Indian Magazine Industry needs to look beyond Print

06 Mar,2017


By Indrani Sen

Last week I read the views expressed by Paresh Nath, Publisher, Delhi Press Group, that demonetisation, may have a long lasting impact on magazine circulation as consumers now consider it as a non-essential item. It is quite well known that once an item is removed from the list of monthly purchases of a household, then it is difficult for that item to find a reentry in that household. Mr Nath further noted that “they were disturbed at both ends during the months of November and December” due to drop in circulation as well as advertising revenue. Is demonetization going to have a long-term effect on the Indian magazine industry or is it going to be just a temporary phenomenon from which the magazine industry is going to recover soon? Nath commented that “Bringing back the customer’s reading habits will take some time”.

PWC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2016-2000, albeit released before demonetisation hit India, predicted “Turning to magazines, the coming five years will see growing middle classes and economies drive consumer magazine revenues in developing markets, while developed economies wane. Total global magazine revenue — including consumer and trade — will likely be virtually flat through 2020, suffering a compound annual decline of 0.1%. But running counter to this trend, several emerging markets will exhibit healthy growth in total magazine revenue. Examples include India, with a 4.1% CAGR;…” However, closer home, the FICCI-KPMG Media & entertainment Industry Report 2016 predicted a negative growth of -1.8% CAGR for Indian magazines for the period 2015-2000. The revenue contribution of magazines to total print industry which stood at 5.1% in 2015, is predicted to go down to 3.2% by 2020.

Globally, the magazine industry has been going through a tough phase and India is no exception to that. The Indian Magazine industry was already in trouble before demonetization hit them. We have been witnessing over the last few year withdrawal of consumer magazine titles from the Indian market as they were considered to be unprofitable by the publishers.Newspapers supplementsand different genres of TV channels have been infringing on the content covered by magazines for some time. Recently, increased penetration of internet and adoption of the mobile have resulted in more Indians consuming news and specialized content on the web.

Indian magazines have started exploring and distributing their content on the web and mobile platforms, but their efforts need to be stepped up through innovative marketing strategies and tie-ups.  There is probably a demand for high quality English magazines with specialized content at the upper end of the market, but consumer magazines in Hindi and regional languages catering to the middle class need to look beyond print for their survival.

Last year, I read an interesting report of the American Magazine Media Conference (AMMC) held in New York in early February, 2016. The report said that the participants agreed that “It’s not a “magazine industry” anymore, it’s an industry of powerful brands that all have a print-magazine component. The print magazine is no longer the hub of the wheel, but it remains an important point of engagement with audiences and an ad vehicle that produces resilient revenue.”

It was apparent from the report of the proceedings that print was not what the business growth of the American magazine publishers was about in 2015. The traditional hub-and-spoke business model with the magazine in the middle had evolved to a different wheel with the consumer at the hub and the magazine just one of the spoke, yet an essential spoke that completes the wheel. Digital marketing, social media marketing, data and marketing services, events, etc. have become the other spokes of the wheel apart from the traditional advertising and subscription revenue streams from the hard copy of the magazine.

It is high time that the Indian magazine industry explores the opportunities beyond print for their survival in the post-demonetization era as well as their growth in future without depending on how long the consumers will take to revert to their old reading habits as consumers may decide to move forward without looking back.

Indrani Sen is a veteran media agency and marketing services professional. She is currently an Independent Consultant and Adjunct Faculty, Media Management at Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune. The views expressed here are her own.

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