Outlook: the journey so far

By , agencyfaqs! | In Media Publishing | November 07, 2005
Launched as a weekly news magazine 10 years ago, Outlook has emerged as the biggest print success of the decade

On October

11, 1995, when the first issue of Outlook hit the news stands, India Today with a circulation of 4 lakh was a formidable force to reckon with and the undisputed leader among news magazines. Malayala Manorama's The Week, and Hindu's Frontline were strong players in their respective markets. However, Ananda Bazar Patrika's weekly news magazine Sunday was on the verge of closure. This is when Outlook made an entry with a circulation of 50,000 copies.

Despite the hurdles and apprehension among industry, Outlook managed to create a stir right at its launch. With Vinod Mehta as the editor-in-chief, the content was the biggest driver of the product. And the very first issue brought to the fore the Kashmir dispute, evoking strong reactions from various corners of the country.

Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison Communications gives his perspective on the biggest challenge, which Outlook faced at the time of its launch. He says, "To compete with the market leader India Today and that too when it was at its peak was itself a challenge."

According to Balsara, Outlook scored because editorially the product was of superior quality. It provided the reader good value for his money."

Some like Debraj Tripathy, general manager, Maxus feel that it was Outlook's periodicity which helped the magazine gain success. He says, "For a news magazine, the need was to deliver faster news and analysis. Fortnightly magazines failed to fulfill this requirement of readers. Outlook recognised this and launched at a time when the market was just waiting for a weekly magazine.

Sanjiv Beckaya, vice-president, Outlook Group, agrees. As he says, "I think India Today took too long to react to Outlook's periodicity. It gave us too much time to be the sole player in the weekly segment and with a product that editorially created a noise with its very first issue, Outlook found its firm footing in the market."

Tripathy of Maxus feels that Outlook managed to get the industry support, which in turn contributed towards its success. He says, "Outlook gave a viable option to the advertisers. The market leader India Today was inflexible as all large players have their own rules. This is why the launch of Outlook was warmly welcomed by the industry."

A confident Maheshwar Peri, publisher, Outlook Group, says, "We have always laid the rules and others have followed suit -- be it in launching as a weekly, increasing the cover price and, most importantly, in the way of our reportage. We have never hesitated in calling a spade a spade and don't believe in beating around the bush."

On the strategy of increasing the cover price, R Rajmohan, vice-president, Outlook Group says, "Outlook has been leading 'the leader' at all points. We revised our price from Rs 10 to Rs 15 in April 2002 and a good six months later India Today followed suit. When we went to 15 rupees, we promised nothing extra." He adds, "The costs have been going up and for seven years we held on to the price. Today, our reader is discerning, he understands that the value of what he is paying has gone up. The hike did not affect our circulation and it never dropped. We came back with an ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulation] to prove we actually had a marginal growth despite the price increase. Our price stand was actually vindicated by readers."

So, now that arch rival India Today has upped it to Rs 20, will Outlook raise its cover price again? Rajmohan replies, "We have no immediate plans to increase our price, not for the next 3-6 months at least."

Rajmohan points out how Outlook has always stood apart. He says, "In the last 10 years, we have done different things that nobody has done. The attitude we adopted has been pretty aggressive -- be it in our marketing or editorial. The biggest difference is in the kind of stories we have done. We have done so many stories which people would not have done at that point of time." He cites the example of the expose on cricket betting.

He adds, "Though adhering to the Brand Outlook, the product has evolved over the years. It has always been contemporary but the content has changed to keep pace with what is happening around. The overall packaging, design and layouts have changed to meet with the demands of the ever discerning readers."

Charting the growth of Outlook, Beckaya, says, "We have shown a steady growth over the years. Even when we hiked the price our circulation never dropped. We face competition from different corners like TV, newspaper and Internet but we have never shown negative growth. Currently our circulation is around 3 lakh, which is satisfactory for a magazine that is just 10 years old."

Elaborating the marketing focus of the magazine, Rajmohan says, "We are a metro centric magazine where 60 per cent circulation comes from the top six towns. Other than that, we focus on the top 10-15 metros though we have never curbed our growth anywhere. Even all our advertisers are of premium products or services and we succeed in giving enough numbers for them."

Commenting on the competition from India Today, Rajmohan says, "I don't know if we would like to be India Today. We don't want to go the India Today way -- meaning a product that is spread too thin and far in terms of numbers."

Outlook launched its Hindi edition three years ago. The circulation stands at 1.20 lakh and market is predominantly north with the focus on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Rajmohan says, "Outlook Sapthahik is not a translated version but is written in Hindi for Hindi readers."

Outlook has also met with success with its other publications like Outlook Money (earlier Intelligent Investor) and Outlook Traveller.

On the future of Outlook, Peri says, "Outlook has changed the media space dramatically. We want to empower our reader and deliver him material that has utility. We want people to refer to Outlook Money when they think personal finance. Similarly, we cover the entire space of travel with our magazine and travel books. We want to add value to our readers and also establish ourselves as a credible resource for information on these sectors. We have succeeded so far and are in the process of expanding with the launch of many more magazines."

Outlook has launched a city centric magazine, City Limits. Unlike other magazines which are overloading their readers with supplements that come as free products, City Limits is very much an independent entity and targeted at providing its readers with wholesome information on the city. Outlook has also announced the launch of the Indian edition of `Marie Claire' by the first half of 2006. The Group also plans to launch many more magazines in varied genres by the end of next year.

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