India's newspaper industry is seeing a phenomenal revival both in terms of circulation and advertising.
The embattled industry that saw its total revenue shrinking by more than 35% in the last calendar year may be able to touch the pre-Covid (2019) revenue numbers in the current financial year.
Partha Sinha, President, Response, The Times Group, said his group has almost touched pre-Covid numbers in terms of revenue and the growth is likely to be maintained.
Partha said the last festive season was really down compared to 2019 but during the period the group managed to reach 70% of what they achieved in 2019.
"For us, the turnaround started in August last year. In the festive months— September, October and November—we did fairly well. We were close to 70% of our 2019 numbers if not a little more. That's the time that marked a turnaround for our group. From there onwards, we have recovered pretty well," he said.
During the first wave, there was a misconception among readers that newspapers might be a carrier of the coronavirus. However, during the second wave, circulation was not impacted. Asked how much this factor will benefit them, Partha said, “It has already benefited us because we didn’t drop any circulation during the second wave. However, this also shows that we as a society are not only fighting the virus but also fighting misinformation.”
Partha hopes print will regain its total pie in adex. He said the adex on print will surpass the pre-Covid levels by 4-5% in the next couple of years.
Harrish Bhatia, President, Sales, Dainik Bhaskar said the “revenue achievement in the festive season of 2020-21 was almost similar to the 2019-20 level.”
Explaining the decline in volume and ad rates last year because of the misinformation about newspapers, Bhatia said the volume in the overall market declined by 20% whereas Dainik Bhaskar's volume declined by 13%, which helped the paper improve market share.
This year, the sentiments are quite positive and the atmosphere is very conducive for the print sector.
Asked if the rates are back, he said they reached 95%+ levels of the 2019-20 rates as of August 2020-21 and after the festival period.
Shedding some light on this festive season compared to 2020 and 2019, he said they are driving 12-15% growth over 2019-20 revenue. Considering August’s achievement and different engagements, the group is quite hopeful, he said.
Real estate, healthcare, auto, education, jewellery, FMCG and BFSI are the major categories that are showing higher interest in print advertising, Bhatia said. He hoped the lifestyle and retail categories would come back during and after the festival.
According to Satyajit Sen Gupta, Chief Corporate Sales and Marketing Officer, Dainik Bhaskar, August has been a great month for them. “We have managed a double-digit advertising revenue growth over August 2019. Compared to August 2020, the growth is obviously manifold,” he said.
Gupta said they have seen growth in all the large states and corporate advertising and pointed out the new categories that are making their way to print. “We have seen relatively new categories such as online groceries, crypto currency, edtech, etc., utilising our publications in a big way towards deeper penetration in the markets,” he said.
Not just the national print agencies, the regional ones too are expecting significant growth in the upcoming festive season.
Talking to BestMediaInfo.com, M.V. Shreyams Kumar, Managing Director, Mathrubhumi newspaper, said the market is very positive and even if a third wave comes, the impact on print advertising would not be as bad compared to the first two waves.
“I don’t think the impact of the third wave, if it happens, will be as bad as the earlier ones, with vaccination happening at full speed. Unless things go completely out of hand, a full lockdown is not on the cards. With significant reduction in the fatality rates, any negative impact, even if any, will only be very temporary,” Kumar said.
Even in the regional market, FMCG, e-commerce, OTT, automobile, home appliances, jewellery, computers/smartphones and education have been the mainstay for a while. Kumar expects that once the number of fully vaccinated people increases, travel and tourism will come back to print advertising.
BestMediaInfo.com also connected with leading agency experts to understand the print advertising scenario from their perspective.
Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, is expecting a bumper print advertising from brands this festive season but is a little concerned about the adequate supply of the goods. He feels it is difficult to have a clear comparison between 2019, 2020 and 2021 but he’s sure that 2021 would be better than 2020.
“The outlook for business looks good, but the only worry is that some of the print-focussed categories such as auto and electronics may face supply issues due to component shortage. Whichever advertiser manages his supplies well will have a bumper Diwali, which will also reflect in print advertising,” he said.
Shashi felt the third wave will not be as bad as the second.
Are brands still shying away from advertising? No, instead there’s a cautious optimism among advertisers, which is fuelling the print advertising, he answered.
R. Venkatasubramanian, President & National Head, Investments, Havas Media Group India, also expects a better turnaround. He doesn’t think the pandemic will be able to cause a major dent to print advertising in this festive season.
Talking about the advertising spends, Venkatasubramanian said brands are now quite open to spend on print advertising. He said, “The print medium is certainly back in business as brands have already started focusing on the medium. So, it will definitely be better than 2020.”
Clients and agencies are better equipped and prepared to handle a pandemic-struck media environment, even if there is a third wave. Currently, all our clients are being optimistic, he said.
“Newspapers are now printing 90% of what they used to print pre-Covid and distribution is in place. Hence, publications will reap a good fortune during the festival period compared to 2020,” he said.
Sundeep Nagpal, Founder Director, Stratagem Media, is expecting a great recovery in this festive season. He said consumers are in a bright mood and this will benefit the industry.
Since the third wave has not happened yet, we can expect a promising market in the festive season. He explained that the festive season remains for 3-4 months, if the third wave doesn’t hit, it will go in favour of brands and the print industry.
Talking about recovery, he said it has not touched 2019-levels yet but the same can be expected this festive season. Asked the sector would cross 2019 numbers, he said right now we cannot expect to register a huge growth but it will touch the 2019-levels.
Explaining the factors behind the recovery, he said a lot of people willing to buy cars and big appliances had been holding for a long time and this year, they’re in a better state.