To combat the threat from new media and changing consumer preferences print has reinvented itself very well.
"No medium ever dies but it just reinvents itself every time it faces market challenges" was the insight coming out of the US market in the eighties when that country experienced the kind of surge in media choices that we see here today.
Leading regional and English newspapers shook themselves out of a slumber by looking at geographic expansion into virgin markets two years back. What started off as a quite foray in a desperate bid to grow has now become the path of continuous expansion.
Newspapers have cashed on the growing literacy and started adding newer markets and newer genres. Despite a market slowdown, Dainik Bhaskar launched the twelfth edition of Hindi financial daily Business Bhaskar, while Jagran Prakashan launched I-next and City Plus papers. Regional Marathi newspaper Pudhari expanded its footprint across Maharashtra and announced the launch of its eleventh edition in Mumbai followed by Aurangabad, Nasik and Nagpur. Lokmat expanded its footprint in Goa and English business dailies like Mint moved into new metro markets like Kolkata and Chennai while Financial Chronicle was launched in Delhi this year.
The magazine segment has also identified new areas of growth by launching titles across newer genres. Banking on the emerging niche audiences several magazine titles like People, Vogue , Forbes, What Women Want, Harper's Bazaar and Open have been launched in the past one year and each one of them have slowly started finding a space in the drawing rooms of plush homes in affluent metros like Mumbai and Delhi. The pace of launch is almost one new title every fortnight!
Consumers have started spending more time at the stands and there is a keen interest to explore new titles.
As the youth engages more with newer media leading print companies have also started wooing them aggressively by customising content on entertainment, sports and education. The main paper belongs to the parents but the city sections belong to the youth, women and the young at heart. Breaking out of a staid mould of information newspaper supplements sizzle with content and images that make youngsters savour them before they move on to their staple diet of the internet. Supplements have become magazine substitutes today.
The other key trend one has noticed is the increased base of offerings by the newspaper houses. In a bid to gain new audiences and offer total solutions to advertisers, large media houses have added radio, online editions, OOH activations to their portfolio. Jagran Prakashan has launched an OOH and event management company. HT Media launched a job portal called shine.com and also entered into high end catalogue and printing segments.
Deccan Chronicle entered the Indian Premier League (IPL) as a franchisee in Deccan Chargers and launched bookstores and internet ventures. The list of such expansions is growing and giving advertisers an opportunity to connect and engage with newspapers beyond a traditional 'square cm' ad.
While the rising newspaper costs have made newspapers cut sizes, they have taken this as an opportunity to make the newspaper more compact, easy to hold and smarter to look at. Continuing on the path of innovation leading newspapers in top metros have actually given advertisers access to the front page through clutter breaking innovations.
While this trend may have come about due to the pressures of a downturn, the advertising fraternity has welcomed this trend with gusto. Today, newspapers are full of clutter breaking innovationsóbe it in the telecom, automobile, or the FMCG space. Recently, a leading English daily actually allowed a brand to make its presence felt on the masthead by placing the brand logo on one of its alphabets!
Some other leading English newspapers in the south have also bowed to this trend and allowed ads right in the middle of the front page to be released across all its southern editions. False covers, front page vertical ads, front page jackets, centrespread gatefold etc, painting the masthead red are just some of the innovations we have seen in the past few months.
How long will this trend last? That's something we have to wait and watch but so far all these efforts have resulted in decent revenue growth for the industry in a year of slowdown for many others. As the medium also continues to fight the woes of dropping AIR (average issue readership), we have to acknowledge the emerging vibrant face of the print industry and enjoy its makeover that is bound to ensure its resurgence and continuity.
(The author is executive vice-president, Karishma Initiative)