Nidhindra Verma is a veteran in print media with about 25 years of experience and was Vice President (Ad-Sales), DNA Mumbai. He was one of the invited speakers at Article-19, Manipal Institute of Communications’ annual communication festival. He spoke about future of print media and some excerpts from his talk, to the extent I can recall, is listed below, for the benefit of interested audience.
- We’ve a rather routine mornings which we don’t want to change and prefer a very dynamic evenings. Morning habits (time of waking, exercising/not exercising, the brand of toothpaste one uses) do not change with ease. Since newspapers fall in morning category subscribers do not change newspapers without a strong reason. But TV is essentially an evening medium where there isn’t much loyalty in terms of news channel/show one prefers to watch.
- It is easy to start a TV channel-anyone can launch a channel in about 5 crore rupees. But newspaper is a deep pocket business which costs more than 150 crores to set up and ROI takes long time
- Though television and internet give more instant news, newspaper’s existence is not under threat because of reasons such as- it gives all possibly important news/information under as one platter without requiring the reader to search all around (as in TV/net),-what gets printed in newspaper goes through higher level of verification and carries much better credibility, because of which everyone (readers, politicians) takes it seriously,- Over a period of time readers develop a bond with their newspaper and will not give it up easily
- But the threat to print media is from advertising revenue. A newspaper sold for Rs 2 costs anywhere between Rs 15-20 per copy to manufacture. If it is getting sold for Rs 2 it is solely because the income from advertisements. But with the competition from television and online media, customer’s ad-budget is getting spited and print’s share is taking a hit. On internet one can measure success of an ad by calculating how many leads/acquisitions resulted from it-something not possible in print. Also due to economic slowdown and competition from other newspapers, ad revenue can see a dip and that’s where the real threat lies.
- Mr Verma mentioned some business tactics (referred to as dirty games by event coordinator Ram) adopted by Times of India, when DNA was launched (threatening the distributors of terminating their contracts if they entertain DNA, telling advertisers that they won’t get any discount on TOI if they advertise on DNA). Due to all these DNA launch got delayed and did upset the customer who had paid in advance for the subscription and was waiting for his copy.
- He said that the ad rates in print are extremely negotiable, particularly during bulk campaigns. He quoted instances wherein he got ad space for less than 10% of the standard rates for some large campaigns (something like 45 full page ads over 2 months)
- I asked a question on plagiarism and he said there isn’t an effective mechanism inside newspaper office to identify and prevent cases of plagiarism. [Read Times of India copies my photograph and later publishes clarification]
- My another question to him was if we can reduce drastically the time gap in delivering a news through print (The newspaper you’re getting at 6AM is printed at 12 midnight, for which editing is done at 11PM the previous day and reporters will have a deadline of say 10Pm to send in that day’s news. Essentially there is about 8 hours delay from the news happens and newspapers deliver it to your doorstep. Mr. Nishindra Verma did quote few technological and business developments (better and faster printing techniques, local editions) but despite the technological advances there hasn’t been much improvements reducing this delay (It would have been great if we can extend reporter’s deadline to say 1AM, finish editing by 2AM, print it by 3 AM and still be able to deliver it by 6AM)
- Verma said many readers prefer to subscribe to two newspapers instead of discontinuing one for the sake of another. He quoted INS numbers for Delhi wherein total circulation shot up when new newspaper entered the market.
If you can read Kannada please read Vishveshwara Bhat’s column- Suddi Mane Kathe (news room stories) in Vijaya Karnataka. I asked the organizers if they’ve made attempt to invite any prominent persons from Kannada print industry (Ravi Belegere, Vishveshwara Bhat and the likes) and I was told they wanted to invite media men from English only…