Alokananda Chakraborty & Prajjal Saha

Eveningers in Delhi: An issue of distribution

While evening papers are extremely popular in India’s commercial capital, the concept has never quite clicked in Delhi, where distribution seems to be the problem

While evening papers (or eveningers) are extremely popular in India's commercial capital, the concept has never quite clicked in Delhi. As per IRS 2003-04, while 7 per cent of readers in Mumbai keenly follow eveningers, in Delhi, a mere 1 per cent of readers (12+ age group) read evening papers. Of course, the percentages for Delhi are likely to have risen since the time these findings were made public, as IRS 2003-04 does not include the readership of Delhi-based Today (the afternoon daily from the India Today Group). Nonetheless, the readership of eveningers in Delhi is still quite low when compared to that in Mumbai.

The extent to which the Mumbai market is advanced can be assessed by the number of eveningers in that city. Mumbai's eveninger count includes Mid Day (English and Gujarati), Afternoon Despatch & Courier, Kesari and Dopahar Ka Samna. As per IRS 2003-04, the readership of Mid Day (English) is the highest with 7.35 lakh readers, followed by Mid Day Gujarati and Dopahar Ka Saamna (with a readership of 1.03 lakh each). Next comes Afternoon Despatch & Courier (45,000), followed by Kesari (13,000). Delhi, in comparison, has only three evening papers - Sandhya Times (a readership of 1.24 lakh), Today and Mid Day (which, for the record, is not part of Mumbai's Mid Day Group).

One of the main reasons for the difference in evening paper readership in Delhi and Mumbai is in the way commuting happens in the two cities. In Mumbai, the majority of office goers travel in public transport (local trains and buses), which provides an excellent opportunity for ‘commuter read'. In Delhi, on the other hand, people usually commute in their own vehicles, which renders on-road reading impossible. NP Sathyamurthy, director general, Media Research Users Council (MRUC), adds, "Unlike Delhiites, Mumbaikars are less inclined towards chatting with others, thereby making afternoon or evening reading a predominant pastime among literate people."

Another hindrance to the growth of eveningers in Delhi is the city's geographical spread, which is very unlike that of Mumbai. Given the lay of the city's business districts, Mumbai has certain nodal points that serve an excellent centre for direct sales to the entire city. Churchgate station, for instance, is one such strategic point for the sale of eveningers, which get picked up by commuters who travel all the way to suburbs such as Virar. Delhi lacks such nodal points, as offices are spread all across the city. This naturally increases the distribution cost in the capital. As Sathyamurthy says, "A well-defined, easier distribution network is one of the main reasons for the popularity of eveningers in Mumbai." Kalli Purie, publisher, Today, adds, "The biggest challenge for Today has been the distribution (as costs are higher), and we have been successful in overcoming this challenge by promoting subscriptions and reaching homes directly in the way a morning newspaper does." The publication claims to have a circulation of 56,000 copies.

When comparing the relative successes of eveningers in Delhi and Mumbai, one question that keeps raising its head pertains to the reading habits of the residents of the two cities. How different is the reading habit of a Delhiite from that of a Mumbaikar, and does this difference act as a constraint for eveningers in the capital? Rahul Kansal, brand director, The Times of India Group, says, "There is no major shift in the reading habit between Mumbai and Delhi as far as light reading is concerned. The major hindrance for the growth of eveningers in the Delhi market has been the distribution." Purie agrees when she says, "The reading habits have changed in Delhi over the last few years, and today there is no major difference between a reader in Delhi and Mumbai."

While eveningers in Mumbai are well established, the market in the capital is still on the verge of being explored. What remains to be seen is how evening papers in Delhi crack the issue of distribution to their advantage… © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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