TOI & HT coming together issue based, object driven: Sameer Kapoor

NEW DELHI: ?This coming together of traditional rivals in the print sector ? The Times of India and The Hindustan Times ? is issue-based, and objective driven, and aims to fulfil the need for segmentation of the newspaper as a vehicle of information for those young at heart,? says Sameer Kapoor, president of Metropolitan Media, owners of the tabloid Metro Now, which began publication from Delhi on 5 February.

While admitting that fighting competition was also an objective, he said this was not the main reason and another objective was to bring the youth back to the print medium. The two groups have come together to beat the India Today group, which is planning to publish its afternooner Today as a morning tabloid by April, as too Midday Multimedia of Mumbai, who have bought back the Mid-Day title from the Delhi-based Bharat Hotels owned by the late Lalit Suri and are planning to launch this tabloid as a morning paper shortly.

Speaking to, Kapoor asserts that both TOI and HT continue to be rivals as far as the main newspapers were concerned.

Metropolitan Media Company Pvt Ltd is a 50-50 private limited company in which the two newspaper groups had ploughed in Rs 50 million each as shareholding. The company has two directors each from the two newspapers, but Kapoor says none of the directors were from the families which own the two groups that have for long been traditional rivals on the print media scene. The directors were managers in their respective newspapers, he points out.

Kapoor, who admits he has had no experience of a newspaper and is essentially a marketing man, is also emphatic that he has devised his own policies and there had been no interference or diktat from either the Directors or the owners of TOI ? the Jains ? or HT ? the Birlas.

However, he admits that some help was being taken from both newspaper groups, as "there is no point in duplicating everything". Thus, the new tabloid is being published at the HT Printing Press in Noida for the first two years, after which the TOI press will do it. The advertising of both newspapers are helping the initial publicity of Metro Now, "for a fee".

Proudly noting that the tabloid was brought out in a period of just five months, Kapoor says Metro Now has a completely new team of 77 set to increase soon to 85. The staff of the tabloid itself is handling the marketing, he adds. The marketing was at present on traditional lines, but steps were being taken to target the youth and avoid the run-of-the-mill type of marketing. Activities would be undertaken shortly aimed at the youth to popularize the tabloid.

According to Kapoor, being young had anything to do with age, and it was the attitude that mattered. But the tabloid will not have ?masala for the sake of masala?, he is quick to point out. It is also important to build credibility and trust, he says.

Strategically priced at Rs 1, the tabloid has around 48 pages every day. Clearly, this means a lot of subsidization, and Kapoor says he has set a target of two years for breaking even though he claims confidence in achieving this goal earlier. He says the aim is to ensure readership through "casual purchase". The present focus is also on cash sales and not subscriptions.

Asked if it has been modelled on the tabloid Sun published in the UK, he denies this, adding that the British paper was too bold to fit into the mould of our culture and traditions. "I would not like to print a paper I was afraid to read with my family. No one will be embarrassed by my newspaper," Kapoor adds.

While denying that the aim was to bring out other publications, he says attempts would be made to first stabilise this tabloid and then perhaps think in terms of similar tabloids in other metros. But this may not happen for a year or two, he adds.

Kamal Kishore Singh, who is Editor of the tabloid, tells that Delhi did not have a market for tabloids despite the presence of two afternoon tabloids. Both TOI and HT had been exploring the market for launching tabloids, and it was natural that they should come together.

He says that care has been taken to ensure that Metro Now did not have the kind of content that could be seen in either Delhi Times or HT City. The paper has been modeled on Bombay Mirror and not the Sun, he clarifies. People expect their newspapers to behave in a certain way, "but we do not want to do that. We will create our own readership".

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