Sanjeev Kotnala: Is Innovation in Print Dead?

08 Oct,2014

By Sanjeev Kotnala


The passionate print guy in me waited through the Navratra for some surprise. I have not seen, heard or read about any Innovation in Print for sometime.


Print has moved from Basic innovations: Size, Shape, Position, stapling, sticking and false cover etc., no longer innovations to Technology-based innovations: Gatefold, Double gat fold, Central gatefold, Outer fold, Inner fold, outer cut etc. soon these will lose the innovation tag. That leaves Exotic sensorial innovations: 3D, audio, smell, image treatments, Heat sensitive or soluble colour based etc. And this still is an unexploited territory.


I know there is lot possible in print. In the Dainik Bhaskar Group I have been exposed to the spectrum of possibilities. I fear they will remain in files and not find a client sponsor to implement. This in my view will be most unfortunate.
Today, more than ever before, print needs innovation to bring back some mystic and romance in the category. Lack of innovation during Navratra is not a good sign. I hope in the four days of Diwali we will see some print innovation.


Some of the reasons cited for this are –

1. Digital is the new attraction and focus with agencies and clients. Digital and TV create their own buzz. Print needs to shout.


2. Print innovation is costly and geographically restricted. No one wants innovation beyond metros. And anyway there is no way to measure the change in impact from a simple ad to an innovation.


3. Death of private equity where the cash cost of innovation was cushioned


4. There is a lack of knowledge not only in client and agencies but also within the sales teams at publications of the possibilities that exist


5. Print sales team are not aware of possibilities in other media (specially Digital) and hence can not think of ways to counter thrust


6. Low return on time spent for media and creative teams. Print media is not given importance at client’s end. Print awards do not have the same oomph factor as TV and digital awards. And there is no print talent or talent wanting to work on print


7. Across media the goalpost has been shifting but print seems to be tied to old school and is yet to grow out of Space Selling mold


What the Print Industry Can Do? Sporadic individual efforts will not yield the result good enough to shift the inertia. It is time to invest or to sign the death warrant. The choice is open and clear.


1. STOP SELLING SPACE AND INNOVATION. Print has failed to keep kept pace with the changing needs. Still selling space. They should have been investing in knowing the brand they service so as to provide right solutions. Not surprising that most newspaper sales teams do not see/know the ads released against the RO.


2. STOP FOCUSING ON DIGITAL. Time to collectively find ways to sustain fast eroding Print equity. Stop industry forums to rehash the same futuristic discussions. Print + Digital is a model that will work best when Print retains its strength. Industry will do itself a favor by discussing ‘TODAY- NOW & HERE’ than talking of years down the road.


3. CLIENT ENGAGEMENT. Maybe in INMA (November) discussion should centre on ideas and ways to create client engagement programme.


4. SHOWCASE PRINT INNOVATION. What has INS done for the print industry in business domain? Nothing. The least it can do is create / maintain a print innovation reference site showcasing possibilities in print.

Newspapers need to be open and frank in ideation. They are right now cocooned fearing someone else will ride on their ideas. Trust me, keeping the Innovation secret will never work. If not you, someone else will work with the client to do things you have been holding back.


5. Subsidies innovation. It may sound horrendously non-business like but try it to bring excitement back.


6. High incentive ‘Print Innovation Award’ created and promoted by INS. Make it really larger than life. So big that the creative and media teams find reason to resist digital pressure. There was an annual competition called THINK PRINT – publications need to rejuvenate that in somewhat contemporary way.


7. CONNECT WITH CLIENTS. ASK FOR DIRECT BRIEFS. The trick lies in direct interaction with client’s marketing teams. Get the brief directly, interpret it and pitch with relevant and practical innovation. Media and creative agencies may not be your best friend in this battle. Remember you are not the preferred media or business partner. Also, don’t bank on your DTP operators for the creative. Invest in outside experts. Do whatever but DO NOT force fit a possible innovation or push just because that us what you have to sell.


8. Focus on measurement matrix. If the need of the hour is to measure engagement and involvement, then MRUC must focus to find means to measure it, instead of concentrating measuring cross indices with TV and Digital in IRS. Publications must be vocal and fund / find matrices that can demonstrate / measure impact amplifier effect with innovation and even cross media communication


9. Educate clients and agencies.

Easy to say tough to do. I have seen Dainik Bhaskar push this agenda with limited success. Maybe at Industry level it may succeed. An event by INS or by the Top 5 groups that engages clients and agencies. Expose them to possibilities in print. If for gaining dedicated time you need to take members abroad, then just do it. Don’t wait.


But if you believe that Innovations agenda is misplaced and nothing can enhance print excitement; just ignore what has been said above.


Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst with P1P2Solutions. To connect mail at or tweet at S_Kotnala


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