If 2003 saw a number of broadsheet papers switch to the international format of seven columns from the traditional eight columns in terms of layout and size, 2004 could be the year when newspapers in general set about redefining parameters of advertising space. In other words, column centimetre could give way to square centimetre as the de facto unit of measurement of advertising space.
A couple of frontline publications including the Times Group, Express Group, Hindustan Times and Hindustan as well as Rajasthan Patrika set the ball rolling last year, when they switched to square centimetre. This year, industry sources aver, close to 15 publications may follow suit. However, one publication house that has set its sights at making the transition for good is the Lokmat Group of Newspapers. The group, which prints and publishes Marathi daily Lokmat, Hindi daily Lokmat Samachar and English paper Lokmat Times, will switch to a square centimetre unit of measurement on April 1, 2004, coinciding with its annual revision of advertising rates.
The move, as Jwalant Swaroop, group general manager, Lokmat, explains, is to allow greater flexibility to advertisers in terms of designing their creatives. "Above all," he says, "they pay for actual utilisation of space, with no question of a column more or less."
Though advertisers and their creative agencies will be relieved of the burden of designing ads according to rigid specifications laid down by the publication, the catch is that gutter space, which is, the area between two columns, is absorbed by this exercise (since the concept of a column ceases to exist when talking about ad space), implying, that what was once free of cost, becomes chargeable now. As a buyer with a Top Ten agency, explains, "The switch to square centimetre is linked to underlying economic factors. Profit margins of publications are under pressure and whether it is a switch to seven columns from eight columns or a movement to square centimetre, the motive is to trim newsprint cost and improve bottomline performance."
The Lokmat group, however, continues to use the eight-column format as opposed to the seven-column initiative adopted by many, though the overall size of the paper is down to 32 cm, implying, that per-column width has reduced. "The norm earlier was to use newsprint of the width of 34.5 cm," says Swaroop. "What has happened now is that publications are using newsprint of the width of 32 cm, which means that per-column width has come down and not so much the number of columns."
Though overall size and consequent column width as well as the number of columns per se do show some amount of variation from paper to paper, what is clear is that the trend to switch to the unit of square centimetre of advertising space as opposed to column centimetre is here to stay. It is only a matter of time before other newspapers make the transition. © 2004 agencyfaqs!