INMA 2008: Building the ad revenue pie

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | November 17, 2008
Veterans from the newspaper industry deliberated on the various means to increase advertising revenue

At & #BANNER1 & # the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) 2008 conference, experts on the panel deliberated on ways and means to build and expand the advertising revenue pie of the print industry.

Amitabha Datta, president, dailies, ABP (the media group that publishes Ananda Bazar Patrika, among others), shared his experience in West Bengal and spoke about space selling in Eastern India. While ABP had the highest circulation and quality of readership, it had fewer ads as compared to other newspapers. ABP had more English readers than all the other English dailies put together.

"The Statesman had one-third the circulation of ABP, but 50 per cent more ads than ABP," he recalled. ABP was able to get only a small portion of ads. At that time, he said, advertising was metro driven.

Now, newspapers are looking at areas outside metros for ad revenue. "The challenge is to get across to smaller advertisers and convince them to advertise. Advertising growth will come from newer, smaller markets," Datta said.

Language newspapers, according to him, need to establish the value of the market before advertisers, especially the national ones, by providing relevant product offerings, creating local to local advertising and thereby creating a whole new revenue stream.

Datta also said that working with advertisers to create specific activation to drive traffic can establish the importance of the market to the advertiser and build a stronger connect with the readers. He said that the language press would be the engine for growing the advertising pie in the country.

KRP Reddy, director, advertising and marketing, Sakshi, shared his learning from the launch of the Telugu daily. Sakshi was launched in Andhra Pradesh in March with 23 simultaneous editions - 19 in Andhra Pradesh and the other four in Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Delhi. Positioned as a challenger brand, it was launched with a huge print order of 14 lakh copies.

However, despite the great proposition it posed, Sakshi could not approach many advertisers and agencies because it lacked media accreditation. "Launching Sakshi was an easy task, but convincing media guys about its circulation and readership was difficult," he confessed. Since it would take the newspaper some time to get authentication from ABC and IRS, which is considered as currency by the industry, it was in a critical situation.

A few advertisers did support the newspaper on the basis of perceptions, but Sakshi decided to look for innovative ways to generate ad revenue. Personal advertising was one such avenue: Readers could post greetings for various occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries. There were retirement ads, which have become very famous, and fetch Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore on a single day. Political ads are another major source of revenue for the newspaper. Special supplements on festive occasions are sponsored by devotees and some attract medium and small advertisers, depending on the relevance of the content.

Raj Nayak, chief executive officer, NDTV Media, shared his experiences in television. He disagreed that print could learn from television; instead, he said, television is inspired by print, as most people in television have already dabbled in print. He said that print has been too rigid to change as was needed.

"I remember that the 'raddiwala' would give more money for the English papers than the Hindi papers, even when they weighed the same," he said. "This has not changed." He said that just like television believed in the 'more numbers-more money' logic, print should also change.

Hailing print as a more flexible medium, he said that television had a more limited inventory than print. "In print, you can increase the number of pages if there is more advertising, which is not possible on television."

Nayak said that in terms of content, television was more open to innovation than print, which has stuck to its form for too long. While television was notorious for me-too programming, that mentality doesn't exist in print, he said.

"There's a need to create properties outside the brand, like the Times Group did with Femina Miss India, and monetise it," he said.