When the ABP Group unveiled Ebela in Kolkata in September this year, it wasn't just the first Bengali daily from its stable since Anandabazar Patrika came into being 90 years ago; it brought in a format the city isn't familiar with - the tabloid. Barely three months since launch, ABP claims that Ebela is succeeding in its objective of fundamentally creating a new readership space.
Ebela's content follows the regular tabloid structure with national and international news, entertainment and lifestyle content, elaborate sports coverage, and light literary content in the illustrated format. It has, from the very beginning, attempted to strike a chord with the young, urban reader.
The number game
While Ebela made all the noise, one could not help but notice another media bellwether that launched its Bengali offering in the market - Times Group with Ei Shomoy, a newspaper that also claimed to target the youth. It could be coincidental (or not) that both names loosely translate to 'This Time'.
While both newspapers were in the offing for a while, Ei Shomoy was launched soon after Ebela during the Durga Puja in October, complete with the large-scale noise that is typical of the Times Group.
The differentiating factor though is that Ei Shomoy is a regular Bengali broadsheet, leaving Ebela the only tabloid in the market.
In the initial sampling phase, Ebela, priced at Rs 2, was offered free of cost with Anandabazar Patrika. Now, a buyer who opts for the tabloid together with Anandabazar Patrika and/or the group's English daily, Telegraph, stands to get a discount whether he takes a six-month-long subscription or not. Media planners think that around 50-60 per cent of Anandabazar Patrika readers have continued with Ebela post the sampling stage, adding that it is not at all a bad statistic.
"In cosmopolitan cities, the youth look at different areas of interest (in a newspaper) - light reading and a lingo that is familiar. The tabloids, in that sense, target the youth. While the time spent reading a newspaper is already coming down, tabloids try to do the best packaging for them (the youth)," explains R S Suriyanarayanan, associate vice-president, Initiative.
Campaigning loud and clear
Ebela branded sweets were distributed at Kolkata airport and across 43 leading sweet shops across the city on the day of the launch. On-ground and digital activations were done, particularly during the Durga Puja
The group's size and strong local presence ensured that the ground support to the newbie was strong. "The launch of Ebela was associated with a lot of hype. ABP sure put a lot of muscle behind the same. With the free sampling, the initial percolation happened well, too. The initial market feedback so far has been rather positive," says Saikat Dasgupta, account controller, Madison Media. He adds that the novelty of the format too has helped Ebela.
Ad space booking in the initial phase has been strong but professionals in the business say that whether or not advertisers take to the paper will be confirmed only over a longer period of time.
And what does Sinha have to say about Ei Shomoy and the Times group's renowned marketing skills? "Firstly, the paper launched by the Times group was not a tabloid, but a traditional broadsheet newspaper. We respect competition - not just from the Times Group but equally from the traditional Bengali papers like Bartaman and others, responds Sinha diplomatically. "Having said that, we are very pleased to note the immense response to Ebela without any cannibalisation of Anandabazar Patrika at all.".
Suriyanarayanan observes that both Ebela and Ei Shomoy have done fairly well in a short span of time. He is of the view that with the respective formats that facilitate easy, light reading in the Kolkata market, it becomes simpler for players such as ABP and the Times Group to reach out to the youth like never before, in a relatable manner.
Considering the success of, say, Mumbai Mirror in Mumbai, the key will be to keep the content relevant, pulsating and alive.