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Ficci Frames 2017: Print media profitability under pressure

The overriding opinion was that print is a great product and hence newspapers will always have valuation but only the number one and two will be profitable

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 24, 2017

Raghav-Bahl-at-Ficci-Frames

The Indian print industry continues to grow year after year compared to global markets. But the last few years have seen a slowdown in the growth rates due to saturation and digitisation. Print companies are now looking inwards towards operational efficiencies to improve bottom lines and operate in an increasingly digitised environment.

The panellists included Rishi Darda, Editorial and Joint MD, Lokmat; Anupriya Acharya, CEO, Publicis Media; Bhaskar Das, President and Chief Growth & Innovation Officer, Zee Unimedia; Raj Chengapa, Group Editorial Director, India Today Group; and Ashish Pherwani, Partner, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young.

Pherwani started the session on ‘Indian print, looking inward to profitability’. He said, “Print is a great product. Yes, there are some changes the industry is seeing and hence profitability is at stress. As of now it is going quite well.”

Darda said that unlike newer media where valuation plays a part, newspapers always had valuation. “Currently, newspapers are working at an operating margin of 30 per cent,” he said.

Das said only the number one and two will be profitable and that holds true for any industry. “It’s nothing to do with content. There are about 3,900 newspapers in India. So you think all of them are profitable? No one makes profit. Only few will make money.”

Acharya took it forward from an agency perspective. Does print media matter to advertisers over digital? “It surely does. About 35-40 per cent advertising expenditure is on print. So print is profitable. Like Bhaskar Das said, the top players take the maximum profitability. The issue is not profitability. The issue is what will happen in the future? Most recently, vernacular on digital is seeing a rise.”

While newspapers are considered as a credible source of information, it still remains a strong choice for most Indians. Chengapa said, “With the readers being bombarded with news from all quarters, newspapers were considered as reliable and credible sources of information and content was the king. Digital platforms could help in putting out breaking news and newspapers could be looked at for understanding the subject matter with in-depth analysis.”

For print, about 85-90 per cent of the revenues come through advertising. But if the consumer is ready to pay a higher price for the newspaper then advertising revenues can come down by half and thus help the industry to be more profitable.

As the last day of Ficci Frames 2017 came to an end, the three-day event witnessed speakers, delegates and members of the media and entertainment industry. Speakers discussed issues related to television, print, radio and how digital is growing. Some sessions and discussions touched upon the monetising factor for various media.

The closing remarks for the three-day event were given by Raghav Bahl, Founder, Quintillion Media. Some important points he made were: What is important is not digital; it is linear (mobile) versus non-linear (static screens). Bahl added that large format entertainment will be largely consumed on static screens while news and information will move to mobiles. Lastly, he thinks that digital advertising will have to be embedded with native advertising.

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