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Advertisers’ interest in print isn’t lost, waiting for consumer sentiment to recover, says TOI’s Sanjeev Bhargava

In a conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Sanjeev Bhargava, Director, Brand TOI/ TIMS, discusses the impact of the pandemic on newspaper circulation and why it’s important to educate young media planners about the importance of print

Sanjeev Bhargava

The print industry suffered a double blow during the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. First, circulation took a hit during the shutdowns and second, the unfounded fear among people that newspapers could be carriers of the coronavirus.

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With everybody, including advertisers, shifting from the hard paper to online, the future of the industry is not looking all that bright.

The industry, however, hopes to recover fast as the credibility and importance of print is at an all-time high.

“Savvy advertisers will not lose interest in print, particularly TOI, because it addresses the most precious consumer cohort and can deliver unparalleled impact to this cohort. Like the entire industry, there is a setback in adspend overall and it will take time for that to recover. Like everyone else, we will have to wait for recovery of consumer sentiment and consequent ad spending. The earlier the recovery, the better,” Sanjeev Bhargava, Director, Brand TOI/ TIMS, said in an interaction with BestMediaInfo.com.

He said in the most markets, household copies are running at above 70% and in several states, over 80%.

“There are a few pockets of worry and we are ensuring we recover in these territories as soon as possible,” he said.

Only recently, Media Research Users Council India (MRUC India) had put IRS 2020 on hold, which can be worrisome for the industry.

The council had informed its subscribers that their advance payments for IRS 2020 will be refunded for this year.

So, will the suspension further hit media planners’ confidence in the print industry?

Bhargava answered, “The IRS has been a continuous track and has thrown up trends. If we set aside the current setback, there is no reason for the trend to not continue. There is an increasing skew towards SEC A1, there is stability in readership, there is more time spent on the newspaper, the credibility of the newspaper has been rising and so on. Savvy media planners will look at these trends to determine the suitability of print.”

The Indian Newspaper Society earlier had stated that the newspaper industry has already lost Rs 4,000-4,500 crore in the first two months of the lockdown. The industry had witnessed its worst nightmares of pay cuts, job loss and shutting down of editions.

In May, circulation was back by 75% but the marketers and media agencies feared that despite the credibility of print soaring to an all-time high, the overall readership may take a hit in the long run as well.

Bhargava suggested that for the industry to get back to the pre-Covid levels, it has to educate readers on the unique value of the newspaper in their lives.

“Educate young media planners of the unique advantages of using print, particularly when there is something meaningful to be announced and ensure that the newspaper continues to be the beacon of excellent journalism in the country,” he said.

And, in the similar direction, to combat the rise in generation and distribution of fake news, and to provide greater insights about a variety of topics, TOI last month, through its #WantMyPaper campaign, had asked the Indian audience to reclaim their right to legitimate and thoughtfully crafted information.

Also, under its in-house initiative, the newspaper released a content piece to make people aware of the merits of reading a daily newspaper.

The content initiative:

Bhargava said there are multiple initiatives that not only Times Group but the entire industry is taking, including education and enabling precautionary measures to ensure the newspaper delivered to homes is perfectly sanitised.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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