Why Print is unfazed by circulation worries this lockdown

Allaying the industry's fears are some encouraging signs like almost-normal circulation numbers and more readers coming back to the fold for credible, detailed news coverage

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: May 18, 2021 9:07 AM
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As the second wave of Covid-19 hits the country, the Indian newspaper industry is confident that the horrors of the first lockdown, when newspapers went off shelves, is behind it.

Even with the slowing down of businesses, circulation numbers are running almost normal for newspapers, keeping the hope up for the print ecosystem.  

In fact, experts say that the first lockdown increased the affinity for newspapers and had readers coming back to the medium for credible news. 

During the first lockdown, a study by the Advance Field And Brand Solutions LLP concluded that 38% of readers were spending more than an hour with their newspaper as against the 16% in the pre-Covid times.  

“Second Covid wave market closure or restrictions is not hard as the last time; rather it came with many relaxations. The curfew and lockdowns, especially the containment zone creation and closure of market and suspension of transportation to upcountry markets was a temporary issue; however, it gave us chance to arrange for an alternative distribution mechanism (in case of transportation) and also engage with the civic authorities to permit the newspaper delivery in the containment zones,” said Girish Agarwal Promoter Director, D. B. Corp Ltd. 

A significant observation made by Agarwal about the second wave is the trust that the readers placed on newspaper for being authentic and detailed in terms of coverage that were of immediate relevance to the readers. 

“Not only the current reader, but we also observed new readers coming to our fold during the time,” he said.  

Last time around, the dropping of circulation and absence of advertisers in the market brought a long dry spell for the newspaper industry however at the beginning of the new financial year in 2020, most newspapers started a quick reboot programme with the government categorizing newspapers as an essential commodity. 

This time the government support has only been stronger by allowing newspaper distribution time beyond the designated curfew hours in all markets. Additionally, many of the state government have already designated the newspaper vendors as ‘Covid warriors’ and therefore given preference in getting the community vaccinated on priority. 

Even down south, the story has been the same. “There is no drop in the circulation figures of Mathrubhumi, In fact, the average reading time of the newspaper has increased 2 fold during the lockdowns. Readers find newspapers the most credible source for any information regarding world affairs or national or local activities,” M V Shreyams Kumar, MD, Mathrubhumi Group. 

Mathrubhumi has over 14 lakh copies in circulation and the brand hasn’t really seen any dip in circulation figures so far.  

“The government has been very supportive in this regard, in spite of stringent lockdowns in place there hasn't been even a single case of discrepancy anywhere in newspaper distribution. Kerala as a state has been very efficient and effective in carrying out the smooth distribution of newspapers,” Shreyams Kumar added.  

Coming to businesses, the year started on a good note for the industry. Print ad volumes per newspaper per day remained almost the same during January 21-March 21 compared to January 20-March 20. As per the latest TAM AdEx data, the top categories to advertise on print also remained the same during both periods.  

With continued support of brands that are eager to work with print, the industry is not looking at any major drop in AdEx.  

Vikram Agarwal, Managing Director at Cornitos said, “ When the country was hit by the pandemic last year, newspapers also went through their bad phase, but we are happy this is not the case in the present times. They are trying their best to come back in action and soon we will see their strong comeback and we hope that we would be able to reach out to more people with them in the future as well.”

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