PMMAO 2008 Review Print : Continuing the growth streak

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Leave the doomsayers of the West who had predicted its sudden death long ago to their own fate. The domestic print media remains profitable, even as new media platforms emerge stronger. And the fifth edition of the Pitch-Madison Media Advertising Outlook only reaffirms this. The print media, both dailies and periodicals, has continued to be the largest advertised medium in the country, cornering 47.9 percent of the overall ad money in 2007, albeit a marginal dip in its overall share of 48.3 percent which it had cornered in 2006. But revenues have touched an all-time high of Rs 8,470-crore-mark, registering a smart 21 percent growth during the reporting year.

The year has also seen some new trends gaining ground in the industry. While one dominant trend has been the launch of special interest magazines, as publishers and editors tried to line up readers by offering niche titles. The titles that have made a debut during the period include Prevention from Living Media; Vogue, the hi-street lifestyle publication from the Conde Nast group, and  Dare, targeted at the young and aspiring entrepreneurs, from Cyber Media. England-based Haymarket group has added more to its arsenal in the country with Campaign India, while Ogaan Publications rolled out Brides Now, their second title after Elle, French fashion and lifestyle magazine.

Another trend that has emerged during the year is the advent of compact formats from morningers to business dailies. While HT Media has started the trend by launching its economic daily Mint in association with the WSJ in the compact format, the next in line was the Metro Now, an equal joint venture between the Times group and HT Media. Mail Today, from the Living Media, followed suit by replacing its afternoon title Today.

The industry honchos attribute a number of reasons for this growth which reaffirms that the print stays resilient in contrast to the gradual death theory it has been predicted. Times group chief executive officer Ravi Dhariwal attributes this growth to what he describes as the unmatchable value that the print media offers to advertisers. He goes on to add that its expansion only explains this further.

Living Media chief executive Ashish Bagga feels that the current growth has been primarily driven by a strong economy which drives more consumer spending. “Industrial growth is at an all-time high and competition is very keen, fuelling strong media spends by marketers,” he adds. Outlook group publisher Maheshwar Peri also seconds it, when he says, “our economy is growing so fast that I think it is the India story that is driving us, and it’s not any of us who is driving it,” Peri points out.

Echoes Malayala Manorama senior general manager for marketing operations Varghese Chandy saying, “this growth is primarily due to high economic growth.” Displaying a somewhat similar outlook is Jagran group general manager for brand and strategic planning Basant Rathore, who feels that it’s the fast expanding middle class that is at the helm of this revolution. “One of the major drivers of this growth is the favourable demographics, that is to say the rapidly swelling middle class.”

However, Nai Duniya chief executive Vinay Chhajlani says this growth mainly due to the sheer reach of this media. He feels that print is the first choice when it comes to local advertisers and that is why the industry is clipping at a good pace and expanding very fast. Daily Thanti (from the Malar Publications) chief operating officer KR Skandraaj opines that this industry is growing because of its impact. Only the print media can give an advertiser the required response, while other media formats can give only a brand recall.

Fragmentation Fails to Impact

Though in the overall share of the ad pie, the share of this medium has seen a marginal slippage this can largely be attributed to the proliferation of newer forms of media that have emerged lately. So, the question arises: has the print been able to weather the much-talked about fragmentation. Dainik Bhaskar associate vice-president Sanjeev Kotnala says, “media fragmentation has been underway for more than a decade now. However, the share of the print media in the ad pie has been stable for nearly past one decade.”

Claiming that the industry has been able to weather fragmentation remarkably, Bagga says, “print has seen a record number of niche titles being successfully launched. Not just that, the mainline brands have also performed well.” Lokmat director for advertising and business development Jwalant Swaroop too joins him saying, “it may be true that the there has been a slide in percentage share of the total ad spend, but we should also realise that the industry has touched a new high in revenue mop-up. So there is no cause for worry.  We should also see that new media formats are also getting some budgetary allocation that used to go to print in the past. To tap this fund redirection, most print companies have restructured themselves.” Chandy jons him saying, “fragmentation has primarily affected the television media, while print has been weathering this by offering multi-media platforms.” Citing his group’s example Chandy says, “we offer print, television, radio, online, events and outdoor solutions to its clients in Kerala.”

And this is evident across the industry where either the players have taken the multimedia route or are in the process of doing so.

Jagran’s Rathore says constant innovation is the main factor helping the print industry ward off the fragmentation challenge. He elaborates that publishers have upped the ante—be it in offering better products or engaging in better marketing, and giving better audience deliveries and the inherent advantages of the print that has been maintained all along.
Sharing a different perspective is Thanthi’s  Skandaraaj  who says, “fragmentation in other media has only strengthened print as clients have really not seen any significant results or been unable to measure value for his money.”

