@INMA: Thriving in a digital world

09 Aug,2012

L to R: Jehil Thakkar (KPMG), DD Purkayastha (ABP), Ravi Dhariwal (BCCL, INMA) and Santosh Desai (Future Brands)


By A Correspondent


The second day of the International Newspapers Marketers Association (INMA) South Asia 2012 conference in Delhi threw light on the complexities and challenges of the print newspaper media. The first session of the day was ‘Media 2020: A future backward kaleidoscope’. The session focussed on how the newspaper industry is readying itself to face the challenge from digital media usage.


Mr Jehil Thakkar, Partner, Head-Media & Entertainment, KPMG India made some interesting observations about the levers that are changing the Indian newspaper industry. He pointed out how empirical studies prove that there exists a positive relationship between the wealth of a nation and newspaper readership: “There also exists positive correlation between growth of economies and technology adoption, which has significant potential to disrupt media consumption.”


“The rapid proliferation of new-age devices and growth of alternate media has reduced newspaper consumption by 40 per cent with audiences preferring to access paper via their mobile phones,” added Mr Thakkar. According to him, technology would alter the workings of newspaper industry as coverage would become electronic, delivery would become faster; collaboration would become the key; cloud-based service would become a norm; interactivity through QR and barcodes would see an upsurge.


DD Purkayastha
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Talking of how things will shape up in 2020, DD Purkayastha, MD & CEO, ABP Pvt Ltd said that the future belongs to newspapers who become hyperlocal as cities reach the saturation point. He said: “Regional publications will grow. And consolidation will happen at a much faster pace.”


Mr Ravi Dhariwal, President, INMA Worldwide and CEO, The Times of India, noted how newspaper of 2020 will undergo a dramatic change. He noted: “Three critical things will emerge in 2020: what brand you own will become important as there will be many more brands on the digital media; curation of the product will become more important as the role of a journalist will shrink and need for analytical news pieces will arise; and business model will change as ad revenue will become a critical source of revenue. As technology improves, and people get more comfortable with using technology, the ad rates would only increase.”


Mr Santosh Desai, MD & CEO, Future Brands India, remarked: “The larger issue that would emerge would be the tension between decentralisation of news media and fragmentation.” The panel, however, coherently agreed that despite the changes and challenges that the newspaper would undergo, it would still exist with the digital media.


The session on ‘Increased circulation; dwindling readership: Is it time to measure ‘access’?’ saw panellists discuss the much-debated measurement metrics available. ‘Newspaper distribution channel: How best to nurture it for the future’ and threw light on the vendors and agents who distribute the newspapers. Moderating the session, Mr Sanjeev Vohra, Executive Vice-President – Audiences, BCCL, said: “The vendor currently exists as an independent businessman and as an investor in newspaper business.” His view was supported by Mr PS Venkat, Vice-President, Circulation, The Hindu, who said that changes are needed in distribution model to enable the vendors to become partners in progress.


Mateen Khan
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Mr Mateen Khan, Product Head of Lokmat Samachar pointed out how the distribution channel in rural areas is still a problem, while it may not seem so in a metro. Taking the discussion ahead, Mr Rakesh Sharma, CEO, Aaj Samaj & ITV Group said: “There should be distribution points every three kilometres, and more distribution points.” He, however, noted that the vendors will remain the key to distribute newspapers in India beyond 2020. Mr OP Rajgharia, Chairman & MD, Overnite Express Ltd appreciated the effort put in by newspaper vendors to ensure the timeliness of delivery.



‘Needed to be sector-neutral’

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Bhaskar Das, President & Principal Secretary to MD, The Times of India Group, talks to MxMIndia on curating the INMA South Asia 2012 conference

When I was talking to the organisers, and was given the task of preparing the content architecture of INMA, I told them very clearly that it is not about newspaper industry -it is about business. So, we have to be sector-neutral since principles of business are same. Newspaper is a sub-set of business. This was the first consideration.


Secondly, in my case, the delegates were my guiding point. Why should people attend the conference? Are we going to be just another conference? How do I make it distinctive?


