Daily News and Analysis, a daily broadsheet, popularly known as DNA, issued its last print edition from Mumbai yesterday. On October 8, 2019, the newspaper carried an ad that stated — “In this rapidly evolving market, a very thin line remains between print and digital. There's duplicity in print and digital readership and the trend shows that our readers, especially the younger audience, prefer reading us more on their mobile phones and rather than print. We thank each one of you for the print readership over the past 14 years. The print publication of Mumbai and Ahmedabad editions will cease effective October 10, 2019.”
DNA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Diligent Media Corporation now an Essel Group entity. In 2005, DNA was promoted by a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh headquartered Dainik Bhaskar and Mumbai's Essel Group. The JV also meant two barons, Sudhir Agarwal and Subhash Chandra shaking hands. The mission was to not only challenge but defeat the leader, Times Of India. The battleground was Mumbai, the biggest print market at reportedly Rs 1000 crore, back in 2005.
An outdoor marketing blitzkrieg preceded the launch of the newspaper. Almost at every busy hub in Mumbai, the billboard read, "Speak Up. It Is In Your DNA". A printing press with a capacity of 4,50,000 copies was set up in Vashi (Navi Mumbai) and DNA rolled out its operation. The plan was to conquer Mumbai and then spread out to other metros. At one point DNA had issues coming out of Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Pune, Bangalore, and Indore. In 2009, DNA found Times of India to be 2.5 times larger than itself, leading Mumbai and making at least six times in revenue.
In 2010, the then CEO, KU Rao, realised the necessity of a course correction. As reported by Forbes India he had a new plan. Instead of gunning for Times of India, he indulged in figuring out a way to make DNA an economically viable business. October 10, 2019, DNA decided to leave the course as a correction was no longer possible. The 14-year-long journey has officially come to closure unless the promoters decide to go for a new beginning.
In the advertisement, DNA India mentioned that it is just a change in the medium as the young readers read more on their mobile phones. But to attribute DNA's fall entirely to the rise of digital would be incorrect. An analyst on condition of anonymity said, DNA never found its ground. “The price cuts and marketing efforts coupled with smart recruitment gave DNA a good start but it was always spending more than it should. Bhaskar wanted to run it like a Hindi newspaper where it achieves an early breakeven while Zee had other plans, which resulted in the Agarwals eventually exiting the business," said the analyst.
Sreekant Khandekar, co-founder and director, afaqs! on his LinkedIn post argued that DNA as a project had unravelled long before the digital wave truly hit India. “DNA was revealed via an outdoor campaign that had Mumbai abuzz. Sadly, the product couldn't match the hype. TOI fought back fiercely. To keep readers it even launched Mumbai Mirror, a tabloid, free with the Times,” wrote Khandekar.
Adding, “By 2009, management control passed to Zee; by 2012 Bhaskar began diluting its stake leading to an exit. The last straw was Zee Group's own pile of debt, which has forced it to cut back on everything that was not core to its business.”
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DNA, however, maintains that only the medium is changing and nothing else. It remains to be seen...