Newspaper degrowth: Reason to worry?

12 Apr,2013

By Ananya Saha


Is the print market looking at bad times ahead? The recent IRS figures do compel one to think on those lines. Most of the print categories, including national and regional publications, have registered declining AIRs. Print Media witnessed a growth of 0.8 percent CAGR from 2012 Q2 to 2012 Q4. Though an increase, it is the least when compared to other media during the same period: TV (5.2%), Cable and Satellite (8.9%), Radio (1.9%), Cinema (11.6%), and Internet (24.2%). The 0.8 percent growth seems much less when literacy has increased at 3.7 percent CAGR during the said period.



What the IRS says

Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, the top two Hindi dailies to lead in the Top 10 publications, have lost AIRs, going from 16.47 lakh in Q3 to 16.37 lakh in Q4 and 14.49 lakh in Q3 to 14.41 lakh in Q4 respectively. The only AIR gainers in the category are Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan, Malayala Manorama and Rajasthan Patrika. Of the Top 10 Hindi Dailies, six show a decline in readership. The publications that saw a dip in AIRs include Dainik Jagran (1.04 lakh AIRs), Dainik Bhaskar (75,000 AIR), Amar Ujala (1.02 lakh AIR), Punjab Kesari 41,000 (AIR), Navbharat Times (6,000 AIR) and Nai Dunia (1.95 lakh AIR).




Publication Language Periodicity 2012 Q3 2012 Q4
DainikJagran Hin D 16474 16370
DainikBhaskar Hin D 14491 14416
Hindustan Hin D 12242 12246
MalayalaManorama Mal D 9752 9760
Amar Ujala Hin D 8536 8434
The Times Of India Eng D 7653 7615
Daily Thanthi Tam D 7417 7334
Lokmat Mar D 7409 7313
Rajasthan Patrika Hin D 6818 6837
Mathrubhumi Mal D 6415 6334



The Times of India maintained leads the Top 10 English Dailies category but has registered negative growth and lost 38,000 AIRs: from 76.53 lakh in Q3 2012 to 76.15 lkah in Q4. On the second position, Hindustan Times has added 34,000 readers going from 37.86 lakh to 38.20 lakh readers. While the third daily in the category The Hindu has lost numbers, The Telegraph at fourth position has added AIRs. DNA, Mumbai Mirror and The Tribune have added AIRs while Deccan Chronicle, The Economic Times and The New Indian Express have seen a dip in readership.



Top 10 English Dailies(AIR numbers; All figures in ‘000)

Publication 2012 Q3 2012 Q4
The Times Of India 7653 7615
Hindustan Times 3786 3820
The Hindu 2258 2164
The Telegraph 1254 1265
Deccan Chronicle 1051 1020
DNA 962 972
Mumbai Mirror 807 819
The Economic Times 753 735
The Tribune 653 671
The New Indian Express 664 652



Top 10 Language Dailies (AIR numbers; All figures in ‘000)

Publication Language 2012 Q3 2012 Q4
MalayalaManorama Mal 9752 9760
Daily Thanthi Tam 7417 7334
Lokmat Mar 7409 7313
Mathrubhumi Mal 6415 6334
Eenadu Tel 5957 5972
Ananda Bazar Patrika Ben 5788 5750
Sakshi Tel 5343 5379
Gujarat Samachar Guj 5153 5114
Dinakaran Tam 4912 4816
Daily Sakal Mar 4403 4469


The cause

Sundeep Nagpal, Founder-Director of Stratagem Media, blames the decline on new media. Unsurprised by the degrowth he said, “Time has caught up with print media. Not-so-young people have been hooked onto tablets since nobody sees value in print media. I am not surprised by the figures.”


A S Raghunath, senior print media brand consultant based in New Delhi NCR, disagreed and said, “The degrowth that one interprets on the basis of a quarter is not right. There is always a seasonality associated with print, and hence one should not look only at quarterly figures. There are seasons like monsoons or June-July when readership drops since people travel due to school holidays, or during exams etc.” According to him, due to new publications in a certain language, the universe of readers does migrate or changes. “According to the CAGR of one year, print has grown by one percent, and this is good news.” The worry should only be when the readers of a certain language decrease.


English dailies have added 3.38 lakh readers in the last one year, and smaller dailies that have entered new regions have gained readers. In the past one year, the reigning leader The Times of India has lost readers while Hindustan Times has added readers. Hindi dailies have added 9.70 lakh readers in the last one year. Assamese, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada dailies have added readers to its universe. However, Malayalam has lost the biggest chunk of 8.44 lakh readers in the last one year. The Bengali market, which saw the entry of TOI’s regional paper Ei Samay and ABP’s Ei Bela, has lost 5.16 lakh readers. “The reason could be the entry of new players or disenchantment with the existing dailies. Once the IRS figures of Ei Samay are out, only then would the reason be ascertained,” reasoned Mr Raghunath.


One can say that new publications make the readers migrate from one product to another in a certain language universe but the losing readers is definitely a cause to worry. “For regional newspapers, the newer generation is not adapting to it. For them, news is not to be found in print or language paper. Obviously, there is a problem,” remarked Mr Nagpal.


But Mr Raghunath is positive despite the figures. He maintained, “Major languages are doing well. For the languages that are losing readers, it is because the readers are migrating to newer platforms. News consumption, per se, has not gone down. News media cannot be threatened, individual platforms can be threatened.”


Are the advertisers losing interest?

The traditional media of print and TV has always managed to catch the fancy of an advertiser. While we are questioning the advertisers’ interest in internet and other new media, the loyalties to traditional media might also be undergoing a shift. Mr Nagpal reasoned, “Advertisers are also simultaneously moving to new medium since readers are moving. On the internet, ad dosage can be course-corrected according to usage. B2C believes in TV as a medium, so print loses out. Lots of categories are more internet-oriented. Hardly any e-commerce site has advertised in print.”


Targeting a certain TG on the internet might obviously seem more cost-efficient and would also deliver ROI than advertising in print, which costs much more. Also, with the penetration of new devices such as phablets, tablets, smartphone, the lure of advertising in print media is shifting. What also needs to be considered is, that most of the news and in-depth news analysis (similar to as seen in print) available over internet, is English-based, and the universe of regional and Hindi news sites is still very small.


Going forward

Can print media revert to the days of glory? When magazines and newpapers did not fear the onslaught of online media? When digital was not a challenge? “Whatever print media could do to resurrect itself it has done. Anything more does not have cost benefit attached to it. The print has done lots of new things such as circulation schemes et al but it has not resulted in anything positive, given that revenues for newspapers are ad-driven. I cannot imagine change how and why it would change,” said Mr Nagpal.


As Mr Raghunath sees it, the challenge for print is how to make news stand out for existing consumers and it is also a challenge for conventional journalists. While the signs do say that print media is facing tough times, the newer print publications are keeping the hope alive. Only if the degrowth story stops, will the picture be brighter.




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