Putting an end to the year-long speculation, Today, the afternoon daily from The India Today Group, hit newspaper stands across Delhi yesterday. Priced at a convenient Rs 2, the paper will don the stands 'post lunch', around 3.00 pm-3.30 pm. A 16-page tabloid with a print run of 50,000 copies, Today will cover a variety of news, city issues and gossip.
With Today, the group hopes to offer what it calls a hybrid city paper - a cross between the seriousness of a newspaper and the excitement of a supplement. And variety is what Today is banking on. Sample this. Besides a daily two-page news section, its various non-news sections will include columns on business, society, women's issues, travel, movies, movie/television listings - everything that most newspapers and their supplements offer. On Fridays, the tabloid will have a page on planning the weekend and on Tuesdays a page on health.
Kalli Purie, publisher of Today, elaborates on the 'philosophy' behind Today. "It is a paper that is bold and upfront. It is snappy, racy and in-your-face. It aims to give readers all the important news in an easy-to-read byte format. And we will sell it at newsstands, traffic lights and petrol pumps. Because we believe news is only new when it affects you."
While agencyfaqs! was unable get a confirmation on this, what emerged from unofficial conversations with executives close to the event is that the daily will have a predominantly upper SEC focus. Sources say given the positioning, bulk of the group's marketing and distribution efforts will be concentrated at the southern, central and northern parts of Delhi.
While the group is all set to go to town with a wacky advertising campaign showcasing the merits of Today, the most obvious questions is: With the advertising industry in the doldrums, will the paper find enough takers?
The India Today brass obviously thinks it would. Purie starts off by enumerating the reasons why Delhi represents a huge potential for an afternoon daily. "The afternoon slot in Delhi is a gap waiting to be filled as there is no strong afternoon paper here. Also, Delhi is fast becoming a commuter city; it has more personal cars than any other metro. The end of the year will see the start of Delhi's metro rail. Phase I has been designed with a carriage capacity of 19.5 lakh passenger-units per day. Above all, Delhi is a city populated with news junkies. An amazing 11 lakh newspapers are sold in the city - which is more than any other metro. Last but the not the least, the city has the highest number of crorepatis per million households. It is also the city with the highest per capita income."
That may well give Today a good start, but is that enough to find large-scale acceptance, given that similar efforts have been spurned before?
Satyajit Sen, associate vice-president, Grey Worldwide India, pinpoints the factors that might work in Today's favour. "There are two sides to finding this acceptance. First, acceptance among consumers. Your question has arisen because Delhi doesn't have a strong afternoon newspaper culture. But that is a function of the lack of a serious effort in producing and marketing a meaningful product to occupy this slot. All previous attempts have been, at best, half hearted. The kind of infrastructure and resources the (Indian Today) group is planning to put behind the effort, I am sure it will find enough takers. Meaning, if Today offers a relevant and differentiated product it will find readers. And if it does, advertisers cannot be very far behind."
But that's easier said than done. "History has demonstrated that Mumbai, with its horrendous work hours and long travel time provides a captive audience for 'outdoor' reading," opines Basab Sarkar, managing director, Maximize India. "And this audience is conspicuous by its absence in this city at this point in time. So it is really difficult to say how the brand will perform in the marketplace."
The other issue is the question of sustenance. After the initial euphoria is over, will Today be able to sustain reader interest? The team behind the daily will have to ensure that the offering is, as Sen puts it, differentiated and relevant.
A senior media professional who has worked on Mid-Day, a Mumbai-based tabloid, opines, the key driver in this case will be the non-news items. "Tell me, in the heat of Delhi summers, who would want to go out and buy a Today? You can get all the news you want on the net or on your mobile phone, sitting right there in your office. So, in my view the differentiator, or what will draw the eyeballs, will be the feature articles - basically all the non-news stuff. There, innovative marketing will have the last word."
Purie evidently has worked on that factor - of being innovative. "To make the daily interactive, Today has incorporated a new feature wherein readers can interact with the editorial team via sms (short messaging system). In that sense it is the country's first printeractive paper," she says.
With the success of Aaj Tak - launched at the height of the advertising slowdown last year - under its belt, The India Today Group is obviously ready to take on its next big challenge. © 2002 agencyfaqs!