Newspapers, digital must co-exist for survival: INMA South Asia Confererence 2013.

26 Aug,2013

By A Correspondent


Of the various newsmedia conferences organized in the country, the annual International News Media Association South Asia Conference is by far the most well-attended. Yes, there are newspaper groups which are conspicuous by their absence, and owners who have a fair say in decision-making aren’t all there, yet care is taken to not allow it to lose focus.


Each conference is curated and this year saw longer panel discussions, shorter case studies (read: self-plugs) and a newer set of speakers with the theme being ‘Print: Thriving in the age of digital’ . There were more media agency honchos addressing delegates (CVL Srinivas, Anupriya Acharya and Lara Balsara) and a panel of editors saw some hard talk on newsroom integration*. There were frequent references to Amazon founder’s acquisition of Washington Post through the conference and how the new digital reality could not be ignored.


Yes, there were a few sessions which saw more chatter than the others, and some of the captains gave Day 2 a miss, but that didn’t prevent some engaging talk over one-and-a-half days.


Arunabh Das Sharma

On Day 1, the registration started over lunch with an address by Jagran group CEO and President, INMA South Asia Division. Mukund Mohan, the scheduled conference moderator who is Managing Director, Microsoft Ventures in Asia, wasn’t present so Arunabh Das Sharma, President, BCCL and INMA South Asia Board of Directors was moderator.


So what was the main takeaway from the conference? In keeping with the times, let’s put this in less than 140 characters: Newspapers and Digital will co-exist. Concentrate on just one, and you’ll perish. Short video clips are the future and revenue-friendly.


Earl J Wilkinson

This was very eloquently presented by Earl J Wilkinson, CEO and executive director, INMA, who ensures INMA is on top of engagement with the industry and in thought leadership. Storytelling is vital, he stressed in this co-existence of the digital and printed forms.


Mr Wilkinson of course knows that the takeaways are important in meets like these where there are a fair number of people in attendance are company-sponsored and don’t really care much about the content.


Lara Balsara

But the quote of the conference came from Lara Balsara, Executive Director, Madison World. She said: “Print is like the Sun. It keeps rising in the East and declining in the West.”  The young Ms Balsara words are sure to be used in many sales presentations in the coming months.


In fact one senior adsales honcho told us in private that he will use this the next time a Madison buyer tries to beat him on price, saying television is more effective than print.


Ashish Pherwani

While each session was critical to the theme, the CEOs’ panel moderated by Ashish Pherwani of Ernst & Young was the highlight. The topic was: ‘Why is Publishing Continuing to Thrive in South Asia?’ It also gave that vital glimpse of what the industry leaders — Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, BCCL; DD Purkayastha, MD & CEO, Ananda Bazar Patrika group; Jacob Mathew, executive editor, Malayala Manorama; Pawan Agarwal, non-executive director, Dainik Bhaskar Group and Mr Sanjay Gupta of Jagran — are thinking and the directions their respective organizations may be taking in the next few years:


Ravi Dhariwal

According to Mr Dhariwal, newspapers are an extraordinarily good value consumer product and there is much emphasis on habit-forming. There is a fair deal of innovation happening here and the sector sees stiff competition, the battles being tougher than what are waged by a Pepsi or Hindustan Unilever.


Mr Purkayastha raised the issue of innovation and asserted that the digital media penetration is much lesser in South Asia than the West. Regional publications were customizing with relevant content and there was a strong growth in advertising. The ABP CEO and MD added that there is a lot more potential for growth. Newspapers are very adaptive of the times and have been diversifying into other segments like television, radio, OOH etc.


Mr Mathew stressed on the quality of journalism and said the demand of news was being met by newspapers. The hyperlocal coverage had helped build communities and the form of the newspaper offered a range of ads that can’t be executed on digtal.


Mr Agarwal threw some points not stated by the others. He said that in Tier 2 and 3 towns, the commuting time wasn’t very high and hence the window of opportunities for newspapers is high as people step out for work only at around 9-9.30am. Print are a fantastic platform for retail advertisers and a day’s paper is cheaper than a cup of tea,  he added.


Sanjay Gupta

Mr Gupta underscored the vital role of print in news media and its credibility since television news is just 20 years’ old. There is much headroom with newspapers and the editorial operations are managed at a low cost.


The next edition of INMA South Asia Conference will also be held around this time next year in Delhi.


*MxMIndia unofficially supported the INMA South Asia Conference 2013


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