With a circulation of 16.5 lakh copies (according to ABC for the period of January to June 2002) and a readership of 1.3 crore as indicated by the latest round of the Indian Readership Survey, Dainik Bhaskar seems to be a comfortable leader. But resting on its laurels is not a trait one can associate with the Hindi daily that recently forayed into the eight state, namely Maharashtra, adding one more edition to its long list of 19, with a full fledged issue in Nagpur.
The group has just set Operation Smart Look into motion, effectively overhauling content and design as well as reducing the size of a page from 30 inches to the standard 27.5 inches. "It was high time we did it," says Girish Agarwal, director, marketing. "It's been close to two-and-a-half years since we last introduced any kind of change," he adds.
Thus, what began as a soul-searching exercise in August has culminated in a paper that sports a clutter-free, relaxed look besides offering smooth navigation. Two more pages have been added to the regular issue of 20 to 22 pages (depending on the edition) "The total investment in Operation Smart Look has been Rs 2.5 crore," reveals Agarwal.
If these are the cosmetic changes, the real transformation can be observed in content, he claims. Not only news presentation, but a correspondent's outlook towards a story will make a dramatic shift. "Earlier the skew was towards politics and crime but now the idea is to go beyond the obvious and report other developments in town, which are equally interesting to a reader," he adds.
As part of this initiative, there is increasing thrust on stories of social relevance; yet a healthy balance between serious issues and topics that are light-hearted in nature is amply evident. "The idea is to address the entire family as opposed to a single member who is usually the male of the family," claims Agarwal.
To forge a bond with the entire family, a separate women's page has been introduced in the main issue catering exclusively to the needs of women readers. This, according to Agarwal, has multiple benefits. "You add on more readers as the utility of the paper goes up; this, in turn, increases advertiser interest," he explains.
A notable change is that some traditional advertising space, such as the ear panels on the front page, has given way to editorial content. "The suggestion to withdraw the ear panels from advertising usage came from the design team. We realised then that the space could be utilised in an innovative manner," says Agarwal. To spice up content, special weekend columns have been introduced that give readers interesting tips on how to liven up the fag end of a tiring week.
Agarwal claims reader response to Operation Smart Look has been overwhelming. "The revamped product was launched on December 14, 2002, and reader response so far indicates that they have noticed the change," he states. Bhaskar took a novel route to gauge reader response. Instead of going the regular door-to-door way, Bhaskar's research was conducted through the newspaper itself. "We received 1.18 lakh responses to the questionnaire published in the newspaper," claims Agarwal.
The objective of the entire exercise, according to Agarwal, is to increase circulation by another three lakh copies. In January next year, executives from Bhaskar will hit the road to "try and reach out to people who do not read the newspaper." Agarwal says, "The aim is to target 10 lakh people in 123 centres (read cities) across seven states who do not read a Bhaskar or any newspaper for that matter." © 2002 agencyfaqs!