INMA 2008: Build engagement to build readership

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | November 18, 2008
The head honchos of newspaper companies discussed strategies to build readership

The most & #BANNER1 & # crucial deciding factor of the readership of any newspaper is its content. Re-stating that, Punitha Arumugam, group chief executive officer, Madison Media, opened the session at the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) 2008 conference by saying that the power of the editorial determines readership and makes consumers feel great about the brand.

Print penetration in India is currently 38 per cent. There are 390 million literate people who do not read newspapers and magazines. The panel discussed ways to capture these non-readers and retain the existing readers in today's complex media world.

Neelanjan Shome, chief marketing officer, HT Media, expressed concern over the way information is being consumed these days. "We are consuming what we want, when we want. It demonstrates the latent need for control from the consumers' end," he said.

From passive disseminators, newspapers need to become active engagers, he said. "There is a need to collect and disseminate news in an efficient way." When news is broadcast all day on news channels, what more relevant value addition can be imparted to readers, should be the question, he elaborated.

To suggest the changes in the content landscape around the world, Shome gave the example of a daily newspaper in South Korea called Oh My News, which features articles from 33,000 citizen reporters and is read by 29 lakh readers every day. "Interactivity, differentiation and relevance are the three key aspects that can influence readership," said Shome.

Rahul Kansal, chief marketing officer, The Times of India, said there is a discrepancy between circulation and readership because during a survey, "to appear intelligent, respondents often claim to have read a certain magazine or newspaper when actually they have not". He pointed out that newspapers have always enjoyed this "over-claim".

However, he said that the ease of "over-claim" is coming down, with research agencies adopting the approach of presenting the respondents with multiple mastheads and asking them to identify the ones that they read.

Kansal expressed concern over the fact that newspapers were increasingly becoming a less critical part of the morning routine, thanks to the advent of online and other real time media. "Newspapers have to add a lot more analysis, look at disseminating relevant information and create communities of like-minded readers," he said.

The evolution from being a passive disseminator of news to active engager has to happen, he said, citing the examples of the India Poised campaign, followed by the Lead India campaign and the more recent Teach India programme. The Lead India campaign concluded in the form of a reality show on television.

Sanjeev Kotnala, vice-president, marcom, Dainik Bhaskar, shared an incident that took place during a conclave that the Dainik Bhaskar Group arranged in order to get feedback from its readers. "One of our readers asked us what exclusive information or value we were giving to him that other media doesn't?" He said this is the most pertinent question that all publishers need to ask themselves.

About consumers being exposed to multimedia and spending less time reading as a result, he said, "If the content is compelling, a reader will find the time to read it." Involving readers with the news by conducting polls, asking their views and conducting forums can help boost readership and gain the readers' confidence.

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