Coming to individual performances, the news remains good across the board. Outlook’s Peri says 2007 has been good for his company. “For the next two years, I don’t see it coming down dramatically,” he adds. Peri’s confidence is also riding high on the success that his group’s new launches have received. Bagga too is very optimistic when he says, “it’s been a very exciting year for us with the launch of several new properties in magazines, radio and newspapers. Times group’s Dhariwal also says growth has been very good as in the past few  years.

Lokmat’s Swaroop also describes the year gone by as very positive saying “our group is growing substantially.” Thanthi’s Skandaraaj says his group’s ad revenue has seen 18 percent growth, primarily driven by the classified section. Chandy says Manorama group could maintain a higher growth rate in the past year.

The Rise and Rise of Language Press

While there has been all-round expansion in the industry, it has to be noted that the language press was driving this. And this pattern was seen evenly across states and languages. The Survey shows that the English press, which traditionally has the biggest share of the ad pie, has lost some of its share to the language titles. While the share of the English press has slumped a little from 35.6 percent in 2006 to 34.7 percent in advertising money sweepstake, on the other hand, the Hindi press gained from 24 to 24.4 percent during the reporting period.

That the Hindi market still has large opportunities to be exploited is clear from the fact that even established English players are getting into this medium. The horizon of the Hindi press is on an upswing as today two major economic dailies have come up with Hindi versions. Both the Economic Times and Business Standard are now available in Hindi. The Economic Times is also available in Gujarati, a market that was first tapped by the Financial Express. Also eyeing this space is the Network18 group that has plans to launch a pink daily in Hindi in association with the Jagran group.

Interestingly, there’s  been a minor realignment in the share of other language publications as Tamil, Marathi, Punjabi and Malayalam have slipped marginally, Telugu, Gujarati, Bengali, and Urdu have gained, while Kannada, Oriya and Assamese have remained flat.

Let’s see how the industry leaders look at this shift. Bhaskar’s Kotnala says, “while it is too early to conclude that there is a shift away from the English press, there are many national advertisers who are serious players in the tier II & III markets.” Thanthi’s Skandaraaj adds, “marketers have woken up to the cost advantage of the regional press vis-à-vis the English. We expect more categories to come to us in the times to come.” Adding a new angel to this evolving trend is Chandy, who says, “language media has gained and will continue to do so. If you look at closely, the primary concentration of English media is around the metros, while the language press has a much wider universe.”

Realising the importance of the language press, Bagga of Living Media, which already has a clutch of language titles, points out that “there is lot of potential to be tapped in vernacular press and I see the space growing at a faster clip.” Whether the language press has started to eat into the English domain, Bagga says, “there’s bound to be a realignment in spends given the large presence of regional press.” Dhariwal says, “it would be too early to say that language media is eating into the English press. The language press is expanding as it has a larger footprint, but people still find a better deal in English.” Rathore also feels that the shift depends on market considerations which vary across advertisers. At a macro level, more premium categories are being made mass today, so non-metro markets are becoming important. This is where Hindi and other language media see a lot of growth coming in from.

Bullish Sentiments

Picking up strength from the good performance in 2007, the industry anticipates a good show in 2008. The industry is pegged to touch the Rs 9,995-crore-mark riding on a full 18 percent growth, cornering with 46.9 percent of the overall ad pie, says the Survey. As Kotnala says, “the overall outlook continues to be positive. Categories that have been growing should continue at the same pace.” Dhariwal too says, “I’ve a very good outlook for 2008 and expect it to be another good year. There are few challenges in the economy, but the economy would be resilient and if it continues to grow at nine percent then growth will not be a problem.”

The industry leaders are not concerned about the looming recession in the US, as they are confident of the India success story. For instance Chandy says, “as the US, which is the world’s largest economy, heads to a recession, India will continue to grow in investments and consumption. There’ll be more competition which will only drive more advertising.” Bagga too agrees saying, “we are very bullish about 2008 and hope to grow very aggressively.”

Describing the present trends as positive, Rathore says, “we see an increasing trend towards media players creating a lot more opportunities to aggregate audiences across various media platforms and create better communication solutions, and opening up newer revenue streams in the process.” Chhajlani is also upbeat as he expects 20 percent growth in 2008. Swaroop too  foresees a robust growth saying, “we think the industry would grow, thanks to all new channels, publications etc coming in and as a result I see the industry growing at 20 percent or more.”

Outlook’s Peri sums up the bullish industry sentiment well when he says, “I will be smiling in the next few years, because the India story is going to continue for next two-three years. And as long as the India story continues we’ll only keep growing. Though the percentage growth might be different for different groups.”

With everything going in favour of the print players, the future looks promising that the print media is here to stay, for sure.

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Neeta Nair

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