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INMA 6th Annual South Asia Conference: Fighting the impossible

Working in tandem with advertisers to create content is a must for newspapers to tackle declining advertising revenue.

Inma conference

The newspaper industry has been trying to beat the 'dragon' for a while now. With advertisers increasing their spends on other media, it is very much left to the industry to try and convince its clientele to increase spend in advertising in newspapers. The first day of the 6th Annual INMA South Asia Conference held at Le Meridian in New Delhi saw a panel discussion on how the newspaper industry can get the advertisers to spend once again.

The speakers for the session included Bharat Bambawale, director, Global Brand, Bharti Airtel; Mayank Pareek, COO, marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki India; and Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal. The session was moderated by Ashish Pherwani, partner, advisory services, Ernst & Young (E&Y) and the topic of discussion was, 'Winning the ad growth challenge: Is it a plausible model?'.

Bharat Bambawale
Mayank Pareek
Shashi Sinha
Ashish Pherwani

Pherwani initiated the discussion by stating that the growth of technology, television and the economy have forced marketers to look at other media options than print. "India has witnessed 67 per cent growth in the number of users in case of smartphones. Almost 100 million applications are downloaded every month; of this, 7 per cent are paid. While in India both television and print are growing, TV is growing at a faster speed."

He said that with so much of growth in other media, print has taken a bit of setback and asked the panel what needs to be done by newspaper companies to get back the attention of the marketer.

Pareek replied, "Fifty per cent of India's population was born after 1985. So the reading habit is completely different. The relevance of print has declined over the years. For example, for Maruti, the spend in print has come down to 23 per cent (from 67 per cent) in the last five years. In case of TV, the spend has increased to 65 per cent (from 24 per cent). The reason is that as a marketer, I believe that advertisement for my automotive should not feature along with a local real estate player. Therefore, the print industry needs to find innovative solutions rather than trying to place an ad next to another."

Pareek stressed on the fact that newspapers need to work with the marketers to develop innovative content.

Next, Bambawale stated that the global trend is that the young eyeballs are moving to videos, and the biggest engagement medium is video content. He then stressed that this trend is becoming a huge challenge for the print industry when it comes to engaging consumers.

"Newspapers need to look at new vehicles to engage the youth, for example, the launch of supplements targeted at the youth. While newspapers are all about fact, consumers now are looking for platforms for dialogues. Hence, newspapers need to create a bridge which allows consumers to give back at the same time," remarked Bambawale.

Sinha highlighted the important point of measurement. He said, "The measurement system is driven by cost per contact and cost per reach. This needs to change to a measurement system which is more performance-based. This will push various media to deliver better."

Sinha further emphasised that print will stay because it is a very credible medium, a distinction which other media like digital is yet to attain. He also remarked on how planners need to be more realistic when planning media. For example, while the reach of vernacular print in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is huge, planners still rely on television for reach. They however forget to note that both the states have severe electricity problems.

Pareek then stated that while print gives reach, it fails to do anything beyond that. A marketer may use a daily paper to announce the launch of a product but to initiate buzz around it, she has to use other media. According to him, newspapers have to find solutions that will lead to two-way conversation.

At the end, the panel agreed that while print is growing, especially the vernacular newspapers, together marketers and content creators need to find the right fit to make the marriage work.

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