Dog days for pet mags

11 Jan,2012

By Archita Wagle

 

From the Queen of England downwards, celebrities and their equally famous dogs are almost a cliche. Paris Hilton is frequently seen carrying her pet chihuahua Tinkerbell, who has a book called The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries: My Life Tailing Paris Hilton to her credit. Closer home Gul Panag’s beagle Milo has a Twitter account. Amitabh Bachchan posed with his Piranna Dane, Shanouk, for the cover of Dogs & More anniversary issue, which was launched recently.

 

It’s not just celebs, though, even ordinary people are increasingly getting pets to be a part of their families and participating in their activities. It should logically follow that these owners would be in need of news, views and information resources for their four-legged friends.

 

But the pet magazine market is, albeit niche, also extremely small, especially when compared with the growing interest in pet parenting.

 

As Shivani Darshan, publisher-editor of the now defunct Furs, Fins and Feathers said, “The pet industry is still a mom & pop kind of industry in India. Abroad, the industry has seen a growth of around 30-40 percent, but in India it is still at a very nascent stage.”

 

Veteran journalist and dog lover Ayaz Memon concurs: “The idea of having a pet magazine in India is not fully fleshed out. Even the idea of having pets is not familiar inIndia, it is just growing.”

 

The pet industry, though not very big, is dominated by dogs, as can be seen from the fact that most of the magazines in the market are predominantly for dog owners.

 

Shweta Khurana, editor of Dogs & Pups said, “When we conducted our survey before launching our dog magazine, we found that dogs constituted the maximum number of pets. Also I am a dog lover; the magazine was just a way of turning my passion into a profession.”

 

Dogs & More was started by Farzana Contractor, who is also the editor of the magazine. The idea for launching Dogs & More came to Ms Contractor when she realised that dogs teach us a lot about loyalty, patience and ability to love without question. Ms Contractor’s love affair with dogs started seven years ago. “I adopted a dog seven years ago, after a friend suggested it to me as a solution for the depression I was experiencing after losing my husband 10 years ago. I adopted a furry little black Lhasa Apso, and my life changed.”

 

Magazines such as Dogs & More or the Delhi-based Dogs & Pups are effort to influence the people to get pets. These magazines, mostly bi-monthly, are reasonably priced and offered at a monthly subscription to the readers. But even then the concept is not taking off. “Considering the expenses related to taking care of a dog, this subscription fee is pretty reasonable. The content is nicely balanced,” said Ms Contractor.

 

But a common grouse is that the revenues being generated are not enough. “Unlike a Cosmopolitan, which gets plenty of advertisers, we don’t get so many advertisers. The content is not a challenge but getting revenues is… that’s why we are still a bi-monthly. The content is not a problem,” said Ms Khurana.

 

But Jaisurya Das, media professional and dog lover, disagrees: “The marketing strategy adopted by the pet magazines is not right. First, their advertising is not done right. They tend to approach only those connected to the pet businesses like vets, groomers, trainers and so on for advertising in the magazines. What is stopping them from advertising FMCG products? The reader who picks up a dog magazine will also consume the FMCG product. They should think of the end audience while going for advertisements, not the advertiser.”

 

Ms Darshan however has a different point: “The industry we function in is still very unorganised, the advertisers we approached want free ads. I was bearing most of the cost of printing and distribution. In the end, we had to take a call and decided to stop printing the magazine.” The anniversary issue of Furs, Fins and Feathers on March 2011, which featured Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell on the cover, was the last one.

 

Mr Das also points out that one more reason for bare minimum survival of the dog magazines in India is the visibility factor. “The pet lovers are not going to go out and seek out dog or pet magazines. These magazines should be available at the vets, pet shops, dog groomers and so on. The magazines should have tie-up offers with dog products to hook in the readers. Right now, they are surviving mostly on subscription.”

 

Mr Memon agrees: “The information given in these magazines is very basic. It is good for those who have just got their first pet. If I need more in-depth information it is readily available on the internet. I feel that there is a lot of scope for dog magazines to grow.”

 

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