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INMA 2009: Times Private Treaties was born to arrest the de-growth of print media

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media | August 28, 2009
Sivakumar accepted that the idea is still in its experimental stage and being a highly volatile revenue model, media owners will take time to fine-tune it

The first day of the Annual South Asia Conference 2009 of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA) came to an end with a presentation on Times Private Treaties delivered by S Sivakumar, principal secretary, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL) and chief executive officer, Times Private Treaties.

Sivakumar began by saying that everyone would love to know how much a client would spend on a media owner in, say, the next one-three years. Times Private Treaties is not just an innovation in print but rather, an innovation of the medium itself.

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The idea was a fall out of the predictions by media pundits of print getting squeezed by other media such as TV and Internet. The innovation has arrived at a model that could slow the de-growth of the medium.

Sivakumar also shared what the new model sets out to achieve and how it works. He explained that the model creates opportunities for local, indigenous and little-known brands to come on board in mainstream media as advertisers.

He gave an example of a fictional character, Mr Memani, to drive home his point. Memani is a small time entrepreneur in readymade garments and has grown to be the largest seller in his hometown. Now, with little capital and in the absence of a brand name, what's the direction ahead for him?

This is where Times Private Treaties (TPT) steps in to partner in the growth of his brand. The concept was arrived at four years ago, with an aim to provide big talent and big money. TPT tries to identify and tempt promising advertising-shy companies to take media space in BCCL publications and media platforms in return for equity in those firms. The arrangement allows advertising currency to the partner company, with BCCL being a stakeholder in the company.

He emphasised that the success stories of small brands or non-existent brands such as Thyrocare, Future Group and She Comfort prove that brands can be created on the back of print.

The model works on possibilities of creating a new category all together, and then supporting a niche player to become the leader. Print is a passive medium but it is actively consumed. In case of space selling, one has a window period of realising returns in, say, 60 days, and in case of TPT, the money is locked in for three-eight years.

There are three engagement levels in this business model, including consulting, selling media properties and investing in clients.

The next phase is of unlocking value, strategising and buying. Sivakumar admitted that the model is a volatile one. All over the world, the debate continues about the feasibility of this model being an alternative mode of revenue for media owners.

Without sharing revenue figures or losses suffered by TOI on account of TPT, Sivakumar added that it would be sufficient to say that if the question is about success in creating and supporting brands, then the answer is a resounding yes. However, if the question is about whether the model has always brought in money, then the answer would be no.

He concluded by admitting that it will take media owners some time to get the economics of TPT correct before it becomes a time tested alternative stream of revenue.

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