Indrani Sen: Wooing Newspaper Readers Online

21 May,2018

By Indrani Sen


The annual World Press Trends Survey 2015 published by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) claimed that the global newspaper circulation revenue had crossed the global newspaper advertising revenue in 2014. I wrote an article for this website on February1, 2016, highlighting the shift of global newspaper industry from B2B to B2C model and comparing with the Indian scenario

Three years have passed since the circulation revenue overtook advertising revenue globally, but we have not yet seen the sign of a similar trend setting in India. IRS 2017. which showed an overall growth in readership from 2014, at the same time reflected the lack of growth in “yesterday” readership, the age-old basis adopted by researchers for defining “average issue readership”. Some speculations have been done by industry experts to understand this phenomenon of irregular readership of Indian newspapers, but no definite conclusion has been reached. In my article reviewing IRS 2017 on this website, I suggested that the large number of readers in younger age group could be a possible reason for the irregular readership of our newspapers

Does the answer to the skewed distribution of frequency of readershiplies in the ample availability of free online portals and apps for reading Indian newspapers today? The online and offline mastheads of the newspapers are same which can result in the online readers recognizing the mastheads during the survey and staking their claim as readers. There are many such portals which offer their readers free online news like (1) , (2) , a global website from Web Wombat-(3) etc. and various easily available apps like (4) for free news and magazines, (5), and (6), etc offering free services.

The screenshots of and are shared here with the readers. It is difficult to estimate which of the websites have legal contracts/ moral acceptance of the newspapers for making these free offers and which are having clandestine-affairs.

There are also site like which offer free Java software for e-paper downloader from four Indian newspapers (Hindustan Times, DNA, Mint and Times of India) as PDF files. Another website offer some free and some paid subscriptions to various Indian publications. Paperboy has its head office in Bengaluru with branches in Mumbai and Chennai and claim to be an app for “online news discovery and distribution application that aggregates newspaper and magazines available on any platform” in their website.

Most of the Indian newspapers in English as well as vernacular allow free access of e-papers to their readers. A few leading newspapers are pushing for online subscription at huge discount, bravely trying to woo readers from free to paid mode. The Hindu, who has been a pioneer for trying for online subscription of the e-paper, is currently offering two years’ online subscription at one year’s rate.

An interesting development is an Indian website which is promoting off line circulation of newspapers on line with not just discounted subscription rates, but also other special offers. This site offering along with the subscription a free monthly scrap picking service from doorstep, free scrap bag and coupons with exciting local offers and up to 70% of the subscription value as hard cash back on return of the scrap. This site has collaborated with newspapers and the hard copies of the newspapers are delivered through the usual distribution chain keeping the last mile delivery intact. Needless to mention that the various discount offers which are available to the readers on ground are also extended on line as shown in the screen shot of offering 40% discount for monthly subscription of TOI, Delhi edition. This is probably a unique model in newspaper distribution where off line sale is driven by a common offline portal, but will surely have its limitations in developing an on ground network in small towns and villages.

At this rate, it will take the Indian newspaper Industry a long time to reach the global trend where subscription revenue was estimated to be 56% of the total revenue of newspapersin 2016 as per the annual World Press Trends Survey 2017 published by the WAN-IFRA. It will be difficult proposition to convert the Indian internet users used to getting free news to the paid mode unless more Indian newspapers/ publishers of news start now to promote actively the subscription of their e-papers. Our media law makers should review this free-for-all field of free offers for reading Indian newspapers online and introduce some guidelines and restrictions if they want to promote e-editions of Indian newspapers.




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