Aishwarya Ramesh
Points of View

4 rival print media groups join hands...

The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu and Dainik Bhaskar come together to highlight the credibility of print as a medium.

Election season is right around the corner and one of the biggest challenges for media houses remains credibility. In an effort to reiterate credibility, four rival print media groups - Dainik Bhaskar, The Times of India, The Hindu, and Hindustan Times - came together to carry full-page ads that highlighted the credibility of print as a news medium.

4 rival print media groups join hands...

The fine print said that this ad was issued by India's leading newspapers
Click on the image to enlarge

The ad ran in all four newspapers including TOI's Mumbai and Delhi editions and HT's Mumbai edition on April 8, 2019. The ads highlighted the discipline of fact-checking in the print medium with the ease of deleting/editing content on social media. It's interesting to note that the agency 'Famous Innovations' created this campaign pro-bono.

We spoke to the marketers who brought the campaign together and they had this to say -

Kaacon Sethi - Chief Corporate Marketing Officer - Dainik Bhaskar

4 rival print media groups join hands...

Kaacon Sethi

Initially, it was led by the Bhaskar group and when we reached out to our colleagues and peers across large publications, everyone willingly joined the campaign. We had everybody's support and we're now calling ourselves the 'Print Initiative'. We hope to be able to sustain this for the next 2-3 months.

Bhaskar is running jacket ads in 12 markets. You can see full-page ads across readers, advertisers and planner segments. Over the last 15 years, everyone has been saying print is dying, but it's hardly the case. It's the second largest advertising expenditure and there are many questions about what print can deliver. Our circulation is growing and cover prices are improving, so we want to make people understand that print has certain strong points.

All partners who are participating in this understand the value of what print brings to the table for readers which is credible information and to advertisers, a credible environment. The whole idea is that this should be a print-based campaign and that it should have its own earned media. Print takes so much time because there is a sieve through which the news goes through before being published. The editor makes sure he's putting out a newspaper without any fake news.

Sathya Sriram - AVP, Strategy & Marketing, The Hindu Group

4 rival print media groups join hands...

Sathya Sriram

When you lead with such a neutral objective that is good for everybody, I wanted to support it. They created it a very non-hierarchical neutral platform that allowed everybody to be a part of this industry movement to take a stance for print.

Through this campaign, we're trying to reach as many people as possible, primarily youngsters who are on social media and older people as well those who use WhatsApp freely. I think it's important for our advertisers also to see because, on print, impact is tough to measure. On digital and TV, a whole lot of metrics allow measurement of data, but the question is whether print gives them value or not. That's why it's important for them to take cognisance of this campaign.

We went a step further and we spoke to the heads of two digital news organisations to get their views on the campaign -

Pratik Sinha - Co-Founder, Alt News

4 rival print media groups join hands...

Pratik Sinha

The claim about the efficacy of what is printed in newspapers does not hold up. It might be true that digital is more prone to errors and that is so because digital outlets need to put out a copy in a much shorter time. However, it is also a fact that the same organisations that are running print are also running digital counterparts. They can't escape by saying print is more reliable than digital.

It's completely untrue because there's a fair amount of misinformation that has crept into print reportage. For example, the Najeeb Ahmed story that TOI printed. Things can go wrong and people put out corrigendum and every once in a while, organisations are wrong. There's nothing wrong with that. That's not misinformation.

To suggest that there's no misinformation in print is ridiculous. Dainik Jagran published a piece saying there's no rape in the Kathua case. On March 26 they published a piece about an old monk who had been beaten up because he had spoken out against Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. There's a lot going on in print where we can see that there's not enough effort to verify information before writing about it.

Vignesh Vellore - Founder and CEO - The News Minute

4 rival print media groups join hands...

Vignesh Vellore

I don't think the ad referred to 'Digital News' as such and was more towards Social Media platforms. And even so, the differentiation isn't between print news and digital news, but credible publishers and publishers who aren't. I don't think a TOI or The Hindu can claim to be more credible than a digital platform like Scroll, The Quint, The Wire or The News Minute; we can all make mistakes and do credible ground journalism. If there was an insinuation just based on the medium, they would be questioning their own digital platforms too.

Print cannot be the answer because what is happening online cannot be countered offline. People who forward fake news on social media or messaging platforms aren't going to stop because of a print article. A credible online platform can counter fake news and it can be TOI, Hindu or The News Minute. Credibility is what matters whether it is digital or not.