesh Aj grew from a TR (total readership) of 4053 in Q3 to 4095 TR in Q4. Navbharat Times saw a growth pattern over the last four quarters in the state in AIR, where their number grew from 488 to 521 to 490 and finally touched 550.

In Bihar, Dainik Bhaskar too showed consistent growth over the four quarters with TR growing from 4970 to 5877 to 6263 and finally touching 6706 in Q4. Dainik Bhaskar also witnessed a similar trend in Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab. In Punjab Dainik Savera and Amar Ujala too showed consistent growth in TR.

In Haryana, a couple of newspapers showed growth in both TR and AIR over the four quarters of 2019.  Amar Ujala is one of them. While the TR of the newspaper grew from 1925 in Q1 to 1952 to Q2, it fell to 1872 in Q3 but ended up in an all-time high in Q4 touching 2027. The AIR never saw a drop and grew consistently through the four quarters, from 391 to 401 to 411 and finally 474 in Q4.

The secret behind the growth is perhaps a change in strategy by the brand. 

“In Haryana, we initially had just one edition printing out of Rohtak. However, we recently came out with two more editions, one Karnal and the other Hissar, with print facility in both these centres. As the printing facility is at the centre itself the product reaches the reader early in the morning without any distribution break. Also, with these two editions being added, it has given us the bandwidth to emphasize on more local and late-night coverage having local flavour giving us edge in connecting with the communities,” said Probal Ghosal, Director, Amar Ujala Limited.

Ultimately it is the readers who keep the newspapers going and pushing their limits. “We have been able to maintain our readership base across markets. The onus of Amar Ujala staying put in its position reflects on the loyalty the readers have with the brand,” Ghosal said.

Like Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand also saw growth in numbers for popular brands in the region like Dainik Bhaskar and Amar Ujala.

The industry however didn’t see all ups in the year gone by. There were dips in the numbers caused by a variety of reasons such as an increase in newsprint prices or fall in ad bills. From 2017 to the end of 2019, the newspaper industry in the country saw a huge hike in the cost of production as the price of newsprint touched an unprecedented high. The prices went up by as much as 60 per cent, leaving those in the print media business struggling with increased production cost.

This is when a lot of newspapers reduced their number of editions. Some however didn’t want to give up and weathered the storm rather bravely. Some made their content game stronger, while others laid emphasis on audience engagement through social media. These were the papers that saw a growth in readership.

These include some regional players too.

“Last year probably every media brand has faced innumerable challenges. However, we have always tried to keep our readers deeply involved with the brand through relevant and quality content, backed by credible news. We have also been more aggressive in terms of our social marketing approach, and invested in campaigns and initiatives that stimulate people to think, review and act,” said D D Purkayastha, MD and CEO at ABP PVT LTD.

The idea has always been to make people feel more empowered said Purkayastha. “I can say with certainty that our efforts have been successful in creating conversations that enable change and transformation for the betterment of society. The essence of the brand as a responsible entity is embedded in readers’ mind,” he said.

Regional indeed was a clear winner in some states. In Maharashtra for instance, all major regional dailies saw a growth. Lokmat grew consistently in their TR with numbers rising from 19469 to 20169 to 21457 to 22012. Daily Sakal’s TR grew from 11668 to 12771 to 13960 to14661.

Pudhari and Punya Nagari also saw growth in TR over the four quarters of 2019.

In Kerala, numbers grew for Deshabhimani and Kerala Kaumudi. In Karnataka, it was Vijay Karnataka, Vijayavaniand  Prajavani Udayavani. In Orissa, it was Sambad (Ori), Samaja and Pragativadi and in Tami Nadu, it was Daily Thanthi and Dinamalar. In Gujarat, Divya Bhaskar saw a good growth and in West Bengal, all top five newspapers barring one saw a growing TR. These include Ananda Bazar Patrika, Bartaman, Ei Samay and Sangbad Pratidin.

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