Dhaleta Surender Kumar
Points of View

Where are magazines headed?

Media professionals give their take on falling readership figures and the future of magazines

As readership of magazines take a plunge in every round of the Indian Readership Survey, a panel of media professionals contemplate the future of magazines.

Maheshwer Peri, publisher, Outlook

Where are magazines headed?
The future of magazines is secure and bright for the following reasons:

When time is the biggest limitation, people are more likely to reach out to content platforms that satisfy their requirements the closest - such as niche magazines.

Magazines have developed a model where the reader pays for what he gets. In TV, the Internet and newspapers, the reader gets the content free and the advertiser subsidises it. In difficult times, business models that depend solely on the advertiser footing the bill will be in great peril.

A magazine delivers a filtered, segmented and targeted audience to the advertiser. In every other vehicle, the amount of wastage for the ad monies spent is very high. The ROI (return on investment) for the reader and the advertiser is the best in case of magazines.

Malcolm D Mistry, publishing director, India Today

Where are magazines headed?
As television channels and newspapers rush towards breaking news, the consumer needs a reliable source to analyse things. There is really no substitute for magazines in this case. In the news and current affairs space, magazines will continue to grow as the literacy rate grows.

Magazines have been uniquely positioned to take care of the needs of interest groups. The category right now is in its infancy. We have a couple of magazines on golf, a couple on yachting and one or two on parenting. Looking at the west, you realise that there is ample opportunity for growth in both width and depth. We haven't even scratched the surface here.

I believe that the current readership surveys were not designed keeping in mind the readership pattern of magazines, which, unlike newspapers, have a greater geographic spread and more upscale readers. The last three months alone have seen launches in genres such as education, gadgets and gizmos. The same period also saw the launch of an international business magazine.

R S Suriyanarayanan, media director, Lintas Media Group

Where are magazines headed?
Magazines have traditionally been an integral part of Indian reading habits and continue to remain on top in markets such as the south, especially Kerala. The future of the magazine industry depends on how effectively it fragments and reaches out to niche segments (this will ensure the horizontal growth that's fuelling the industry as of now) and how it keeps a tab on the change in media consumption patterns.

The time spent on reading has come down and hence magazines should become exclusive in pictorial, with crisp analysis, and unravel exclusive stories that take them to greater heights. Fragmentation will lead to households taking up more than one magazine. Though the going is tough, the sensory experience that a magazine affords - glossy photos, a beautiful layout and design - cannot be discarded.

Anant Nath, director, Delhi Press

Where are magazines headed?
Most of the content that is freely available over the Internet would not have the kind of ideation, research, and most importantly, the evaluation, which a magazine's editorial team undertakes. What you get in a magazine is rigorously thought through, painstakingly researched and carefully vetted, and therefore, more likely to be free of errors and prejudices of one writer.

With the current revenue models (which is mainly advertising-dependent) on the Internet, there is no likelihood, at least in the near future, that a website will be able to prepare the quality of content that a good magazine prepares.

Despite the blogs, wikis and independent sites, the most credible sources and opinions on politics, lifestyle trends and business continue to be the online sites of popular magazines and newspapers.

As long as magazines continue to invest in content, and are able to maintain the high standards of research, experimentation and innovation of their articles and features, readers will continue to place their trust in them.

(Points of View (POV) is a regular column which carries opinions of industry professionals on a current topic of discussion in the advertising, media and marketing industry.)