Netting the readers

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 09, 2001
Part II of this two-part series chronicles one of the more challenging times for film magazines

Continued from yesterday
The history of G, filled with frequent changes, best illustrates the changing market. Its first change, however, in 1995, was dictated partly by the strategic options chosen earlier on.

When it was launched in 1989, G came in the tabloid size (A3). The name was a continuation of Jee, its Gujarati and Marathi siblings. The signature on the title read: glory, glamour, grandeur. The unusual size was meant to highlight this message as also to make it stand apart in the crowd and enable good layout and production of photographs.
Unfortunately, when the magazine boom occurred around 1995, the size became a nuisance on news stands. Almost all copies of film magazines sell on news stands. Subscription sales are minuscule. And whatever the subscriber base was worth, G's size came in the way of postal mail too. "There was a lot of discussion and debate on the size," recalls Kapadia. "But the truth was, we were fast losing sales on the news stand." The change was also necessitated by the advertiser's interest.

Around 1997-98 G changed its format to the standard A4 size. That is when another issue compounded problems: the abundance of film gossip and news, besides heavy doses of Bollywood-oriented entertainment on satellite television, and other publications.
Cine Blitz was worried by the topicality that television brought to the table, recalls Dattani. "To compete with it, we went fortnightly," he recalls. The magazine also reduced its cover price to Rs 15. And it introduced the market to a new sales tactic - freebies. Blitz can be credited with pioneering the craft of packaging free audio-cassettes with the magazine to life sales. They sure did change the magazine's fortunes. "We were touching sales of 184,000 in 1999," claims Dattani. Magna, Stardust's publisher, was quick to attack the competition with its flanking brand, Showtime.

That wasn't needed. Blitz began faltering on advertising beginning 1998. "While we wanted advertisers to look at us on a combined monthly-sales basis, they were still comparing us to Stardust and Filmfare on a monthly basis," explains Dattani. Print was anyway coming under a squeeze. By 1999, Blitz was back to being a monthly. It also started phasing out the gift-scheme in a cautious manner. It was eating into its earnings. "We did feel a pinch," recalls Dattani.

The gift bug had caught Filmfare too. It was around 1997, just when Filmfare was trying to announce itself anew, following the entry of Khalid Mohammed as editor. "Khalid brought in a more peppy, masala style to the magazine," recalls Sheena Saji, senior manager, Filmfare. "We consciously became more pictorial, more glamorous, more visually appealing." To announce this change, gifts tagged along. "The gifts were attached to the cover to increase the pick-up factor at the stands," she says. "We just wanted them to see that we had changed. We thought it would be for a short time but our print orders have been increasing," she says. Saji claims that she is now booking 'sampling' requests on the Filmfare cover for middle of 2002.

Stardust and G are also learnt to have experimented with the free gifts for some time before giving them up. The fight today is essentially between Stardust and Filmfare. The former has a upper hand when compared to ad rates. "While a Stardust full-page colour ad costs Rs 2 lakh plus, Filmfare's is Rs 140,000."

While the high-stakes battle is being fought on news stands, Kapadia's team has been securing a place for G on a new medium - Internet. "We are positive that this new medium will take over," exults Kapadia. G was the first Indian magazine in English to be on the Internet, way back in 1995. It claims monthly page views of 3 lakh, and a majority seeking downloadable posters.
It has the potential of becoming a bright spot in G's otherwise chequered history.

© 2001 agencyfaqs!