Digital is changing the publishing game: IMC panel

20 Feb,2013

By A Correspondent


There is a revolution happening in India, and publications have to ride the wave. This has been the dominant theme ever since the digital eruption began, and the urgency has only grown. The message was echoed at the panel discussion on ‘The State of Digital Publishing – Challenges and Opportunities’ on the second day of the Indian Magazine Congress.


Kirthiga Reddy, Director, Online Operations, and India Head, Facebook, said that according to the Indian Readership Survey, digital media has been growing faster and bigger than print media, and its drivers are technology and changing consumer behaviour.


On the technology side, India has the highest growth rate in internet adoption. “We are in the midst of a smartphone, tablet, featurephone revolution,” she said. “On the consumer side, consumers want to find exactly what they want, when they want it, as the pressure of time is intensifying, and this is changing how people are doing things.”


There are three big opportunities in social media, Ms Reddy said. One is reach, the second is two-way interaction, and third is using that interaction for unprecedented personalization. “On the Facebook platform for example, you can reach one billion people globally. Marketers need to think about platforms including the lowest end feature phones, as well as using the range of regional languages.”


People do not just want to consume information, they want to interact and share it, she said. This desire to share is higher in India than the global average. Some best practices are to have a content strategy that leverages the power of each platform, it’s not about one content strategy for all. The most effective use of social media is when the company thinks of social media as part of everything that they do; it is not something separate.


Moving on to personalization, Ms Reddy said that in five years from now, it will be unthinkable that an individual goes to a website and sees the same thing as other individuals. Consumers are going to demand personalization. No one is going to have the time to flip through pages and pages of matter which is irrelevant to them. One challenge to highlight at this time, she said, is education to help people navigate the new world of new and social media.


Umang Bedi, Managing Director, South Asia, Adobe, said the global trend is to put digital first, and India has to keep in step. The way the world looks at content strategy is about taking content into a digital format first, giving the flexibility of creating content any time anywhere, and rendering that content and distributing it. Then it is about optimizing, personalizing and monetizing the content, breaking down the traditional silos. Adobe, he said, is very close to a solution for meeting the consumer need of personalized customization.


“Mobile traffic has exploded in India, and everyone wants to put content in digital format. And every time someone goes online and interacts, they leave a digital set of signals. Brands need to listen to these signals, assimilate data and make decisions based on these observations which are tailored to each individual. Conversions grow by 4x or 5x when brands are able to differentiate themselves in this way,” Mr Bedi said.


Punitha Arumugam, Director, Agency Business, Google India said that thinking about digital has to go beyond desktop and mobile, but the context is likely to become one comprehensive device – the Google Glasses – as early as by the end of the year. Adapting publishing to existing digital devices has to include developments of the future such as this, she said, which will change the way consumers interact.


The advent of technology has ended up making consumers increasingly lazy, she said, and this also influences the way brands reach them. She cited the example of pizza company Red Tomato, which has a fridge-magnet application that can be used to order pizza instantly based on previously ordered choices. However, when reading a magazine online, consumers behave the same way as they do with magazines in hard copy, she said. Which is, they stop at pages, stop at ads, etc, in contrast with other online behaviour which is search-oriented.


In the publishing space, magazines need to be frenemies rather than enemies, Ms Arumugam said, highlighting that collaboration can help the industry as a whole, and thereby benefit individual brands as well. She also added that measurement needs to include online readership as well as the traditional offline numbers, and the next IRS, in collaboration with Google, would be tuned to reflect this.


The discussion was moderated by Pradeep Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director of Cybermedia.


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