Is Digital eroding relevance of TV and Print?

19 Feb,2013


By A Correspondent


The traditional media of print and television are under siege, as it were. Though they are still dominant media, they are seeing a sea change in the way they are being consumed. The explosion of new media also threatens their relevance and hold. Or so it is believed. But is it an overreaction and does digital not pose that much of a threat to TV and print?


To find out, the India chapter of IAA organised a debate in Mumbai on Monday (Feb 18) on whether television and print are losing relevance with the growth of digital in India. The debate series is being sponsored by Campaign India and the co-chairs of the IAA debates initiative are Partho Dasgupta and Neville Taraporewalla.


Seasoned professionals Virginia Sharma of IBM and Mahesh Murthy of Pinstorm (and Seedfund) argued for the motion while Sanjay Gupta of Star TV and Arunabh Das Sharma of The Times of India group argued against the motion. The debate was moderated by Sonali Krishna, Anchor of Brand Equity show of ET Now. A cross-section of industry professionals were in attendance. As were some representatives from MxMIndia.

We bring you some of the highlights of proceedings. Note, this is only a part of what was discussed.


Mahesh Murthy: If you look at the Census report, if you see rural India there are just 33 percent homes that have television vis-a-vis 54 percent that have mobile phones. Overall if one compares, urban plus rural, TV used to take 32 percent penetration in 2001 which has grown and is at 47 percent at the moment. But mobile has grown from 9 percent in 2001 to 56 percent today. Mobile today is 24 percent larger in Indian households especially rural where the number is about 50 percent more.

If you look at the numbers further, television has about 111 million viewers whereas mobile has about 133 million users – which further consist of 400 million users of SMS, 900 million SIM cards, etc. When one compares the publication number of The Times of India that is at 3-4 million which is dwarfed by 18 million users of Facebook every day in India.

If you look from the consumer’s POV the three most desired audiences from an advertiser’s perspective is the 15-24 yr-old youth that barely reads a paper or watches TV and is highly digital-savvy; 25-34 yr-old females – Facebook alone has 11 million of those and I do not think any other medium in India can give you that kind of access to this age group; and finally 35+ age group – it will be hard-pressed to reach a CEO today as long as he is on his tablet or i-Pad or email, etc.

When we move on to the advertisers, all of two years ago digital was all of two percent of the ad pie which has now become about 8.5 percent, meaning that digital has grown by 400 percent while the share of television or print has gone down.

If you look at how digital has been explored by other people like politicians who have more than 200 people to handle just the digital medium, which I do not think is the case with other media. Even when one looks at the credibility factor, Nielsen states that the most credible medium is word-of-mouth, followed by what strangers write online followed by what is written on websites and then comes print.

So what we are seeing is that print and television are not going zero; while they still have relevance they are losing their relevance because of the advent of digital. I’d like to end by requesting each one to ask themselves as to where do you see yourself in the future – whether five years from now you’ll be seeking a job in a company that does not do digital. The honest answer will decide where your preferences will skew towards the end of this discussion.



Arunabh Das Sharma: I’d like to begin by saying that what we are discussing here is relevance. Is it about ad dollars; is it about ‘x’ percent more mobile penetration or is it about what these media have stood for the longest time – which is curated content. What digital has done is created a proliferation of choice and when that happens big becomes bigger. In such a situation everything grows. I’d like to share here an example of how the growth of social media has fuelled the growth of television and print and how they the two mediums are getting healthier now that the investment in content is becoming stronger and stronger.

In the 1950s, it was said that radio was going to kill the medium of print and was followed in the 1970s where it was said that television would kill the medium of radio… none of that happened. There is a reason why different media play different roles in our lives. A recent study by research firm Ipsos talks about what are the global rules that different screens play in your life. So while the mobile screen is a lover, the computer screen is a sage while the tablet is a wizard but the fact of the matter is that you need a lover, wizard and a sage; the fact of the matter is that every medium has a special role to play and we ourselves will be very myopic if we assume that television is linked to a cathode ray tube or that a newspaper is linked to a piece of paper.


Virginia Sharma: Is your motion that TV and print continue to be relevant or that they are growing in relevance?


Arunabh Das Sharma: I think the topic needs to be redefined whether print and TV are losing relevance but whether digital will ever gain relevance? In fact I’d like to say here that 2012 saw some of the biggest gains in stock prices of print companies because of one aspect – they had figured out their business model. The issue was that in 1992 when the readership started dropping they had to figure out a business model which wasn’t to be.


Virginia: Do you have any comparable stats to validate your observation?


Arunabh: It doesn’t even show on the scale for India. I’d like to add here that a lot of people wouldn’t know about this but a gentleman in the US just brought a bunch of regional newspapers with the assumption that the growth of print will happen through hyper-local and regional papers, which is exactly what will happen here too.


Virginia Sharma: I’d like to start off by answering the question, ‘What does relevance mean?’ In today’s world relevance means business impact. The fact that it was said that digital does provide a platform of choice is correct; also the fact that social as a medium has grown is also correct.


Arunabh: If relevance is defined as business impact, are we talking the same scale in that sense in India?


