Anirban Roy Choudhury

Dainik Bhaskar's 72-page edition is an indication of a print turnaround, says Sumit Modi

State head (Madhya Pradesh), Dainik Bhaskar Group says, Tier-II and smaller towns seem to have bounced back, unlike metros and big cities.

Print media is one of the industries hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns. The Rs 29,600 crore industry came to a standstill after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nationwide lockdown in late March. And despite the easing of restrictions, many high rise societies are still refusing to allow the home delivery of newspapers, which has resulted in a significant drop in readership.

In 2019, Rs 20,580 crore of the print industry's Rs 29,600 crore came from advertising. After the lockdowns were announced, the number of ads started falling and, in some cases, there were no ads, as the supply chain got disrupted.

Dainik Bhaskar just started publishing from Bhopal, which indicates that the print media may be finally on its way to recovery. The second most read newspaper in the country took out a 72-page edition, with many ads.

"From the perspective of print ads, a good, positive response is being seen when it comes to FMCG, real estate, and jewellery (space)," says Sumit Modi, state head (Madhya Pradesh), Dainik Bhaskar Group.

He asserts that partial recovery is being witnessed as far as auto and consumer durables sectors go. "Due to the postponement of elective surgeries and OPD/IPD visits, healthcare is far away from attaining pre-COVID levels. It is the case with apparels, which also involves a fair amount of physical touch and feel…," Modi adds.

Tier-II cities, smaller towns and the entire hinterland - collectively known as ‘satellite’ in print parlance - which have largely remained unaffected by the COVID crisis, have been the first ones to bounce back and are contributing well to the ad revenues. "Whereas, metros and big cities, where most of the containment zones are present and where there are still intermittent lockdowns, are the ones yet to show full-fledged recovery," Modi reveals.

As far as pre-COVID levels go, there’s still some time to go. "In terms of circulation in Bhopal, we’re currently about 15-17 per cent down from pre-COVID figures. The ad volume has been continuously picking up month-on-month, as smaller markets are gradually opening up and commercial activities are returning towards normalisation," says Modi.

Looking at the current market and considering the recent business uptick he’s witnessed first-hand, Modi is "optimistic that this month (August) could well be the turnaround period for the print industry."

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