Anirban Roy Choudhury

Lockdown: Dainik Bhaskar's circulation dipped by 15-20% "witnessing improvement": Girish Agarwal

"Our entire focus has been to restore complete distribution chain, in each of our markets," says the director of Dainik Bhaskar Group

Indians are locked indoors, most of them have shut the access gates to ensure social distancing in order to restrict the further spread of Coronavirus in the country. This has caused disruption in many industries, but newspapers have a unique problem of their own. The reporters, editors, photographers are on the streets doing their job as usual yet the broadsheet is not getting delivered at doorsteps. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India made it clear in the very beginning that the News is an essential service and therefore anyone involved with the news business will remain exempted from the existing lockdown protocols in each and every state of the country. The Prime Minister of the country appreciated the daily broadsheets and their effort to present accurate and credible information to the readers.

Distribution became the largest obstacle for the Print publications and then subscribers started staying away from the print editions as they believe the sheets of paper could communicate the virus home. Many societies in urban pockets banned the entry of hawkers, vendors stopped picking up newspapers for the stands as most of the public places like bus stands, railway stations are all empty. The circulation of newspapers took a deep dive, however, things have started to improve, believes, Girish Agarwal, director, Dainik Bhaskar Group.

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The second most read newspaper in India, Dainik Bhaskar, according to the Indian Readership Survey recorded an average issue readership (AIR - read in the last 24 hours) of 15.4 million. "We did not lose any copies or reader," informs Agarwal. He adds, "However due to distribution breakdown, the ongoing lockdown, our circulation dipped by around 15-20% across all our markets. But now the same is witnessing consistent improvement and is expected to return to full normalcy in the next 10-15 days time."

Agarwal points out the non-availability of distributors, hawkers, and fear of virus being spread by the newspapers as the factors that resulted in the decline in circulation. He feels the stakeholders are putting efforts to bring the circulation back to normal. "Our entire focus has been to restore complete distribution chain, in each of our markets, so that copies can be distributed freely. Readers need trustworthy and reliable content delivered at their doorsteps and they cannot step out."

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Agarwal did not comment on the revenue loss the industry of his publication will have to incur due to the ongoing lockdown. Many advertisers have already pulled out of their campaigns and a significant number of them have not issued fresh release orders. This means it is not only the circulation revenue that is going to take a hit, but the income from advertisements will also head south in the coming quarters.

"First we need to ensure COVID19 is outof the country. After lockdown is over the recently announced financial stimulus and future expected reforms should add value to economic performance," he assesses.