We'll have to wait & watch if print growth will match revenue: I Venkat, Eenadu

Director, Eenadu, discusses challenges facing the Print industry, growth of Eenadu and why media planning is a tarkari business today

e4m by Simran Sabherwal
Updated: Sep 7, 2018 8:55 AM

Starting his career at Eenadu, I Venkat, Director, Eenadu, has spent over four decades with the group and helped build Eenadu into one of the leading regional media organisations in the country and the largest read Telugu news daily with 1.58 crores readership, according to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS). Speaking to exchange4media, Venkat discusses about the challenges facing the Print industry, growth of Eenadu and why media planning is a tarkari business today.

Here are the edited excerpts of the interview:

How has Eenadu Group performed over the year?

Overall Eenadu has done well. The two main verticals, Print has done well while Television has done better. Print saw single-digit growth and I think we should be happy with that. We recently launched four Radio stations (E FM in Tirupati, Vijayawada, Warangal and Rajahmundry in July 2018) and Radio is just a small play right now.

Are you looking to increase the cover price, particularly since newsprint prices have significantly increased?

We have not increased the cover price, however we are contemplating doing it. We also have to bear in mind, when we do increase the price, what will be the impact of the circulation loss. We are debating that internally and we will take a call on that as far as the price increase is concerned. Yes, newsprint prices are going up, it is a problem not just for us but for the entire Print industry in India. Added to that, we also have the problem of the dollar (weakening of the Rupee to the Dollar).

As per the last IRS (Indian Readership Survey) data, Eenadu is the largest read Telugu daily. However, how do you perceive competition?

IRS only reflected what is on the ground. As far as we are concerned, the position which we are in, it translated it into readership figures. As for competition, one cannot wish it away in any business. Competition will be there for each publication or TV channel, what one has to try and do is to be better than competition, in terms of how we increase our circulation; that means the content has to be good and content changes have to be made, which we are doing constantly. For the last 30 years, we have been pioneers in content change. We were the first to launch a district newspaper, focus on hyper-localisation and launch constituency pages for each assembly constituency. In addition, we recently launched seven features. Eenadu is no longer just a newspaper, it has everything for the family and in terms of content, it is almost like a magazine.

How do you see the future of Print in India?

Print will never die in India. My own feeling is that at least for the next couple of years you will see, if not the same level of growth, a marginal growth in the newspaper industry in India. Whether the revenue amount will match the growth is a thing we have to wait and watch. If Print is growing at x percentage, then will revenues also grow at the same percentage, that is something I am not in the position to forecast today.

In the competitive Telugu GEC space, ETV Telugu is currently behind Star Maa, Zee Telugu and Gemini TV. What should be done for ETV to regain its leadership?

The content, ie. software, has to keep changing to keep with the times and in tune with the viewer’s requirement.

Looking at Digital, how do you see this medium contributing to revenues?

In terms of revenue, at this juncture, Digital in India for any newspaper is not even 2-3% of the total revenue. I am not saying it will remain at that but I don’t see it growing in a remarkable way for the simple reason that the rates are so low that even if you get 100% increase, the revenue will still be marginal. Unless the rates undergo some phenomenal change across the industry, it is difficult for the revenue to grow for the Print industry.

Is subscription the way to go?

I understand that Manorama has already started, and others are also discussing. I have been a party to one discussion where everyone feels that the time has come where we need to pay. These are discussions so I am sure that if not tomorrow, in the months to come, one by one everybody will start putting up a paywall and charge something nominal.

Would you look at bidding for more Radio stations in future auctions?

Now that we have started, we will.

It is early days but how has Radio play worked so far?

We have not really done much of work in the marketplace as yet for advertisers to take note of our channels. Communication has just started, and slowly it is percolating down. However, as we are not in the Hyderabad market, my own hunch is that the route that we go and tell them may not work. The route has to be that local business players on the client side – dealers and distributors, if they find that programs are good, they will tell their principal about the station. This way it will go back into the system to the agencies and client. That is the better route.

What is the challenge for regional players as media planning becomes commoditised?

It is no longer planning, I think the agency should scrap the word planning in their departments completely. It is all commodity buying, that’s it, it is like ‘tarkari’ business.

Talking from an advertiser and agency point of view, all they have to do is differentiate between quality and quantity. If you want quality and want to reach a certain set of people, take the quality vehicle. If you want quantity pick something else. Everybody does that.

Looking ahead, where do you see the growth coming from?

We see semi-urban markets and rural markets growing. Even the urban markets are growing. Overall it is quite good, not only for us but every newspaper across the country is seeing a certain amount of growth, some more, some less, that depends from market to market.

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