In a country where the dialect of people changes every 100 kilometres, regional newspapers are bound to have a strong market. According to several reports, there are more than 1,500 languages spoken in India and more than 60 per cent of the population resides in villages, towns and Tier I, II and III cities where internet penetration is very low. In these areas, people still enjoy consuming news in their local dialects instead of English.
The concept of regional media varies. There are several examples where Hindi, Malayali, Telegu or Urdu newspapers are being consumed by people living in metros.
Anant began the session by thanking the media industry for waking up to the concept of regionalisation of print media. He said that regionalisation is not just by language but is more by the geography to which the product is targeted. Regional print is well consumed in metro cities and the news consumption patterns in the non-metros, small towns, Tier I, II and III are also growing well.
He streamlined the debate to several issues such as 'Are media marketers changing?', 'Changing content and style of papers', distribution challenges and advertising.
Nair said that despite the growth of television and radio channels, regional print is doing well and circulations are increasing. Citing the example of Kerala, Nair explained that the reasons for this increase are higher literacy rate (94 per cent), each paper having several editions covering a wider geography, better printing quality, wider coverage on local issues, increasing number of part time reporters, training of agents and distributors as reporters, advantage to local advertisers which is not possible in TV or radio, tough editorial competition, nearly same cover prices, championing the cause of local people, covering obituary news well and increasingly improving infrastructure.
Prakasam began his part by pointing out that "the market will grow in a way the audience demands and we will have to customise accordingly." Eenadu is in its 25th year and he put forward his opinion by citing examples from Eenadu's experiences. "Forty five per cent of our revenue comes from regional markets. We have created many categories for our local advertisers. In our attempt to reach out to the local audiences at village level, the paper comes out with 294 constituency pages every morning across five regions. We reach out to 30,000 villages out of 36,000 villages. Eenadu has invested heavily in its people, systems, distributions and marketing. We cover news at village, school, college and mandal levels for our readers. According to our research, the national papers are growing at a rate of 5 per cent, while the regional ones are growing at a rate of 14 per cent," said Prakasam.
"India is more like a group of several regions and if we leave apart metros, the rest of India is a regional market," said Rathore. He revealed that while the English dailies industry has grown at 6X in the metros, the regional industry in 40 lakh + towns has grown by twice as much, while in still smaller towns, it has grown at 21X.
He cited several reasons for this growth in the regional newspaper market. People's affinity towards languages, large geographical area, advantages to small and big marketers, newspaper delivered at home, increasing marketing activations, rising purchasing power, increasing branded consumption habit, increasing participation of women, media exposure, young demography hungry for knowledge, better content, marketers taking note of real India and increasing capital expenditure from publications in these areas are responsible for the growth, said Rathore.
Rathore brought out that small entrepreneurs have started coming forward for advertising. The regional papers give them the confidence to communicate with the relevant audiences. Prakasam added that today, 80 per cent of their ads are regional as these organisations want to grow not just in their localities but outside their localities, too. This change also wakes up the inactive brands to react to branding. Nair concluded the session by saying that in the years to come, this trend will continue to see an upward rise.