POV: Can strong regional English newspapers make an impact nationally?

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | January 23, 2012
Many regional English dailies such as Deccan Herald and The New Indian Express are moving beyond their backyard. afaqs! finds out from industry experts if they can fight established behemoths outside.

Amit Ray
Independent consultant

Amit Ray

The answer is 'no'. However, they can be successful provided the publishers change their perspective. Some publishers have already done that. So, I think, there is hope for others, as well. The success will lie in understanding the nuances, rather than follow the board room thinking of 'adequate land x labour x capital = success.'

Newspapers need to understand existing readers, and build their product around it, rather than fine tune readers as per their own requirement.

In small towns, people want newspapers which have a mission. None of the large metro English papers have any 'mission'. Most of them, in my opinion, are a P&L effort with a time line (which they can never meet).

In the earlier days, newspapers, irrespective of their language, grew in this country because they had a point of view. Today, most English papers, without any specific point of view, grow because of their business success in metros.

Basabdatta Chowdhuri
Chief executive officer, Madison Media Plus

Basabdatta Chowdhuri

Moving from being a single-city newspaper, to one that reaches out to multiple cities is a status desirable to all English newspapers. English is a nationally accepted language, so it is only a natural progression for the paper, especially from a business perspective.

For example, when Hindustan Times (HT) was a Delhi-specific daily, it lost out to The Times of India in terms of revenue, as the TOI had a larger geographical reach, and thus offered economies of scale to advertisers. HT's expansion to other critical metros has helped its cause to a large extent.

Also, if you look at big advertisers, their plans are not restricted to just one city. And, English dailies are the preferred choice when reaching out to the four metros. Larger footprints eventually lead to a larger share of the pie, therefore, I think they can make an impact.

Though the gestation period is very long for a newspaper, and does not result in revenues instantly, the readership base definitely increases manifold.

V Natarajan
Ex-vice-president, marketing, The New Indian Express

V Natarajan

They can, provided they have the pedigree for strong brand recall. English dailies, which are strong in a particular region can cash in on the moving population -- those, for instance, who are transferred out of their home towns.

However, one has to be ready to spend a large amount of money in building the brand in the new city, and should not expect immediate results. It's a long haul, anywhere between seven-to-eight years, before it can make an impact.

Delhi is a very important market commercially for a South-based English daily as the ad rates of certain sectors are largely dependent on how the paper is perceived in Delhi. In fact, the implication is not only on rates, but higher support is given if there is an edition in Delhi. Mumbai, on the other hand, is a tough market. The paper needs to have a distinct positioning in that city.

What The Telegraph did in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, or Assam was very different from other players across the country. Its strategy was to become a dominant force in the entire eastern region, and the focus was not on metro launches. And, that seems to be working in its favour.

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