afaqs!

POV: Are readers ready for weekend newspapers?

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | May 23, 2011
TOI Crest, The Sunday Guardian, and The New Indian Express' Sunday Standard are newspapers that hit the stands only on weekends. Is it time for the return of the weekend newspaper?

R Venkatasubramanian, senior director, Investments, MPG

People are ready for weekend newspapers. But, if you take out The Times of India's (TOI) Crest from the list, the existing weekend newspapers would face a tough time to find their footing.

The others will face various problems until the time people start placing their trust in them. Also, subscription-wise, people are not ready to shell out money for the lesser-known weekend papers.

For a weekly newspaper to gain acceptance, the basic criterion is quality content. TOI Crest, for instance, does not do a round-up of the entire week, but picks up interesting trends.

If you get a paper free of cost, along with the daily you have subscribed for, you may or may not read it. But, if it has a price tag attached to it and people are ready to pay for it (Crest has a cover price of Rs 6, and Sunday Standard comes for Rs 4), it means that the product is gaining acceptance.

The only problem with these newspapers might be the standard of the content. Readers opt for these to learn something new. If they don't get that, they won't accept the product.

Tarun Nigam, national director, Business Impact Division, SMG

Weekend titles claim evolved reading because, in India, weekday reading is very short as readers get their daily dose from various other media. Weekend reading, on the other hand, is appointment reading and the chances of growth are much more promising for these titles.

A weekend newspaper business model has always sparked debate. In the UK, the model initially bought success for titles such as The Observer and The Mail on Sunday, but has struggled to bring in revenue since the early '90s, partly due to the fact that few product categories look to advertise in these papers.

But, there is an interesting story with the Asian newspaper growth saga. In developing Asia, paid daily newspaper circulation is growing (South Korea, with its 10.6 per cent rise in 2006 and its 19 per cent growth over five years, is an exception).

Paid-for daily newspapers in China registered a 2.3 per cent growth in 2006, against a background of a 15.5 per cent increase over five years. The corresponding figures for India were 12.9 per cent and 53.6 per cent.

A S Raghunath, media consultant

The conventional daily newspaper is a journal brought out in haste. And, most of the stuff put forth in a 24-hour cycle is half-baked. There is a segment of the population that would like in-depth reading. Since dailies have become snippety and magazines are now frivolous, the current stream of weekend-only newspapers can solve that purpose.

I always wondered that if conventional media focusses on the width, who is going to cover the depth? Hopefully, the baton will be taken over by these weekend newspapers. TOI Crest has set a very good example and the other players should be able to follow. In Hindi, Chauthi Duniya is doing a very good job at giving in-depth analyses.

The New Indian Express, given its lineage, should do well in Delhi. And, the fact that they are serious about Sunday Standard can be gauged from the fact that they are getting it printed and published in Delhi. These broadsheets need to take a clue from the weekly magazines and make sure that the hawkers are clued in to their distribution system in order to boost subscriptions.

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