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Regional print innovates to stay relevant in the evolving digital landscape

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Regional print innovates to stay relevant in the evolving digital landscape

Print media has witnessed a huge change from its traditional way of reaching out to people to getting into the Digital platform. With the rapid technological advancements and the emergence of digital, the industry has radically changed the media landscape in India. Print players are looking to exploit the opportunities that the digital media provides.

exchange4media spoke to some of the regional print players in the southern market to get a sense of what each player have been doing in the digital space.

Talking about the importance of creating engagement with the readers, Mariam Mammen Mathew, COO, Manorama Online said, “Building engagement with the readers is the key to success in the digital front, no other medium can exploit this relationship like the way digital can. At Manorama Online, we ensure that our readers not just read news but experience it with videos, images and comments module. We also encourage their talents and preference through various contest conducted offline and online, which help in building brand association. We also provide niche services like music, astrology services for our readers besides selling our e-editions of our magazines.”

While, Pravin Menon, National Head, Ad-Sales, Vikatan Group, said, “Content is king for readers and if we offer the best of content in a format that the reader wants, they are willing to pay. Consistently our subscription on digital has been growing. We also have our apps, online site and e-magazines. All of these are planned and reviewed on regular basis to keep our subscriber base intact and growing and being a paid site since 2003, this says a lot on the vision of the group and their way forward in the digital world.”

On the other hand, I Venkat, Director, Eenadu Group is of the belief that both print and digital are self sufficient and there is no need for print to support digital financially. He added, “ was hosted 10 years ago with few visitors and today we are the third largest in the country with close to 18 million visitors. All this was possible with constant innovation and since the site is free, there is no need of monetisation.” 

While Narendra Kumar Alambara, COO, Sovereign Media Marketing was not sure if there have been a concerted effort to monetise the content (by charging readers). As it is the case with Print, as of now, advertising revenues tend to subsidise the readership/subscription costs.

He added, “By and large, most media brands (esp. the print space) have a digital presence now. The degree of strength and popularity of the digital product is a function of how long it has been available and how well they have been leveraged. In some cases there is cannibalisation of readership and in others it is more complementary, but never can it be generalised. The outlook of the media brand towards its platforms – Print or Digital or both help determine the successful leveraging of the overall brand.”

Mobile and Digital usage and reader base

Today, mobile is another medium which is considered to be growing in terms of the number of people browsing internet via mobile. According to IDC, India witnessed the highest rate of growth, over 186 percent — in smart phone sales in Asia Pacific region during January-March 2014. However, smart phone penetration is still believed to be around 10 percent.

Smartphone users are on a rise, making for a clear case to provide these regional language literate users with an experience comparable to English language experience on their phones and other digital devices.

According to Mathew, 86 per cent of their readers use desktop and 14 per cent read from mobile and tablet. Over the one year Manorama could observe more than 100 per cent increase in readers who use mobile platform and 46 per cent increase in readers who access through Tab. Manorama also has some interesting apps including Manorama News App across all OS and Android phone. Apart from that they also have calendar apps, utility app, games app, etc. to serve the diverse cadres of the society.

On the other hand, receives five lakh page views on a daily basis with 1.5 lakh visits per day. They have 40,000 plus paid subscribers and 2,50,000 registers users. Menon remarks, “Since we offer quality and relevant content to our readers, we see them sharing and commenting as soon as it goes live. They share their views more often than before. Our engagement with our readers is getting better and better.”

Sunil Rajshekhar, Director, Bennett, Coleman & Company and CEO, Times VPL said, “Each and every step into the digital world has been thought through keeping the consumer in mind. We have an application or website which caters to the viewing habits of the customers.”

He added, “Mobile platform is being used extensively by almost all print publications in the south. But the design & aesthetics of the same have yet to match up to international standards. The trend of multimedia stories in the digital arena is yet to catch on (like audio, video, interactive maps).”

Dailythanthi has close to three lakh unique visitors per day on the site (mostly through PC), mobile /wireless platforms are miniscule.

Alambara said, “Digital is a leveller as far as News dissemination goes. Only media brands that understand the entire ecosystem of technology, consumer behaviour and content strength can leverage the digital medium best for their print brand. I do feel there is massive opportunity to get on to the basic java platforms since most readers of vernacular are still basic phone users.”

He stated an example of NY Times and Huffington Post - a classic David vs Goliath tale of a decade old media brand usurping a century old media brand in the digital space. The key was the fresh, digital-focussed approach of Huffington Post with a clear idea of digital consumers.

According to Alexa ranking, Eenadu stands in number three position and is the second largest in language. Eenadu has 13.66 million visitors visiting the site via laptop, 2.95 million visitors via mobile and 1.08 million visitors via tablet. Venkat added, “Today we have visitors from across the world with largest number being from North America followed by UK.”


Experts say regional players are at par with national players in the digital medium in terms of innovation.

Eenadu, has hosted specific portals for jobs and education called and another one for women called and according to Venkat, response for both has been very good.

Some interesting concepts that Manorama Online  has championed successfully include- e-pookalam and e-vishukanni which allows readers to feel the festival experience online by creating and sharing customized ‘floral carpets’ and ‘Kanni’ to their loved ones. They have been constantly innovating as they feel that as far as digital is concerned, competition can easily replicate.

Youngsters consume the news via their smart phones hence Vijay Karnataka has a VK app, and the website that customises to the mobile. They first launched the e-paper, post which they launched the VK website version. They have been regularly integrating the Alive app which integrates a video that is relevant to the story and upon the reader scanning the QR code of the Alive app in the article gets to view the related video.

Recently, Vijay Karnataka ran a multi media campaign, titled ‘Adjust Madkobedi’ which was shared on Facebook & Twitter, and people were asked to post stories, pictures where they did not adjust to many civic situations, like garbage, bad roads, etc. They have also utilized google hangouts for readers to interact with celebrities. In the Hubli edition, they ran a poll to predict the outcome of the FIFA finals. While they used the nondescript SMS, it was still an integration of the ever present mobile with print.

Regional vs National: Using Digital Media

With Manorama’s presence in the regional market, Mathews says that Regional is at par with National in terms of innovation in the digital medium. But she feels that consumption of digital media is higher at national level as connectivity and language technology still have a long way to go as compared to metros.

According to Alamabara, there is no concept of national/ regional in the digital environment. Consumers gravitate towards a media brand in the digital space based on their experiences and comfort with the offline product – esp. local news and updates. He added, “The process of adoption of digital news is considerably slower for vernacular publications compared to English print. However, the basic principles remain the same- the stronger the (Print) brand, better traction for the digital product.”

Experts are of the opinion that the digital medium helps the print media to have a two-way communication process and the mobile will be a key driver in growth of the media brands in the digital space.


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