Sakal & Lokmat lock horns on being #1 in Pune

05 Aug,2016

By A Correspondent

 

The Lokmat billboard creative and right (circled): the Page 1 news item in Lokmat

Leading newspapers Lokmat and Sakal have taken their battle to the streets or homes or wherever their topselling dailies are read.

Lokmat is the numero uno Marathi daily in Maharashtra and Sakal, the undisputed #1 in the all-important business and education hub of Pune. However, over the years, Sakal has spread its tentacles across Maharashtra and Lokmat has been growing its circulation in Pune.

In the last decade-odd, the marketplace was impacted by the entry of the Dainik Bhaskar group-owned Divya Marathi, but the competition between the traditional rivals stays.

The current war of words started with Lokmat taking over a hundred-odd billboards in Pune proclaiming that it’s the #1. And on Thursday, Sakal responded with a front-page lead report pooh-poohing Lokmat’s claim. The headline is aggressive and uses the Lokmat name in it (see image).

 

Sakal hits back at Lokmat

The creative of an ad in Friday's Sakal

So what’s the truth of the matter? While Sakal quotes Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers, there are no recent IRS numbers to support the publication’s numbers. ABC numbers may be quoted by publications, but they aren’t recognised as standard benchmarks (or ‘currency’) by media agencies and advertisers. Meanwhile, Lokmat’s claim is based on research work done by Hansa Research. Now, while this study has been commissioned by the Lokmat group and hence may not be considered credible aver independent industry observers, it may be remembered that Hansa Research bears a stamp of quality and was firm entrusted with the IRS for many years, until the unified readership survey contract was awarded to Nielsen in 2012.

According to an industry observer, while Sakal has been facing some heat from competition in recent years, it is still recognised as the leader in the Pune market and attracts maximum advertising. “It should’ve just ignored the Lokmat claims rather than giving competition free publicity on the front-page.”  In fact a report on the issue in the Sakal group’s English daily SakalTimes notes: “For Sakal, there is no need to take a note of the efforts made by Lokmat to falsely claim highest circulation.”

Rugwed Deshpande

Said Rugwed Deshpande, Director of Setu Advertising, a Pune-based creative and media agency: “When it comes to numbers, Pune thinks emotionally. It’s always Data vs Emotions for decision-making. Sakal enjoys great brand loyalty and affection from readers where as Lokmat has been trying their best to make its own space. Sakal has been far more active with their offline events and people connect initiatives.” And what is the view from advertisers, we asked Deshpande. “As far as local advertisers are concerned, they don’t believe in numbers be it circulation or readership. Most of them rely on their past experiences and the response that these publications have been delivering.” So will the war of words between the Big Two have an impact? “”The current campaign war doesn’t make any difference to the traditional advertisers. Nationally, numbers are more reliable source of information hence the impact of these research numbers would be probably different. Authenticity of official sources will ignite a bigger debate. As a Punekar, we don’t enjoy this war and believe in substance and content. No.1 is someone who understands us and speaks our language.”

Newspapers, especially in traditional cities like Pune, have an emotional connect with citizens so it’s Advantage Sakal in Pune for now. Lokmat’s  tactic of taking on the leader met with much success in Kolhapur in South West Maharashtra where it took on Pudhari, the leading daily in the city. While Pudhari continues to be #1, it Lokmat has established itself in public as the #2.

Meanwhile, on Friday (today), Lokmat has frontpaged a short news item on being #1 on the back of the Hansa Research findings.  Sakal too has carried an ad mocking at Lokmat’s claim and declaring that it is the #1 as per ABC data (on Page 5).

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