Virginia: What I am saying is business relevance to advertising agencies…


Arunabh: But I thought it was also about ad dollars…


Virginia: No ad dollars is about expense. Business relevance is about business outcomes and about what the CEO measures, particularly the RoI. To quote numbers from a CEO study that was conducted, the use of social and web from 11 percent to 48 percent for social and from 37 to 49 percent for the web in the primary way to interact with the customers.  That for me is business impact and what the boss sees this as a way to engage the audience. What do most brands like Coca Cola, Pepsi, ICICI, HDFC etc have in common – it’s their innate belief that this medium is relevant and their investment in this medium is not just what the ad agency says it is.

So, two big cases. First, the primary metric of the CEO study for marketers for success is RoI. You can measure RoI based on the ability to understand customers and target them with what they need. You can only measure digital better than you can measure print and television. Therefore the future for marketing where RoI is concerned as a primary measure for success has got to be digital if you want to make the case.


Arunabh: I think the challenge is not about measurement but about conversion and that’s how a medium works. Measurement that you are saying is how many people have seen the ad not how many people because they have seen the ad went and watched something.


Virginia: Measurement for me is actually measuring consumer behaviour and doing it successfully. To sum up, the business case is very simple, if you want a good RoI you have to use digital as a key medium to be able to feature consumers and that ultimately is going to be key.


Sanjay Gupta: When I started working 20 years ago I thought print is going to die and today print is about Rs 14,000 crore from Rs 6,500 crore it was a decade ago. For television the growth has been from 5,000 crore to 16,000 crore. The key points that I’d like to present here are that firstly, consumers love television and it is thriving. The thing is that if you find something relevant you spend time with it. Around 700 million people in this country spend three hours every day watching TV. When they start it is for two hours, which then picks up to three hours. Also in the last one year, 70 million new people have started watching television. That’s more than the number of people who watch digital in any given point in a month. The same is the case in developed countries like the UK and the US where the time spent is around 4-5 hours every day.


The other thing is that big is becoming bigger on television. The belief is that proliferation of choice will make users fragment. A recent example I’d like to share is of the movie ‘Dabangg’ which was watched by 150 million people. Even shows like Balika Vadhu etc aggregate about 40-50 million viewers in that half an hour. The point I’d like to make is that social media is actually helping the business become bigger and better. The people fall in love with our characters and they do that only on television and not anywhere else.


Mahesh: So essentially your point is that even TV uses digital…


Sanjay: TV does use digital. To quote an example our show Satyamev Jayate was the biggest show that we did and we used the channel of social media to make people come and watch it. It was in fact the highest trending topic on Twitter. So what I am saying is that digital is driving our business to do better.


Virginia: Is it content that drives behaviour and interest or is it the medium?


Sanjay: It is content. To cite figures, in the UK people watch about 80 minutes of video and out of that 80 percent is either pornography or YouTube – that’s the power of that medium there. Whereas if you provide good content it makes the viewer keep coming back to watch more and more.


As to what is changing, digitization is changing the way television companies do business. Till now only 20 percent of the revenues from digital medium came to the broadcaster but the transparency with DTH that number is moving from 20 to 100 percent. So subscription revenues of TV companies have grown five times and what does it give us – the power to invest in content. That is what will make it even more relevant in the future.


Murthy: So your point is that television is using DTH or rather digital to deliver itself to homes?


Sanjay Gupta: The point I am making is that the medium is powerful, profitable and is growing. The fact is that people will not consume any one or two mediums, they will consume all the mediums. The question is: how do we use the power of each of these mediums as they have to be relevant.  So print and TV will not lose their relevance they will continue to grow. The real question is that we need content aggregators and devices. Digital as a medium is just an aggregator of content and fundamentally the question we need to answer is how meaningful can this content get on the medium if it has to grow even further.


Arunabh: Statistics do give us a picture. The fact of the matter is that both these media are huge and growing. If they were not then we could have turned around and said that it is not but like all new media they are finding newer ways – whether through a screen, a mobile, an app – of growing the medium. We are not here to debate whether one medium is better than the other, the fact is that we as consumers love to consume media and do it the way we want to. It is not about whether x, y or z is losing relevance, the fact is it is bigger and it is growing. In fact the next round of growth is already visible to us – it is coming from regional markets. Because of our infrastructural issues it will take digital some time to pick up speed but until such time our friends in the digital world would do really well to figure out what kind of content creates stickiness and what kind of content keeps readers going for 175 years. The day one of these digital mediums complete a 175 years in the form and fashion from what they started then we can talk about it further.


Virginia: I think the four of us together have made a very compelling case for the growing relevance of digital and that it is powerful, profitable and here to stay. Such a combination would make this medium indeed relevant. Print and TV is going digital, decision-makers are going digital, politicians are going digital… the big question is, which side do you want to sit on? And no, digital does not want to be the medium it was 175 years ago, it wants to keep up with the times as well as the generation it is catering to and it will constantly evolve and is eager to change. It will make money regardless of the shape it will take. The question is, are you ready for the future – digital?


The debate was won by the team against the motion. Before the debate started, 44 people from the audience were against the motion and 31 were for it. After the debate ended, the numbers were 42 against and 34 for.

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