Newspapers: Reinvent or Perish?

08 Nov,2011



By Tuhina Anand

The newspaper industry is undergoing transformation and the only way ahead is to look within and reinvent. While it may be too much to say that for the print industry the only option is to reinvent, else they will perish, but it won’t be far from the truth to say that if they don’t adapt to the changing times they will be groping in the dark and will only pave the way for their downfall. Early adoption and partnership with technology are a few ways by which the industry can look at transforming itself to cater to the Gen Y.

Expressing his view, Mr I Venkat, Director, Eenadu, said, “Yes, we have to reinvent. I think the time has come when we no longer can continue in the traditional way. While the future of newspapers in India is still strong and will be for at least for 10-15 years and what happens henceforth I can’t really say. But in that time period, one should have reinvented and come up with multiple platform and strengthen them so that they become established models to generate revenue.”

He maintains that printed word will remain sacrosanct though the content would undergo change to meet with the various platforms. In fact, Mr Venkat points that even now the way news is being consumed is changing where they have witnessed a significant rise in people coming to digital platform to access news.

Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director, Jang Group, Pakistan is of the opinion that the newspaper industry would not perish even if they don’t reinvent because there is lot of inherent growth still left in the print business. He said, “That said, I think reinvent I would, even if there are no threats as it is imperative for our continued growth. As it happens the print media is under lot of strain and we have seen globally it has been losing readership but in our part of the world the fundamentals that drive the business is strong, like literacy rates going up, growing middle class, migration from rural to urban areas, a very young population and the erosion of the joint family system. These are factors which impact growth and circulation. In fact they are all working in our favour.”

“The important thing is that we have to realize that the business we are in is evolving and we have to adapt for that reason. We have to abandon tradition and adapt to reengineer to remain relevant. We are not competing with new media or television but we have to adapt in terms of how we process the news and understand what kind of news we have to provide to our readers in these changing scenario where different platforms with different speed of delivering news exist.”

While Mr Hasan points that reinvention is not necessary but he will still go with it to be future ready. There is also another opinion which stresses that the newspaper business doesn’t need to be reinvented but it’s the newsroom that need to reinvent. Sanjay Gupta, Director, CEO and Editor, Jagran Prakashan Ltd, said, “Newspapers will remain. It will never die and it’s seen that in the most advanced economies where digital has taken over newspaper still exist. But it’s their relevance to the marketers that is changing.” Newspapers may not be relevant to the marketer as a touch point because of more varied and systematic approach that digital offers and for media companies to make journalism sustainable, Mr Gupta points that there is need to go into different revenue streams and digital comes into play in that aspect.

So the interesting point that comes in this discussion is the decreasing relevancy of newspaper to a marketer hence bringing the digital platform to up the revenues. Also many media company pointed of unbundling of packages to advertisers that comprised a 360 degree approach.

Reinvention in terms of digital may be the mantra for many to follow but for KN Tilak Kumar, Joint Managing Director and Editor Deccan Herald, the potential in print in its existing avatar is immense.  He said, “There is a lot of scope for print media especially rising population, growing literacy and urbanization signify that there is a lot of potential for print media to grow. We have been trying to reinvent in terms of content, design and layout. Digital is the future but it’s not a concern In India as we see it now.”

Content is the key and even for Prabhat Khabar’s MD, KK Goenka. He reaches to his consumers in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and the paper has reached the status of the 7th largest read Hindi daily and this has happened primarily by the physical newspaper. Digital he says doesn’t play a role in the growth of his paper but yes content is the key. He says, “It’s the credibility and trust of people that we have built over the years that is responsible e for our success. It’s the issue that we have taken that is no less than a movement that has helped in building what Prabhat Khabar is today.”

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