WMC2011: Soni sees bright future for mags

11 Oct,2011

By Shruti Pushkarna

After the smashing opening of the 38th FIPP World Magazine Congress with King Khan dancing to “Chammak challo”, Day 2 opened with optimistic assurances from the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Ms Ambika Soni. Chairman of FIPP and Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, India Today, Mr Aroon Purie invited the I&B minister to grace the opening of the second day with her address.

A self-confessed “avid magazine reader”, Ms Soni was extremely optimistic in her views on the future of magazines and print media. Addressing the Congress, the Minister stated, “…With 77,000 registered publications, including magazines in different languages, we are one of the major magazine hubs of the world. India represents one of the developing markets for magazines globally, and (are together) expected to contribute about 31 percent of the global advertising expenditure this year, and 67 percent of the growth of this crucial segment of the media.”

The minister also emphasized the diversified nature of the India market. “We also probably have the greatest possible diversity represented in our magazines in terms of genre and content, not only language. From the glossiest and most sophisticated luxury magazines to those making effective use of the latest digital trends, to the more simply and cheaply produced publications… all co-exist in a highly diversified, highly segmented, highly stratified market.”

Ms Soni showed that she is not oblivious to the threat that the digital revolution poses to the magazine segment. But she assured the audience that the danger was not as grave as it seemed in, perhaps, the last Congress. She summarized the solution to the problem in three words – innovation, expansion and adaptation. “There will always be room for innovative ideas, in terms of content and format. Adaptation of course to internet age, to tablets, to phones, to developing new revenue models… But there are also significant gains to be made by expansion; this is especially true in developing markets like India.”

The minister also shared some interesting figures, reiterating the prospects of growth in the magazine segment. “While the print market in India is dominated by newspapers which accounted for 94 percent of all print revenues in 2010, the important point to note is that the overall pie is growing and the magazine segment is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 4.8 percent in the period from 2010 to 2015.”

And donning the role of a ‘government representative’, she shared with foreign delegates how liberalized government policies are aiding the growth of the print medium: “For the benefit of all the delegates who’ve come from outside, I would like to emphasize that we’ve come a long way, a long way since the basic premise of our print media policy of 1955 which did not allow any kind of foreign publications, either newspapers or periodicals. The policy which was subsequently reviewed in 2002 and then again in 2005 has paved the way for a spurt in the magazine sector. The liberalization of our print media policy has not only attracted foreign direct investment, it has given a growth perspective to the magazine industry in India as well.”

The minister also assured the AIM members that their “longish wishlist” is being carefully examined and all issues will be addressed soon.

On a lighter note, she also promised the foreign delegates to “again look at the government’s policy on visas on arrival”.

Ms Soni left the audience with an interesting question to ponder. She said, “With over 90 million copies in circulation daily, the print industry is among the largest in the world. But the vast untapped potential in this industry is even greater. More than 300 million literate individuals don’t read any publications. These 300 million individuals have rising levels of income and aspirations. Will all these be diverted straight to the internet?” With internet access in India still quite low and broadband access even lower, the minister added, “…Today there is a large window of opportunity for the print media that Indian publishers should therefore capitalize upon.”

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