The distinctiveness of the conference is that it creates fluid knowledge; knowledge that one can import when they go back. So, I had to ensure that they learn from each session. That led to the subject. In most of the conferences, people state the obvious. I thought why we don’t address the fact that there are complexities, there are challenges. Being an incumbent player, I realised that if we talk about problems, it is not solved. We should then talk about how we can leverage that problem or challenge. This led me to look for various industries. I scouted the internet, books, academic journals, about what happens when an industry goes through huge challenges, air pockets. There are initial signs of a problem, which I came to know of while researching, such as ‘butterfly effect’ that led to complexity science. This became the theme. The theme has to be intriguing to people rather than being a newspaper conference. The theme was then decided as ‘complexity advantage’. Now that complexity is a given, why not leverage it.


On the audience mix:

This time it has been a record attendance. I am not very happy but you to also have to market it that way. If one can maintain this level of content architecture, attendance will grow. For an event that happens once a year, I will have to sustain noise throughout the year. The community needs to talk about it, so that you can have user-generated content architecture next time. Then, there are regional peculiarities that may not be only one; there are eastern and western peculiarities.


We also have to be industry- or sector-neutral in our audience mix. Why should they be from newspaper industry? Why not from television industry or from client side to discuss business? When people know what you are delivering, I am sure diversity will happen in the audience.


The session was followed by speakers from Pakistan and Bangladesh who spoke on ‘Managing complexity in South-Asian markets – A Pakistan and Bangladesh Experience.’ The session saw interesting insights about newspaper industry in the two neighbouring countries.


Industries across the globe are increasingly learning from other industries to improve their operating efficiencies and innovation capabilities across various spectrum of businesses. ‘Media learning from other industries’ saw three specialists from sectors such as retail, telecom and finance discuss the wisdom that newspaper industry could imbibe, given the onslaught of digital media. The panel discussed how the evolution could gain from the exploration of the new path.


Mr Jaideep Ghosh, Partner, Management Consulting, KPMG pointed out that print media continues to remain the second largest medium in the Indian media and entertainment industry. He also pointed out the key challenges of talent, operational cost, monetizing digital media and fragmentation that the industry faces currently. He said: “Media can leverage data analytics to strengthen the understanding of its customers and build brand loyalty, much like the way telecom, retail and finance sector have done.”


Drawing from the e-retail experience, Mr Rajiv Prakash, ex-CEO, FutureBazaar.com, said, “The audience is increasingly turning Clomosol, which is an aggregation of Cloud+Mobile+Social+Local. Thus, the digital consumer is a channel omnivore, and should be serviced at every touch-point.”


Mr Jairam Sridharan, Head, Retail Banking, Axis Bank said that the newspaper organisations should focus on getting their product on mobile, rather than internet as, “the consumer is leapfrogging the internet and becoming increasingly mobile-savvy.”


The closing session of the two-day INMA conference saw Prof Rishikesha T Krishnan., Chairperson, Corporate Strategy and Policy Area, IIM Bangalore talking about sustainable and thriving media business model that can successfully withstand the vicissitudes of business environment.


He said, “The internet tends to dampen bargaining power of newspaper channels by providing direct avenues of access to customers. But the other hand, it will help the industry to create new substitutes, and new geographical markets will emerge.” He further noted, “The internet has and would result in targeted advertisements, disappearing role of editor as decision maker; fall in advertising revenues and young people moving away from printed newspaper.” The key decision variables, according to him, were how to embrace internet, and change strategy. Giving the example of Schibsted, Norway, he said that the paper now brings readers to its webpage through the front page and even Google was denied the permission to crawl its pages. “This helped them to monetise the banner ad on its front page,” Mr Krishnan said, adding, “Huffington Post has enaged in user-generated content, and its ad revenues are growing. Axel Springer/Bild has extended its brand to other media.”


As Indian newspaper industry struggles with low cover price, growth of paid news, entry of non-traditional players, investment to establish presence in non-metros, the panel at INMA South Asia conference tried to address issues as closely as possible. Whether the industry would learn, and implement the learning remains to be seen.


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