Netflix-ication of print media in India?

Monetising on-line readership, a deeper concentrate on content material and getting income from the reader are methods to make the enterprise future-proof, observes Vanita Kohli-Khandekar.


Girish Agarwal, director, DB Corp, is a dyed-in-the-wool newspaper man.

After many years of constructing the circulation (copies bought) of Dainik Bhaskar and its different dailies at throwaway costs, he reckons the tide has modified.

“We need to make money from subscribers,” says he.

Anant Goenka, govt director, The Indian Express Group, agrees: “The best way to future-proof our business is to see that 50 per cent of the group’s revenues come directly from the reader.”

Dozens of publishers agree. This push for pay revenues is the primary, most profound change the pandemic has pressured upon publishers in India’s Rs 29,750 crore (Rs 297.50 billion), closely ad-dependent newspaper business.

“The second is the doubling and tripling of the attain and readership of newspapers on-line in the course of the pandemic yr.

“Print is growing neatly every year, but digital is exploding,” says Goenka.

The Express Group has seen distinctive guests go up from 97 million in 2019 to over 170 million at the moment.

Out east in Bihar and Jharkhand, Prabhat Khabar has seen web page views leap from 6-7 million to about 60 million.

In Kerala Mathrubhumi noticed its guests leap from 8 million a month to 12-13 million, says Managing Director M V Shreyams Kumar.

The third, probably subtler change is the shifting of the readership motion to small-town India.

“Overall, 80-82 per cent of the February 2020 circulation is back. Where the problem continues is in the metros,” says R Okay Agarwal, chief monetary officer, Jagran Prakashan.

“Before Covid ad spends were split 60:40 in favour of metros. Now it is 60:40 in favour of Bharat (small-town India),” says DB Corp’s Agarwal.

The next penetration of the Internet and larger density of inhabitants and housing in the metros imply getting papers again into whole constructing societies has been powerful.

On the opposite hand in spread-out, single-home-dominated small cities with decrease internet penetration, readership is sort of again to regular.

Has the pandemic completed for Indian newspapers what Netflix did for Hollywood studios — pressured them to take a look at the long run and act shortly?

The pandemic palpitations

The nationwide lockdown was introduced on March 22 final yr.

The subsequent day publishers woke as much as discover that over 70 per cent of their enterprise had been worn out.

“It has been a nightmare,” says Jagran Prakashan‘s Agarwal.

Like dozens of different newspapers Dainik Jagran nearly halved the pages it printed (since there have been fewer advertisements), slashed prices throughout the board, and consolidated printing.

When the pandemic hit, “ad rates were down already. But in the last nine months they plummeted from, say, Rs 500 per square cm to Rs 100-200,” says Okay Okay Goenka, managing director, Neutral Publishing House (Prabhat Khabar).

More than 70 per cent of the business’s revenues come from promoting.

Not surprisingly then, the highest line declined 50-70 per cent and working margins went from 15-20 per cent to a devastating loss for listed (and unlisted gamers) in the primary quarter of 2020-2021.

While the numbers are crawling up, it has shaken the business’s religion in promoting.

“The media industry has to have a sustainable business model and that is subscription. Advertising is equivalent to other operating income. Covid made us realise that,” says Agarwal of Jagran.

Publishers throughout the nation, together with rival Dainik Bhaskar, agree.

Across the 12 states, 65 editions and nearly 5.5 million copies DB Corp has steadily taken cowl costs up.

From a median of Rs 2.80 in 2013-2014 for all DB newspapers it at the moment stands at Rs 4.30 a duplicate.

This helps cowl some of the Rs 10-20 that it takes, on common, to supply a newspaper.

That is the place digital comes in.

The push for pay

“The big challenge is monetising digital,” says Kumar.

Most publishers get 5-7 per cent of their prime line from digital.

The bodily product continues to develop and the speed {that a} newspaper will get per thousand readers is about six occasions that of digital.

Therefore, publishers did not trouble a lot with it.

However, in the previous two-three years each readership development and the economic system (and, subsequently, promoting) have slowed.

Of the 662 million Indians on-line, 395 million devour information on-line, up from 278 million in 2018, says the Comscore knowledge.

Now add the proof from each leisure (Netflix et al) and information (The Ken) that customers are prepared to pay for differentiated and high-quality content material.

The path then is evident.

And the Indian business has each manufacturers — ones which have investments in place and people which are making them.

“Our fixed cost as a proportion of revenues is much higher. We invest in the finest writers on defence and diplomacy. This model of investment in quality content worked after Covid,” says Goenka.

Netflix-ication of print media in India?

Adds Agarwal of DB Corp: “We have a 3,500-strong edit team across India. We have invested in having a reporter cover every galli and mohalla. The next four-five years are the golden years for journalism. Advertising cannot come from digital. And why would users pay for digital: It has to be worthwhile.”

This is the place the massive problem comes in.

“The readership of print is mature but on digital it likes light content, largely entertainment, Bollywood, lifestyle and such stories,” says Goenka of Prabhat Khabar.

The fluff that critical newspapers put in dietary supplements is what will get views on-line.

This then brings the ball proper again to achieve and promoting, a recreation the place the big platforms win arms down.

Over 70 per cent of the Rs 22,100 crore that advertisers spent on-line in 2019 went to Google and Facebook.

Can subscription work just for specialised or enterprise publications a la Wall Street Journal? Globally The Financial Times is one of the most important successes on-line.

Its Chief Executive Officer John Ridding advised Business Standard in 2019: “I don’t believe that you can only charge if it is some kind of business publication. The Guardian (a general paper) is an example of the reader revenue model. It says that readers value news and information.”

“Everybody should be served quality journalism. Advertising cannot sustain you because you can’t beat Google and Facebook on reach. Publishers need to develop reader revenues,” Ridding defined.

“The barrier is technological expertise. There is a lot of hard work involved in building your readership (on digital). Once you get it, it is a virtuous circle.”

Indian publishers are simply getting into it.

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