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Tale of 2 nations: Sarmad Ali & Rahul Kansal on media in India, Pak

21-July-2012
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Tale of 2 nations: Sarmad Ali & Rahul Kansal on media in India, Pak

The Indian Newspaper Kongress (INK) 2012, held on July 20 at Gurgaon, put the spotlight on newspapers. Organised by exchange4media Group, the annual event aimed to understand what the future holds for the newspaper industry, as stakeholders contemplated on how to bring about further growth for the medium. INK 2012 was presented by Dainik Jagran. Business Standard was the print partner.

The event saw Rahul Kansal, Executive President, BCCL and Sarmad Ali, Managing Director, Jang Group, engage in an interesting interaction on the media scenario in India and Pakistan.

Sharing the India roots of the paper Jang, Ali pointed out that the newspaper was born in Delhi 1939, and moved to Pakistan post the Partition, where it was published from Karachi. Jang is the largest group in Pakistan and has nine newspapers in various segments; Jang is the flagship brand and has 50 per cent share in the newspaper readership market. Giving a background of the various media properties of the Jang group, Ali said, “We have four TV channels – GEO News, a 24-hour news channel; GEO Entertainment; GEO Sports; and AagTV. We are also into radio, and just got our license and will be launching an FM channel in October-November. We are also present in the digital space.”

Kansal had several questions to ask – is print holding its own against new media? Is print gaining share or losing share? The data that Ali shared gave a picture of print scenario in Pakistan, which is quite similar to that in India. He said that print is losing share to television. While earlier both print and television had a share of 45 per cent each, today, print’s share had slipped to 33-34 per cent; whereas television’s share had gone up to around 58 per cent. This had remained static for the last 3-4 years, but print has shown some growth in terms of ad revenue in 2012.

“Prices in Pakistan are on the higher side,” Ali said, when asked whether there was the temptation to increase cover prices. In India over 15 years it has been hovering at Rs 2, and today the cover prices were around Rs 3 or Rs 4. Jang is priced at Rs 10 on week days. In general, newspapers in Pakistan are priced at around Rs 15 to Rs 18 on weekdays and Rs 18 to Rs 22 on Sundays. Ali admitted that such high prices had resulted in decline in circulation, which in turn has led to a fall in advertising in newspapers since the perception amongst media planners and agencies is that circulation is on a downswing.

This hasn’t stopped advertisers from carrying out innovations in newspapers. Ali spoke about Nestle’s Polo Mint ad, where the newspaper was printed with a hole. He added, “There’s a huge scope to connect static print with digital, QR codes and so on. We have pushed for that, but not in a big way.”

Leveraging digital On monetising their digital presence, he said that they had been doing that for a year now and had started web TV service from July 1. “If Rs 3.5 crore was the monetisation on print, we hope to double that amount in the next year,” Ali said.

The paper has also initiated some social campaigns. In some cases advertisers have also joined the social campaigns. An example cited was that of the ‘Zara Sochiye’ campaign, which was aimed at influencing the government to invest more in education. During the 2005 earthquake and the floods last year, the revenue from advertisement was donated to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. Earlier, funds was collected for the 2004 tsunami victims and donated to the Sri Lankan ambassador in Pakistan.

When Kansal asked about the breakup of the newspaper market in Pakistan, Ali replied that 95 per cent of the newspapers are in Urdu; 6 per cent in English and the balance is in languages like Sindhi, Gujarati, Pushto.

Commenting on government ads, Ali said it was substantial, but in the last three years they had lost out as government revenues were down. But now government ads are back and “whether they like it or not, they need to advertise to get the masses back”, he added. Government ads constitute 20 per cent of the print revenue; papers like Jang and Dawn may not be that dependent on government ads, but for smaller newspapers the dependence is almost 85 per cent to 90 per cent. This way, he pointed out, this category of ads will grow with the elections which will be held in February 2013.

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