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Ficci Frames 2018: Despite digital’s growth, future of print is bright

Taking part in a discussion moderated by Ashish Pherwani, industry biggies such as Sathyamurthy NP, Sanjay Gupta and Devendra Darda talked about the IRS results, print revenue and if the medium can survive in the long run

On the last day of Ficci Frames 2018, there finally arrived a session that discussed the future of print. Titled “Past Perfect Future Tense? Catalyst & Pointers for the Print Industry”, an in-depth conversation followed to discuss the IRS results and its impact on print business, along with how digital is affecting it.

The members of the panel comprised Sathyamurthy NP, President and Head, DDB Mudra Group; Sanjay Gupta, CEO, Jagran and Devendra Darda, Managing Director, Lokmat Media. The panel was moderated by Ashish Pherwani, Partner, EY.

Sathyamurthy, who is fondly known as Sathya, first gave a brief of what IRS 2017 meant and shared a few statistics and methodology. After that, Pherwani started discussing how TV and print are both huge mediums in the country, but TV is growing stronger than print and why.

According to Gupta, “TV is growing based on entertainment, but print is still more about news. Within TV, entertainment channels take a lion’s share and not news or any other genre.”

Pherwani said monthly data has shown about 7.8% CAGR growth. Does that mean a lot more than what AIR growth means, he asked.

Gupta replied, “This just shows that there is a lot of headroom to grow as per the monthly data and this is where all publishers look for opportunities. However, newsprint is still about 80-90% of a newspaper’s cost. So, the publishers are also wary if they will be able to get such huge advertising earnings.”

Pherwani then pointed out a de-growth in Marathi readership, which was one of the observations from IRS 2018. To which Darda responded, “Maharashtra is a very matured market with many big players present here. Intense competition has hurt the market to some extent, especially in the lower segment. However, in many other markets which are not mature enough, there is still growth.”

Pherwani then asked if there is space for top five in the market, or will it be a competition between the top two. Darda is sure that there is no space for five leading players. “It is going to be top two and the situation will only get more intense, as we move forward.”

Gupta added, “There can be at maximum top three in each of the markets, not more than that.”

Pherwani then moved on to discussing advertising size. “Print used to command 40% in the total advertising pie, and now it has come down to 33%. Though there is increase in the absolute numbers, the share has fallen. What do you have to say about it?”

Gupta said, “There was no currency for us to build our case on. Now, thanks to IRS 2017, we actually know the scenario. Based on this data, I believe that print will now see a resurgence of growth. It is one engaging medium such that, when you are reading, you are not doing anything else. While when you are watching TV, you can do hundred other things. I am sure print will bounce back.”

Darda added, “Newspapers are the oldest media and we have had the opportunity to witness the emergence of all other media – be it television, radio or digital. Everything will eventually take its place. But the good news is that the absolute numbers are still growing.”

Sathya added, “When private TV channels arrived, everyone said print will die, when radio arrived, the same prediction came in. Now, with digital, again we are assuming print will die. It is not dying in the near future.”

Last came the question that has been discussed for the last 10 years at the same Ficci Frames forum. “Will digital affect print?”

Gupta said, “We have to understand that world over, when digital is growing, it is not all news websites. Globally, a dollar lost in print was not moved to news websites. Somebody has to fund good journalism.”

When asked why there is such a huge gap between monthly readership and AIR, Sathya answered, “As you go higher in the socio-economic classes, the number of times they pick up newspapers in a week has reduced. They are accessing mobiles, also about 50% of the people are subscribing newspapers, while about 20% read at neighbours’ houses or offices and the rest 30% read at community centres. Combination of these reasons can determine the gap between monthly readership and yesterday readership, based on which market one is analysing.

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