Mumbai's English-language press market set for exciting times

By , agencyfaqs! | In | April 06, 2004
Mid Day's tentative 'dawn' edition, the Times of India's planned city newspaper and Hindustan Times' imminent entry point to action in Mumbai's English-language press market

The tiniest of ripples can stir up perfectly calm waters. And for the sedate English-language press in the city of Mumbai, a strategic move by Mid Day Multimedia Limited (the publisher of tabloid Mid Day) was all that was needed to stir up the market.

On March 8, 2004, the group launched a dawn edition of the tabloid, signaling its foray into the morning segment, while at the same time, bringing down its tally of editions from three to two. According to Aakar Patel, editor, Mid Day, the 'AM edition' was intended to be an alternative to the morning papers. "It is different in terms of content from the afternoon edition of the paper (Mid Day, that is), with emphasis on delivering news in a compact form," he had indicated when contacted by agencyfaqs! However, a week after launch, the AM edition was off the stands - and with it, Mid Day's plans of being a viable alternative to the morning papers seem to have been shelved for the time being.

According to observers, the hasty exit of the dawn edition could be on account of a not-so-enthusiastic response from the market. "Readers and vendors may have demanded the old edition, which made it imperative for the group to revert to the same," says a senior media analyst based in Mumbai. Jaisurya Das, managing director and principal consultant of Pune-based Xanadu Consulting Group, opines, "It is better to stick to one's core competence rather than diffusing too much. Mid Day's strength is the afternoon segment, and though the group attempted to look at fresh audiences with the AM edition, it makes sense to focus and build on core readership, especially when circulation of the paper has been stagnant for some time." For the record, for July-December 2003, Mid Day clocked a circulation of 1.36 lakh - a jump of 4 per cent from the preceding period of January-June 2003, when circulation stood at 1.30 lakh (Source: ABC).

Even as Mid Day attempted to take stock of the situation following the launch and exit of its dawn edition, archrival Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited (BCCL), publisher of The Times of India, is looking to launch a city newspaper titled Bombay Times Plus. Though on the cards for some time, analysts say Bombay Times Plus could be more a response to Hindustan Times' impending Mumbai edition rather than to Mid Day's now-on-now-off AM edition. "It is the classic flotilla concept being put into practice by BCCL, where you have little products forming a protective ring around your main brand, while performing their own number at the same time," says Das.

It is estimated that Hindustan Times will need Rs 250 crore to battle The Times of India in Mumbai, which is the leading English daily in the city. The group has plans to enter Mumbai within the next one year, seeking foreign direct investment - to the tune of Rs 125 crore - for its expansion activities. With the preliminary battle lines being drawn by the various players, it is only a matter of time before an all-out war in the English-language press breaks out in the city. © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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