The Hindustan Times and the Rs 53-crore Mid-Day Multimedia are in talks for joining hands on matrimonial advertising. If it comes through, this would be the second alliance between the two media houses in recent times. Nearly two months back, the two had come together, with the Indian Express group, to sell 'appointments' (job ads) under a special joint package. The objective, as in the previous arrangement, is to offer a better value on a pan-India basis. But unlike before, the Indian Express Group may not be a part of this alliance. Though a clear picture is yet to emerge, indications are that Mid-Day and HT may either go ahead on their own or include a third publication other than the Express.
While neither of the two is willing to announce anything in public at this moment, a senior executive at Mid-Day disclosed, on condition of anonymity, that talks have been on to extend the alliance. "While we are delivering Mumbai to advertisers, there are certain categories of advertising which are not geographically restricting, for instance jobs and matrimonials," he reasons. "People are looking for jobs and spouses anywhere and everywhere in the world. So delivering only one market to such advertisers is not enough."
This is where the thought process started for a joint initiative on appointment ads. Also, it tries to come across as an alternative to the Times. To date, the Times of India Group, with its strategic spread of publications, has been an ideal channel-mix with somewhat of a national reach. Any package that has to counter the Times' proposition has to be a national-level deal at a lower price (or better value by alternate ways). That is precisely what the trio's appointments alliance does.
For one, the three bring significant readership numbers across the markets they operate - Hindustan Times in Delhi, Mid-Day in day-time Mumbai, Indian Express and Loksatta (Marathi) in Pune and Mumbai. "The core promise is: 66-per cent more readers (than the Times) at half the price (Rs 1,500 per cc versus Times' Rs 3,500)," says the source.
Alongside, each of the three media houses redid their editorial products related to appointment ads. HT Careers was relaunched; so was Express' Headstart. Mid-Day introduced a totally new broadsheet (unlike its regular tabloid size) called The Big Break. Though its regular jobs section, Momentum, continues to carry Mumbai-specific ads in the tabloid, The Big Break seeks national-level ads and is beefed up with HR-related editorial content. Now, ad-sales teams from the three houses carry their individual rate cards, explains the Mid-Day source, as well as cards detailing rates for joint packages.
"Mid-Day has been in talks with the 77-year-old Hindustan Times for over a year at various levels (Radio Mid-Day and HT for FM radio, or instance)," discloses the source. "Talks have been on lately on matrimonials. We have 70 classified centres across Mumbai which accept business; HT has none. And it is the reverse in Delhi," he says. "If this alliance comes into being, we can easily ride each other's infrastructure too." For a day-time tabloid like Mid-Day, the percentage of total revenues contributed by classifieds and appointment ads is "very big". Categories like tours and travel and accommodation fetch the highest returns.
Matrimonials is an extremely high-volume business for the Hindustan Times as also a big revenue earner. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that about three years back, both the Times and the Hindustan Times created special pullouts of matrimonial ads on Sundays and branded the other days for category-specific classifieds. They even pulled down rates, thus attracting higher numbers. The Hindustan Times has also taken matrimonial ads on to the Net in a big way through its website, which contains NRI listings from USA, Canada, UK, Australia and the Middle East. More than anything, classifieds ensure a direct customer contact to publications, thus indicating their reader strengths.
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