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PubNation: Print has no threat from digital but its own ecosystem

There is a need for better measurement metrics

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NEW DELHI: The Covid2019 lockdown scarred many industries, print publication being one of the most adversely impacted. With physical copies not reaching people to advertisers getting conscious of their advertising spends, the industry struggled to keep the press running. However, with the pandemic blues gradually lifting, the market picked up swiftly for the print players as both readers and advertisers began flocking back to the pages. Yet, for a while now, think tanks have been prophesying that print might soon run out of fuel as it continues to race against the growing digital medium. 

But print is not going anywhere, no matter how big a challenge it faces from alternative media. The point was made by a stellar set of panelists speaking at Indiantelevision.com’s virtual PubNation roundtable discussing “the return of print.” Moderated by Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, the session hosted Lodestar UM CSO Aditi Mishra, Jagran Prakashan Ltd SVP product sales & marketing Deepak Pandey, Dainik Bhaskar Group CMO Kaacon Sethi, Reliance Grocery Retail SVP & CMO Lalatendu Panda, Dentsu Solutions India CEO and Dentsu Creative India group executive & strategy officer  Narayan Devanathan, The Indian Express CEO Sanjay Sidhwani, and IIFL Finance CMO Vipul Oberoi. 

The panel insisted that English and regional language print are completely distinct industries and while the former might be dealing with a few issues, the latter has remained steady on an upwards trajectory. 

Dainik Bhaskar Group CMO Kaacon Sethi noted, “I genuinely don’t think print has gone away. English print and regional print are both very different markets. The latter is, in fact, a growing story. The headroom for print to grow is significantly more there as compared to metros.” 

Jagran Prakashan Ltd SVP product sales & marketing Deepak Pandey supported the point by mentioning that the pandemic-induced exodus of the workforce from metros to regional areas led to growing consumption of local language newspapers. 

He added, “We never stopped printing for any of the small cities even during the pandemic. In fact, I was contacted by our FMCG partners to move their goods and help them make their deliveries during the lockdown period.” 

When it comes to advertising, the panel agreed that the medium is one of the most brand-safe ones and has great reach, though they once again underlined the continuous demand of getting more data for the advertisers. 

Dentsu Solutions India CEO and Dentsu Creative India group executive & strategy officer  Narayan Devanathan said, “When it comes to brand safety, there is no safer environment than print. There is no space for deliberate thinking analysis in other mediums as there is in print. For digital and to some extent, outrage is the oxygen now. The print is yet not subjected to that vagary.”

Lodestar UM CSO Aditi Mishra added, “Why do we believe that newspapers are more credible; because there is a true journalistic effort that goes behind the printed word. It is not possible to achieve in snappy digital videos.”

The Indian Express Online Pvt Ltd CEO Sanjay Sidhwani, however, pointed out that print is not a very successful medium when it comes to putting in interactive ads and that’s one of the areas where digital takes the lead. 

Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari disagreed, citing the example of discount coupons that brands have historically put in papers and have enjoyed a great footfall. 

Reliance Grocery Retail SVP & CMO Lalatendu Panda highlighted that print is one of the most versatile mediums when it comes to the mass-scale sampling of products and reaching a vast TG in one go. He added, “Whether it is mass targeting or hyper-personalisation, print today offers every option. Print will always be the mainstay for brick-and-mortar retailers.”

IIFL Finance CMO Vipul Oberoi pointed out that print has no threat from digital but its own ecosystem. “There are more than 1.4 lakh newspapers in circulation and we don’t know how many of them will survive the change. Also, there is not any concrete and regular source of data that the advertisers can rely on.”

Later in the conversation, he also mentioned that their brand is slowly delegating money out of print to digital mediums for the sheer lack of data and the industry seriously needs to consider this aspect. 

To this, Dainik Bhaskar Group CMO Kaacon Sethi shared that they are already using metrics like sales links that can give a fair idea to the advertiser of the final KPIs. “We also keep sharing case studies about other projects that we have delivered for other brands with advertisers.”

Mishra submitted that print players have a great understanding of their audience. “We need to figure out how to share it with the advertisers.”

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