Return of bulky editions signals Print's revival

With advertisers coming back, newspaper houses are now confident of reviving their business, print editions and dwindling toplines

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Aug 25, 2020 8:35 AM  | 5 min read

After a hiatus of over four months, print is finally making a comeback. With special editions of more than 50 pages, key newspaper brands are sending out a clear message to their stakeholders: Print is here to stay. Interestingly, it is the smaller markets that are clocking the maximum ad volumes. Newspaper houses are now confident of reviving their business, print editions and dwindling toplines.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, print editions have only been shrinking in terms of number of pages since March. August 13, however, was a pleasant surprise for newspaper readers. Dainik Bhaskar’s print edition for Bhopal on the day was a 72-pager. In the special Bhopal anniversary edition, most of the advertisements came from real estate, automobiles, electronics, FMCG, jewellery lifestyle, government and social advertisers.

The edition was not just an assurance to readers but also a loud shoutout by the advertisers who haven’t lost their faith in the credibility of print medium.
With the return of advertisers, newspapers also said they are slowly inching towards pre-Covid level business.

“Given the response we have been receiving from advertisers, our pagination volumes are moving towards the pre-Covid levels. Going by the trend Dainik Bhaskar has seen in the past few months, of every subsequent month throwing up better numbers, and the indications we are getting from the businesses that they are extremely eager to turn the tide around for themselves, we are pretty confident of brighter days ahead for the Print,” said Madhya Pradesh State head at DB Corp Sumit Modi.

According to experts, it is indeed the non-metro editions and vernacular press that is performing better. But why so?
“If we see IRS numbers, it is vernacular media that is holding the fort for print media. Vernacular media is faster to embrace change. During the lockdown, vernacular print media didn’t just reduce its price for certain editions but also introduced innovation. Some distributed immunity kits with the papers while some took bold steps like making market share-linked deals. Vernacular, especially Hindi, was pro-active in the lockdown and it reaped results for them,” said Deepak Sharma, Managing Director, North- Starcom MediaVest Group.

According to Sharma, most metros are in danger zone presently, and hence, English newspapers which are most popular in those cities are taking a hit, whereas English as well as Hindi and other vernacular papers are back at 100% circulation in most tier II and tier III cities.

These are the cities that have also caught the advertisers’ attention. “Credibility of the medium, ease of carrying out geo-control campaigns and communication with category-wise audience can be easily implemented in print, making it a lucrative medium to have in one’s media mix,” said Sharma.
The long dry spell of zero advertisements really seems to be over for print. Even the latest TAM AdEx numbers suggest that March and April were the worst hit period but the average ad volume per day rose by 0.47% in May and by 3.2 times in June .

The report also showed that 75% of the ads in April-June were in Hindi and English and 11 other languages accounted for 25% share of ad space of April-June. With almost similar ad language share of 5%, ads in Kannada, Marathi and Tamil ranked 3rd, 4th and 5th, repectively, in the ad language share during the period.
Dainik Bhaskar, however, is not the isolated example of a brand moving towards recovery. On August 17, The Times of India brought out editions with a total of 60 pages in Mumbai, 72 pages in Gurgaon, 58 pages in Delhi, 78 pages in Hyderabad, 52 pages in Bengaluru and 46 pages in Chennai.
The business had started to show a turnaround since the beginning of August for the most read English newspaper brand.

“We have been doing 30-40 plus pages in various key markets like Delhi, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad since the first weekend of August. Some of our non-metro branches are clocking ad volumes/revenues similar or higher than last year. This is an indication that the smaller markets are on a faster road to recovery, but metros are fast catching up. This is definitely a sign of things to come. With the festive period approaching, we are positive that print will see a higher traction from brands that are looking for a high level of discovery, recall, impact and credibility,” said Sivakumar Sundaram, Chairman, Executive Committee (CEC), Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd.

The spread of advertisers for the special editions were from 25 odd sectors, including the likes of retail, real estate, consumer durables, BFSI, e-commerce, technology, education, auto and healthcare. “There was a mix of national, regional and local brands totaling to over 1100 that came on board for the special editions. National advertisers contributed to more than 40% of the total ad volume. The edition featured marquee brands like Reliance, Colgate Palmolive, LIC, SBI, Indian Bank, Tata Tea, Mondelez, amongst others,” Sundaram said.
According to Pitch Madison Advertising Report 2020 Mid-Year Review, categories like FMCG, Auto and Education continue to be the main cash cows and contributed almost 45% to Print AdEx in H1’20 against 38% in 2019.

Education, with 16% contribution, overtook FMCG as the largest contributor to Print AdEx, dethroning FMCG which came second at 15%. Despite the setback faced by the auto industry in the market, it ranks third in contribution to Print AdEx at 14%.

Print is not just getting back its source of ad revenue but also winning back the trust of all other stakeholders. Credibility of the medium is bringing Print back in the big picture.
“The print medium would be far more resilient and relevant post the current crisis. Readers have also realised that it is safe to get the newspaper delivered at their doorstep as is the case with all essentials. Our circulation has recovered almost 90% in some markets and over 70% in most markets. The increased time spent on print medium also makes it a compelling proposition for marketers for new launches, topical communication and internalising brand messages,” said Sundaram.


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