Bengal (paper) tigers set to roar

31 Aug,2012


By Ananya Saha


Once the domain of Ananda Bazaar Patrika,West Bengal is now readying itself for an emerging newspaper war. The Times of India has trumpeted its entry into the traditional market with the announcement of its Bengali broadsheet Eyi Shomoy, and is putting its marketing muscle behind the promotion of the product. The Bengali broadsheet from BCCL will have to fight for numbers with Bartaman, Pratidin, Ganashakti and of course Ananda Bazaar Patrika.


This is also for the first time that ABP’s dominance is facing a huge challenge. Whether as a gameplan or a coincidence, ABP has announced its evening tabloid Eyi Bela at the same time. The industry veterans are calling it mother of print battles: BCCL’s strong marketing and distribution against ABP’s loyalists. ABP currently dominates the print market with many of its publications aimed at each segment: Ananda Bazaar Patrika (Bengali daily), The Telegraph (English daily), Desh (Bengali magazine), Anandamela (Bengali children’s magazine), Anandalok (Bengali cinema magazine), Sananda (Bengali women’s magazine) and Sportsworld (English sports magazine).


While some may argue that ABP is entrenched in this polarised Bengali market, others say that TOI will be able to make a definite dent in the market. Call it retaliation or just a good act, but ABP is said to be lowering rates, and increasing the pages of the newspaper. This is something that the Bengali newspaper has not ever done to counter any of the other newspapers’ entry. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if TOI’s youthfulness will reflect on its Bengali broadsheet as it takes ABP on home turf.


So far, the Bengali print market has been without any incident, and nobody has been able to impact it. A media veteran said that TOI will not have it easy. Why? “The Kolkata market is biased and opinionated. With its regional paper, TOI will not be able to address the local Bengali readers… It may do well in a Delhi or Mumbai where people do not have the time to read opinions.”


ABP, moreover, has emerged as a clear (and consistent) leader in the market. It is true that when the English daily Times of India entered, ABP’s Telegraph did feel the jolt. Currently, in the market of 15-16 lakh readers, APB’s readership is close to 12-13 lakh, according to an analyst who has been observing the market keenly. But media specialists are sure that the TOI Bengali edition will pick up well when it launches, and managing two lakh copies initially will not be difficult for Eyi Shomoy. However, a media veteran noted that even with its marketing muscle, TOI’s Eyi Shomoy may find it tough to get the numbers until it  addresses the Bengali janata the way ABP’s Bengali daily does or is capable of.


Currently, 70-80 percent of newspaper revenues are lapped up by ABP of the Rs 250 crore (rupee/advertisement) Bengali print market. The share of revenue by ABP is much more than readership, noted the media analyst. The idea of ABP’s launch of Bengali tabloid Eyi Bela is probably to target the lower-end advertisers in various districts and smaller cities. This may well become the golden opportunity of revenue for the paper, since it could attract a bulk of advertisers who are not able to advertise in high-priced media vehicles.


Also, Eyi Bela is aiming to attract the growing youth population of the city. Industry analysts are divided given that the commuting culture in the city is different from Mumbai’s. “The evening segment dynamism is missing in this market,” noted an analyst.


However, Sundeep Nagpal, Director, Stratagem Media, differs. He said, “I am actually surprised that no one launched an evening tabloid earlier in this market. Wherever there is a commuting culture, the tabloid can succeed. However, in this case, it is going to be the case of high distribution since an eveninger’s content cannot guarantee readership.”


Even as the politically aligned market is going to see new entrant, the dynamics within the market is also undergoing a change: the rise of double-income couples, the need of smaller retailers to reach out to the aspirational class, evolving youth and rising city phenomenon. The evening tabloid may cater well to this segment.


Media veteran Sajal Mukherjee shared his observation, “The West Bengal market is one of the oldest traditional markets inIndia. One might argue that the Bengali community is loyal to ABP but it is also true that readers want value for money. And loyalties shift depending on the value they get. In the Karnataka market, Prajavani had a stronghold where Vijay Karnataka challenged it and succeeded. Similarly, Divya Bhaskar was able to make a clear dent in the Gujarat market, which was led by Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh.”


“If there is good marketing support in the new market, combined with good benefits to the readers, the loyalty will obviously be dislodged. TOI has had enough experience in the local markets, and it will be a good war to watch in Bengal,” Mr Mukherjee noted.


What may also act in favour of TOI is that they will be able to offer a 360-degree national bouquet on good rate to advertisers. Mr Mukherjee opined that Eyi Shomoy has huge scope to gain the second spot in the market. TOI is already making itself familiar to the local audience by sponsoring ground events. This might work in the favour of the new broadsheet since people will be ready to subscribe to it. TOI is clearly aiming at growth for the future, and is not looking at short-term benefits. The industry veterans note that after Eyi Shomoy hits the 3-4-lakh mark, it might get troublesome for ABP.


But ABP will not let go of its domain so easily. Will it result in a new strategy? Can Eyi Bela actually make a new market in Bengal? And will Eyi Shomoy’s challenge to ABP be tackled more forcefully? Advertisers and analysts might differ, but it is readers who are bound to get the sweetest deal.




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2 responses to “Bengal (paper) tigers set to roar”

  1. Suvojit says:

    Very poorly written. The basic info is incorrect. Ebela is not a evening tabloid. It will be published every morning. ABP has stopped publishing Sportsworld few years ago. Two important magazines published by ABP group – Unish Kuri (Bengali youth magazine) and Businessworld (Business magazine) were not mentioned. Also ABP has not declared a price cut for its flagship daily Anandabazar Patrika.

  2. arjun says:

    Many of the information given here are incorrect. ABP’s Ebela is a morning newspaper. The revenue stats for Bengali print also incorrect. Very poorly written by an amateur