"The biggest risk for print media doesn't come from technology"
Content is the biggest challenge and hence, newspapers need to experiment more and start building communities to thrive in this highly competitive era, say experts
Should India learn lessons from the print industry in the West? Is print media at a tipping point in this digital world? Is India ready to adopt the digital strategies and its impact on subscription and ad revenues? These are some of the questions that haunt everyone in a world that is going online. The emergence of e-newspapers offers a new challenge and opportunity for leading print newspaper and magazines. More than mere reach, the medium’s nature of two-way communication presents a great opportunity to enter into a dialogue with consumers, instead of a one-way broadcast.
However, Iow literacy rates and poor penetration of internet provides a challenge for this medium to prosper. Statistics reveal that last year digital advertising in US was $36.6 billion and India it was just $418 million. Vinay Mittal, Chief Financial Strategist, HT Media, shared that print media has grown despite the economic downturn because of the demographics and literacy rates in India. Newspaper is cheap so people buy it and they also see a value in it. According to him, in spite of the fact that people are digitally aware but a morning newspaper with a cup of coffee is a must and it will stay for quite some time.
In the western world, 50 per cent of the revenues come from subscription as opposed to 13 per cent from urban areas in India. The classifieds form 30 per cent of advertising in the US but in India, it is just nine per cent. In metros, it has passed the tipping point and newspapers have no other option but to adopt digital.
However, experts believe that there is no advertising happening in digital. There is a shortage of talent to drive the media companies of the future. According to them, regional newspapers will show better growth in future.
Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Deputy Editor, The Indian Express said, “The biggest risk for print media doesn’t come from technology but from print media itself, which is the content.” He explained that it becomes a bigger problem if newspapers start giving out information that is biased or paid because they have to be respectful towards the audience. According to him, in a world where people react to all the happenings, it is necessary to engage them in a constructive dialogue.
“A saving grace for print media would be technology because 3G and 4G will take a few more years to establish itself in India. None of the telecom companies have the bandwidth to give a newspaper satisfaction online. Hence, it will keep the print media very comfortable at least for the next few years,” he said.
He also stated that India is growing at a reasonably good pace of five to six per cent; so the demand for news is huge and it is impossible to believe any industry shrinking in this sort of environment.
Newspaper is a part of daily business but the magazine format of detailed analysis is very different. From a magazine standpoint, it is important to understand the evolution of this format in the digital eco system. Chaitanya Kalbag, Editor, Business Today stated that magazines do not think like a magazine nowadays as they think on a real-time basis. “There is a finite amount of real estate in paper and because of the economics of advertising which is completely upside down, the price of the magazine has no correlation to the cost of producing the magazine. There is endless amount of real estate online and one can publish almost anything,” he said.
According to him, anything produced on the web is available to people everywhere so there needs to be a quality control but India has not approached that stage. Digital is going to be a game-changer as mobile phones are getting affordable and if 4G gets cheaper then there will be a huge change. People will consume content on handheld devices.
Experts pointed out that the biggest loss to newspapers is not from the business models but from the loss of credibility. They also stated that newspapers need to experiment more, provide differentiated content and start building communities to thrive in this highly competitive era.
The speakers were addressing a gathering at FOCUS 2013, the 7th Annual Summit on Entertainment & Media, with the session moderated by Jehill Thakkar, Partner, KPMG.
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