Sanjeev Kotnala: Newspapers: Wanted One Good Reason…

12 Nov,2014

By Sanjeev Kotnala


Today, the 8th South Asia INMA Conference gets underway in Delhi. In this zone circulation and revenue in print continues to grow. But, the threat from  the global digital wave and mobile screens today is more real than ever before. No one is willing to bet on the Indian print industry’s readiness for the tipping point, that may not be  too far in future.


INMA South Asia Conference opens to the theme; “Print: Transform Diversify Grow!”. The descriptor ‘How can the South Asia Newspaper industry grow grow grow in the current scenario? ‘ is hopefully more a statement of intent than of fear.


For a reference check, let’s unwind to 2013. INMA forum resonated with  speakers propogating digital becoming a part of regular media plan. One can agrue that it’s not yet the situation, but it is tough to deny the way wind is blowing. One does not need data to support such statements. The  consumer experience and observation in metro is enough of an eye-opener. And honestly it would be surprising if more than 50 percent of the delegates would have read the newspaper today.


Extrapolation of metro behaviour into Tier-II and Tier-III towns may not be statistically valid, but the new generation in markets after markets have adapted to Digital in more ways than one. We should be thankful that it is still centered around e-mail, Facebook, Whatsapp, e-retailing  and games, as digital fails to answer their hyperlocal needs. Digital after the tsumani of cheap smartphones is definitely more sexy, engrossing, involving and engaging than print.


On the  other side, Indian publishers refuse to read the line.  Instead of fast adapting and experimentating with the ‘Print + Digital’ or  ‘New Print and/or New Digital’ format they been myopically resisting it. In India one is not worried about the newspaper format dying soon. It has its buisness viability and reader advertiser involvement is something that will be questionned at every stage.


The changing environment is not really about ‘Digital Vs print’. It’s about service, need fit, utility and value add. The reader will continue to source and seek their newspaper, if there is something relevant in it readers that only newspapers can provide,  There is no direct and clear answer to it. Print anyway  has never been colloborative and we should not expect it to change. The biggies like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Hindu, ABP, Amar Ujjala, Rajasthan Patrika will never come together to explore and lead such possibilities. If it’s not enough that they are as brotherly as Kauravas and Pandavas but there are enough Shakunis and Dristhrastras in this game.


In INMA, you should be seeing the dominance of Sales, Marketing, Brand and  Circulation. Editorial as usual is expected to be sadly under represented*. Editorial is busy protecting its turf from demands and dictates of marketing  and management. That leaves very little time for rekindling enagagement and interest of readers. Very few resist the change, and very few lead the change.  Hyperlocalaisation is an old story.  Credibility as a rationale is dead. And there been nothing new in print space worth writing home. Success and future survival of titles is hinged to their content.  Edit (and industry) has failed the trust of readers in changing with the times (LOL). They have failed to create relevant content which could keep the romance on fire. In the new world, they have failed miserably in giving reader a reason to read. The world unfortunately is  changing. Now you do not hear ‘I can not live with out my newspaper’ but what echoes is nightmarish ‘Don’t know when I started not-missing my newspaper’.


I want to share  an experiment conducted by a leading newspaper group. Readers form different zones were called to share their experience with senior management. What is imprinted in mind is the 15 minutes of spellbinding conversation with a  young reader from Indore.  He raised an issue which the industry better be focussing on. He said ‘The excitement which I used to feel when I picked up the newspaper is  dead, There is nothing you are adding to my lfe’. He was categorical and it jolted me when he said in his fearless voice  ‘You are doing no service to me, you are costing me time. Should I not be charging you for the obligation of reading , which keeps you in business’. He finished the evening with a question that did not get a answer ‘Give me a reason, one good reason to part with my 5-10 minutes of my daily time. Give me a sense of missing if I do not see you. Don’t be my Dadi (grandmother), keep the romance alive, Be my girlfriend’


*Based on all earlier INMA  conferences.

Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at INTRADIA and believes that the best way forward for an Organization is to enhance the potential of  internal teams instead of depending on external resources. He is a management consultant and  conducts specialised workshops in the area of  Liberating Ideas and Innovation.  To contact e-mail or tweet at s_kotnala visit The views express here are his own.





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