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Indian print media still has time before negative trend starts: N Ram

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MUMBAI: The Indian print market is different from the west and is still showing growth in readership unlike many matured markets where digital growth is affecting readership. India has a ‘new kind of advantage’ as readership is still growing.

However, even if the media here is growing, it can’t afford to be complacent about the timing because India could head towards “a mature market-like situation”. These were the thoughts of The Hindu former editor-in-chief N Ram, who was delivering a keynote at the third day of global media convention Ficci Frames 2012.

Throwing a word of caution, Ram said that in 3 to 7 years, Indian print would start suffering the same fate as that of the US.

Citing the example of matured markets, Ram said that newspapers and broadcast are in “irreversible decline” mode and there is “anxiety and gloom”.

Ram was talking on ‘Building Deeper Reader Engagement- Sustaining Long Term Newspaper Loyalty over Regions’. He said that in the mature markets, news media is in crisis because of a decline in the circulation as more people are embracing digital. Even in the broadcast media the dominant players are witnessing sharp decline, he said.

However, India has a different advantage, said Ram while outlining the “Two Media World Phenomenon". He said that regional languages and Hindi newspapers are seeing increase in their circulation. He was optimistic that the medium term prospects for the media industry are looking good.

He stressed on the need of building the bond of trust with the readers, which according to Ram can engage the readers to sustain their loyalty.

Ram said that the most important thing is to stick to the basic principles of journalism – context, accuracy, perspective, fact checking and verification. This, according to him, is imperative in building a relationship with the readers.

Ram said that “trust is the key to good journalism”. He emphasised on the need for a brand to be clear about its identity, core values and focus without imitating anybody else.

He also warned against “editorialising in the guise of news” and said that the readers want shorter articles and more analyses and editorial content and views, especially in the digital viewing context.

Talking about digital, Ram said that the time is more challenging and exciting than ever before. Increasing popularity of the digital media will hurt circulation.

Terming it as a “Digital Age Paradox”, Ram said that the newspapers are witnessing increase in readership of their online editions. However, there is no business model.

Ram said that the revenue model has not been evolved for the digital yet and so it will not replace the old revenue model of the newspapers any time soon. In the digital era, a major share of the revenue goes to the search engines like Google and content providers like iPad apps.

This, he said, is squeezing the newspapers’ revenue, as they have to subsidise digital journalism, which is cannibalising their circulation.

Dainik Bhaskar Group director Girish Agarwal also stressed on the need of maintaining the standards and fundamentals of journalism.

As per Agarawal, India had a huge advantage in terms of numbers as there is a huge gap between people who can read and who actually read a newspaper.

He added that its a Herculean task for intellectual organisations like newspapers to be relevant to consumers (readers) while keeping the fundamental of news intact. He said that a newspaper brand cannot rest on its past glory but should move ahead by acknowledging and understanding what the consumer wants.

He also added that newspapers should have “global vision and hyper local content”.

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