IMC 2009: Digital is the way forward for magazines

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | November 06, 2009
In its fifth year, the Indian Magazine Congress (IMC) saw the industry stalwarts discussing the need for digital strategies for magazines

Indian Magazine Congress (IMC) 2009, the two day event being held in Delhi, is in its fifth year and saw the print and advertising fraternity discussing the 'magic of magazines'. IMC is an initiative by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM).

The session, titled Digital Strategies for Magazines, moderated by Pradeep Gupta, managing director, CyberMedia, saw the likes of Kalli Purie, chief operating officer, India Today Digital; Mike Lovell, director, investor relations, Meredith; and Vinod Thadani, regional mobile director, India & South Asia, GroupM Interaction, discussing the digital strategies adopted by the magazine publishers.

& #BANNER1 & #Gupta started the session by asking Purie about the digital strategies followed by the Living Media Group. Purie shared that the company entered into the digital arena in 1999 and has been constantly evolving its digital strategies. "Digital is the future. The Internet is here to stay and now that we have got the eyeballs, we need to shift our focus to getting commerce," she said.

She emphasised that in order to make money from this model, there needs to be a sustainable revenue model. Also, since advertisers are not moving at a fast pace on the medium, publishers need to push them, give them added value and get offline advertisers online.

She further added that though everyone is talking about integration of teams, it does not work in favour, gets complicated and gets affected due to the tendency to focus on the offline medium. Also, online selling is complicated and different from digital selling. So, the focus should rather be on sharing information between online and offline teams. The offline teams need to nurture the online medium.

Citing the example of the integrated campaign done for Durex in Cosmopolitan, she said that customised advertising packages that involve both print and digital is the need of the hour. Another thing which is important is micro payments, which will only be successful if the publishers come together and form a common currency.

She added that in the digital space, mobile is growing very fast and is the next big thing to watch out for. Sharing some numbers, she said that Living Media reaches out to 5 lakh mobile subscribers per day and has 22 regional services, apart from the mobile downloads and voice content generated especially for the magazine. The company is also developing special applications for Nokia phones.

According to Purie, another important revenue stream is the syndication business, which provides a window to showcase the content available for others. Living Media has more than 3 lakh images ready for syndication deals.

Sharing the international trend witnessed in the last one year, Lovell said that with the downturn hitting the globe, the focus is shifting towards offering bundled packages. "Online and offline cannot thrive in isolation, therefore, it needs to be bundled together and presented as a package."

Further, Gupta asked Thadani that from a buyer's perspective, what trends and ROI (return on investment) are emerging in the digital space. Thadani said that innovation is the key driver, which attracts brands to this medium. "There are many media to educate about the brand, but it's digital that has the wow factor and can engage the audiences. Brands want digital for that (engagement) factor." He added that in the digital space, the advertisers look for 'options', which are not there anywhere else.

Gupta shared that CyberMedia entered the digital space in 1996 and today, about 10 per cent of its revenue comes from the digital platform and the figures are increasing every day.

Thadani seconded Purie on the observation that the skill sets for digital and offline media are different. However, he said that integration is the future and starting 2010-11, GroupM's focus will be on integration of the teams (digital and traditional media teams), though new media teams will continue to exist and find new trends emerging in the field.

Posing a question to Lovell, Gupta asked whether social media such as Twitter are being leveraged to the optimum by the advertisers. Lovell replied that Twitter is new and it remains to be seen what it can do for the brands. But it is definitely one way to touch the consumers.

Adding to the conversation, Purie informed that the India Today Group has been using Facebook and Twitter in innovative ways. She cited the example of News Buzz initiated by the group, where the tweets of about 1,000 journalists of the India Today Group are uploaded on the group's website every now and then, in the form of tickers.

Talking about the mobile as a revenue model, Thadani added that the potential of the model is very high and brands are increasingly looking at doing clutter breaking campaigns on the mobile. Blackberry and iPhone applications are also sought after by the brands.

Gupta asked the panellists whether the money is going to pure play online or traditional media? Purie said that though in terms of money, traditional media is not close to pure play online media, traditional media can do much more for the brands, which pure play online can never achieve. "It's about 'you also' can make money, if not same or more than someone like Google," she added.

Thadani seconded her and said that everyone can co-exist. There are many media companies that have cracked the digital platform to their advantage. All the panellists agreed that though the pace at which traditional media adopted digital media is slow, it is catching up fast.

Thadani informed that lately, none of their clients have said no to digital media. In fact, the company is taking the medium as the lead medium for many campaigns. In India, about 15-20 per cent advertising spends are on digital.