Das ka Dum with Dr Bhaskar Das | The magazinewallahs are congregating tomorrow, mulling the present and their future. Not all of them appear to have a fantastic present, but is there really a future for the domain?

23 Mar,2023

Bhaskar DasThe question is explanatory, and the answer is detailed. Here’s the response from Dr Bhaskar Das in the March 22 edition of Das ka Dum. Read on…


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Q. The magazinewallahs are congregating tomorrow  in Delhi mulling the present and their future. Not all of them appear to have a fantastic present, but is there really a future for the domain?


A. It’s a very broad spectrum question and it would need both an ecosystem analysis in general and magazine publishers in particular.


In an age of diminishing attention span, multiple distractions and real-time demand from consumers have created a different set of challenges, beyond the usual business for all legacy media owners including newspapers, magazines and linear television channels. The dominant challenge is how to capture the fleeting attention of multiple demographic and psychographic cohorts.


The challenge of magazine publishers have to be seen in this new context where content monetisation and business models have to be dynamically analysed for the fast-changing consumer expectations.


If magazine publisher consider themselves to be in the magazine business, that’s a surefire recipe for disaster. What does the magazine folks do? They can’t update because that domain has already been lost not only to digital media but also to Chat GPT 4. How could one combat such a situation with the existing ways of operating in content, commerce and business model. I can see magazines in India are still hidebound by the usual format apart from tinkering with some superficial cosmetic changes. There can be exceptions, sometimes publishers feel that a digital version is enough to combat this challenge, but alas, even that is also a very legacy organisation mindset.


One has to overhaul content as per the finer expectations of a consumer of one.


I am not trying to paint a dismal future but sometime we should not wait for a business model to be broken and then fix it. The new approach it could be break it first and then fix it so that one doesn’t become a victim of the environment.


How many magazines in India can upgrade any content, how many of them can be interactive, how many of them know their audience of multiple hues and provide that to the  readers and advertisers in a dynamic way so that the traction on both ends justifies the investment. At this juncture, we don’t have even a basic database. Secondly, even if there is capability of upgrading readers through deep analysis, where is the talent in content creation in print journalism (they are available if one reads online publishers like Ken, Founding Fuel etc). Even if they want to, how many have the confidence of a new world order which has deep intolerance that is not in sync with the powers that be. This is of course a challenge of the Indian context or even global context perhaps. So the current practice of high cover price, low circulation, organising events and experiential activities might help the magazine publishers to stay afloat for some more time and I can see a tsunami is already on the way to prove again Darwin’s theory of  only the fittest can survive.


Don’t forget there is no deep analytics available for the magazine industry (no one know when IRS will come out) to push their face with advertiser which is a key source of revenue. There may be proprietary data on individual publishers about their audience, but is it algorithm-based to predict the unarticulated needs and wants of consumers of various colours and subjects?


One must not forget the adage that danger foreseen is danger avoided. A cocoon can be a safe place to hide from reality, but the market may not be as forgiving as we would love to image.


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