Anil Thakraney: So then what must The Hindu do?

06 Feb,2012

By Anil Thakraney


The Times is on a rapid expansion drive. They’ve recently launched multiple editions in Kerala, including in small towns. This is quite understandable. Newspapers are in a slow death mode in large towns, and it makes sense to penetrate as many towns as possible to delay the inevitable demise of the newspaper as we know it.


And this portends a serious challenge for incumbent brands. How can they protect their turf? How can they retain their readers in the face of stiff competition? It’s not going to be an easy task. The Times, which is a powerful challenger, has many strengths – the group has deep pockets, tremendous marketing fire power and the newspaper is wholesome; a healthy mix of serious news and entertainment. If the local brands remain lazy and complacent, they will struggle hard, that’s for sure. Deccan Herald learnt this lesson the hard way in Bangalore.


Let’s take the current battle raging between The Hindu and The Times in Chennai as an example. The ad war between the two has already been discussed, and I mentioned in the Debrief section of this portal that I quite like The Hindu’s spirited fight back. But in terms of the content itself, what can the newspaper do to stay alive and relevant? This is a tough one; but allow me to put forward two critical points: The Hindu must NOT dump its image of an ultra serious brand. This is the newspaper’s core strength, it has been so for many decades, and it must be protected.


If they attempt to emulate Times’s please-all mix, they will become a me-too brand and quickly lose the battle. Sticking to their core values will ensure they don’t disillusion their loyal readers. However, at the same time, they have to win over the hearts and minds of younger readers. Already, there is pressure from the internet, so this is going to be a huge problem. The Times is, anyway, particularly strong in its youth appeal. The trick here is not to dumb down the content and dive into a full on filmi and party coverage.


The youth of India aren’t dumb. Yes, they enjoy entertainment coverage, but they also have their own serious issues to worry about, which include education and career opportunities. And this is what The Hindu must tap into very aggressively.


The Express tries to do that but they haven’t achieved much success, and that’s because they are pretty clinical in their approach, and don’t make enough song and dance. The style of presentation and the marketing of youth-related stuff is critical. Features on career prospects don’t have to be boring; they can be made to rock. And marketed in such a way that the youth of Chennai perceives The Hindu to be a newspaper that understands their needs and concerns.


As I said, it’s going to be a tough one. And I used The Hindu only as an example. The coming years will see massive newspaper wars because the category is on the decline curve. And each brand will have to be very smart and proactive to survive. Interesting times await!


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PS: I am not a huge fan of authors who parade themselves at Litfests. And an even lesser fan of authors who tweet. I have always believed writers must remain enigmatic and should be known only through their books. That, the mystery enhances a writer’s appeal. Here’s an interesting article from The New York Times, it  explains the authors’ obsession with Twitter.





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