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'Ad pie shifting towards Indian language newspapers' : Dainik Jagran Shailesh Gupta

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Shailesh Gupta, director of Dainik Jagran, has been in the print media industry for more than 18 years. He was recently elected chairman of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), which provides audited newspaper sales figures every six months, replacing Madison World CEO Sam Balsara. Gupta is also a member of The Indian Newspaper Society (INS).

Gupta has been a director at Jagran since 1994 driving the newspaper group‘s advertisement and marketing functions.

In conversation with Indiantelevision.com, Gupta says Tier 2 and 3 towns are now the new volume drivers for newspapers and we now see the advertising pie shift in proportionate terms in favour of Indian language newspapers.



Excerpts:

As there is a shift from newspapers to online, the reading habits are changing. What does this mean for the newspapers?

As a group, we already have a presence in Mumbai with MidDay, MidDay Gujarati,Inquilab and City Plus. There‘s a sizeable presence that we have in the city, and all these brands are growing and doing well. The decision on Dainik Jagran entering Mumbai in the future would depend upon the market forces and many other considerations.

Any plan of expanding in southern market through an acquisition?

We currently have a presence in South through City Plus in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Once again the question of acquisition would depend upon the opportunity in question and the prevalent market environment. It would not be fair to conjecture on that as of now.

The difficult economic conditions have continued in 2012-2013. How do you see the next six months?

Yes, it‘s been a difficult year in terms of advertising revenue growth. The market sentiment is muted, but there is growth. With the policy level changes taking place, and the festive season coming up, the outlook is more positive for the rest of the year.

Last year competition drove cover prices down. Do you see the pressure continuing?

In our markets, we‘ve steadied and increased cover prices instead of reducing. Circulation growth too has happened.

‘Our digital portfolio consists of over 12 sites across genres and with over 8.5 million unique visitors, it‘s one of the leaders in the space. And this is just the beginning‘
The advertisers in Hindi and other Indian language newspapers have still not fully recognised the improved demography of their readership and are not prepared to give advertisement rates that English newspapers command. Why?

The fact that the market is rapidly shifting to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns is a reality. Marketers have increasingly started looking at these markets very seriously for both volumes and growth. From a marketer‘s point of view, it‘s a market that‘s most important, and if the market is sizeable enough, investment flow is commensurate. Historically, the metros provided small geographies with a high concentration of target audiences and the resultant sales volumes. English dailies dominated these metro geographies and at times earned a premium versus the other languages. However, with Tier 2 and 3 towns now being the new volume drivers, the situation has changed completely and we now see the advertising pie shift in proportionate terms.
 

Is it possible that Hindi language newspaper publishers will agree not to lower their cover price till ad rates are on par with English newspapers?

The business environment for English in metros and Hindi papers differ significantly as far as the cost structures are concerned. An English paper sells for example at a price of Rs 4 in the metro markets with an average pagination of 40 pages, and the cost structures of the metro notwithstanding. Contrast that with a Hindi newspaper, with an average pagination of 22-24 pages and priced at Rs 3, with a very different cost structure. The differences are all too apparent. The factors behind cover price determination are very different from the factors behind ad rate pricing. Having said that, the model of the Indian newspaper industry is based fundamentally on lower cover prices, high circulation and a higher dependence on ad revenues - and this is true across the board for all languages including English. At the same time, Indian language newspapers have a sizeable part of the revenue coming in from the local markets, which normally are not greatly impacted by macro-economic changes - either positive or negative. Ad rates are a function of position in the market, importance of the market, the prevailing competitive environment and the individual cost structures apart from a lot of other factors.

What helped Jagran to beat the industry trend and grow at a faster pace?

We‘ve always believed in realistic planning and extremely focused implementation - these probably are the two central pillars of our work ethic which have yielded results. Other key factors are quick response times, empowered teams, the ability to provide customised solutions, and above all transparency in our working. Innovation is another key driving factor. We study ongoing trends in the market, anticipate a scenario and are able to innovate accordingly.

What are the plans for Dainik Jagran‘s digital platform? What kind of investments are you planning to make in the digital space?

We‘ve been very serious about our digital delivery platforms and had taken a lead in investing in this platform as early as year 2000. We have a dedicated digital team that‘s working to distribute the Jagran content across multiple digital platforms and devices. Our digital portfolio consists of over 12 sites across genres and with over 8.5 million unique visitors, it‘s one of the leaders in the space. And this is just the beginning.

Last year Mid Day and Mid Day Gujarati did well. What is the trend in the current year?

MidDay is on a growth path - both on the circulation and readership level as well as at the product level. Over the last 3 years, MidDay has seen a good growth - this has come on the back of an improved product. Same goes for MidDay Gujarati - it‘s now the No.2 Gujarati paper in Mumbai and has grown on all counts.

Last year you were not able to meet the ad revenue target, how do you see things this year?

We‘ve been realistic with our planning and our expectations. We have a plan for the ongoing year, and we‘re progressing as per the plan.

Which medium are you banking upon to promote Jagran?

The biggest platform that we use to promote Jagran is our own existing platform - there‘s no bigger platform that reaches out to almost 70 mn readers and an 8.5mn+ unique digital audience. Add to this our OOH reach pan India. Additionally, we use Radio, TV and some targeted trade and business mediums.

What is your agenda as the head of Audit Bureau of Circulation?

The priority at ABC is to bring about a more transparent system, evolve the ABC as a currency and make it a powerful decision making tool for the industry.

What are the drawbacks that ABC faces?

There are no drawbacks as such. But clearly we will need to march ahead, look at the changes in the environment, and be able to evolve the currency to reflect the changes. For this, we will need to have all publishers on the same page. It will be important to consider suggestions and opinions of all stakeholders to create a robust and transparent currency - one that truly reflects what‘s happening in the marketplace.

Will you increase the frequency of audit of circulation figures from six months to quarterly?

This again is a decision that needs to be taken by the body in consensus with all the stakeholders. As I said, the first priority above all else is to evolve the ABC as a currency and make it a powerful decision making tool for the industry.

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