afaqs!

Bengaluru emerges as the new battleground for English dailies

By Dhaleta Surender Kumar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | January 14, 2009
With eight English dailies vying for readership and advertising, the action is only likely to increase, given the metropolitan nature of the city and the age and income profile of its inhabitants

Bengaluru & #BANNER1 & # has been one of the toughest markets for the world's largest English daily, The Times of India (TOI). It took the giant 16 long years, after it entered Bengaluru in 1984, to topple the then incumbent, Deccan Herald, from the No. 1 position in terms of circulation.

What helped TOI was the changing demography of India's Silicon Valley. As Bengaluru changed from being a Kannadiga city to a cosmopolitan one, TOI gained ground swiftly. With Bengaluru becoming an IT hub, it attracted a migrant population from the rest of India, including the North and Mumbai. TOI gained because it was better known among the newcomers than the South based daily, Deccan Herald.

TOI reigned supreme for six years after that. In 2006, its rival from Mumbai, Mid-Day arrived.

Meanwhile, TOI acquired competitor Vijay Times, which was subsequently closed down to launch Bangalore Mirror in the following year. The entry of Mid-Day added to the competition that already existed in the form of The Hindu, The New Indian Express and Deccan Herald.

To make things tougher for TOI, two new players, Deccan Chronicle and DNA, entered the market in 2008.

Today, Bengaluru has as many as eight English dailies, catering to 14 lakh households and 70 lakh people. Six of the players are fighting tooth and nail for a significant share of the Bengaluru market.

Consider the figures. As per ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) figures, during January-June 2008, Deccan Herald had a circulation of 1.35 lakh, while Bangalore Mirror sold around 1.32 lakh copies. Among the rest, The Hindu (Chennai edition) sold around 49,000 copies, while The New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle managed 22,000 and 21,000 copies, respectively.

There are other dailies that were not covered by ABC in the period under consideration, but which claim to have a substantial circulation. TOI, for instance, claims a circulation of 4.5 lakh copies. According to ABC, during July-December 2007, when it was audited last, TOI had a circulation of 4.04 lakh copies.

Among other dailies that do not have an ABC certificate, Mid-Day claims a circulation of 60,000 copies, while DNA, the latest entrant, claims a circulation of 1.75 lakh copies.

The big question is: Is there enough space for all eight players? For that, one has to understand household readership patterns.

In any household, there is a main daily, and then with increasing household income, a second, or at times, even a third daily, depending on the number of members in the household and affordability.

Media observers are of the opinion that in the current market scenario, a majority of the households have TOI as their main daily. Deccan Herald households are also a large number, which makes it the No. 2 daily.

In such a scenario, they feel that newer players, such as DNA and Deccan Chronicle, will try to enter the Deccan Herald households, rather than take over TOI's turf.

The Hindu, which distributes its Chennai edition in the city, has a small, but loyal, set of readers. The same applies to The New Indian Express. These two dailies are old-timers in the market.

Among the other new dailies, Mid-Day believes that it doesn't have any competition in the market because it is an afternoon daily. However, industry observers believe that this afternoon daily shares its target group with Bangalore Mirror, since both are compact and light reads.

Another factor that enters the calculation is that households also subscribe to local language dailies - sometimes even as a primary daily. Unlike many other state capitals, in Bengaluru, Kannada readers are in the minority.

Rahul Kansal, brand director, TOI, corroborates this fact. He says, "This is unlike Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, where the Tamilians and Malayalis are in the majority, respectively. The Kannadigas are a minority in Bengaluru."

Another important aspect of the Bengaluru market - unlike Chennai, which has a large chunk of local advertisers - is that the former gets access to most of the national advertisers who want to reach the increasing high-earning and high-spending population of the city.

According to Sudha Natrajan, chief operating officer and joint president, Lintas Media Group Bengaluru, of the national print advertising pie of Rs 9,000 crore, Bengaluru contributes around Rs 750 crore. And most of the English dailies in the city, except for Deccan Herald, have a presence across the country - be it TOI, DNA, Mid-Day or even Deccan Chronicle and The Hindu.

Natrajan says, "The newspapers have come to Bengaluru to woo national advertisers by offering them the city edition in a bouquet that also includes Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai."

Saurabh Saksena, publisher, Mid-Day, Bengaluru, agrees, "We have national advertisers who take all Mid-Day editions - Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bengaluru. We offer them connect and engagement with 18 lakh young urban working professionals across India (YUMPIs). We are the only English daily, after TOI, to offer the four key metro cities to advertisers," he says.

The major advertising categories are retail, real estate and appointment advertisements. The retail advertisers in the city are mostly national players. "Appointment advertisements (because of the IT factor) form a major chunk of all advertising in the city," says Natrajan.

Its prosperity, younger age profile and metropolitan nature make Bengaluru an important market for many consumer categories. Therefore, it is only likely that other media brands may want to get in for a slice of the action. The real game, however, will be to see who survives after a couple of years.