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In-depth: Print recovery on fast track, to cross pre-Covid revenue this fiscal

As per the FY22 financial results of leading print publications, there has been an impressive recovery. Ad volumes are back and will grow further in the upcoming festive season

After almost two terrible financial years, the recovery for newspapers, especially the English ones, is on the fast track.

The daily copies are getting thicker and advertisers seem to be getting hooked to the power of print, yet again.

The newspaper industry saw its adex falling to around Rs 10,000 crore in FY21. In the last fiscal, it improved to almost Rs 12,000 crore. It still, however, is more than 30% away in terms of touching the pre-Covid levels of Rs 18,000 crore.

But this financial year, experts say, the print revenue will cross over Rs 19,000 crore.

Leading publications have shown a good recovery in 2022 and experts suggest publications may even surpass pre-Covid levels of business soon. This comes as a little relief for the print industry which has been tackling supply-chain issues due to the global war as well as dealing with business crises which came to the fore following the pandemic.

In the last fiscal, top publications such as DB Corp posted a revenue of Rs 1,780 crore, while HT Media posted over Rs 1,600 crore in revenue. Jagran Prakashan too had a revenue of over Rs 1,650 crore in FY22.

Growth in Ad revenue and return of ad volumes

Ramsai Panchapakesan

As per Ramsai Panchapakesan, SVP and National Head -Integrated Media Buying, Zenith Media, India, Q3 of FY 21-22 was a blockbuster year and all benchmarks have been broken when it comes to print media volume and value sales. This was also on the back of the previous two Diwali seasons being slow owing to the pandemic.

Satyajit Sen Gupta

Speaking about their recovery, Satyajit Sen Gupta, Chief Corporate Sales and Marketing Officer at DB Group, said, “We crossed the pre-Covid level revenue in April itself. The strong resurgence in print advertising was visible with most categories performing strongly.”

Factors behind the recovery

According to Gupta, summer-specific advertising from ACs and refrigerators, and wedding categories like jewellery were particularly heavy. He also said that categories like real estate, retail, education, technology, banking and finance, and IPOs have all been growing as well.

“The only weakness we see still is in automobile (four-wheelers) advertising which is driven by supply-side issues. But there are signs of the semiconductor shortage easing out and therefore the coming months should be good for this category as well. We are confident that each month after this would only get better,” stated Gupta.

“Economic activity is gaining pace and people have accepted that Covid shall be endemic and work must continue with due precautions. Schools and colleges have reopened. There are no disruptions now. All this has led to advertising picking up strongly and it is likely to sustain with the GDP growth projected for the year.”

“Both readers and advertisers have realised the trust, credibility and engagement that Print and a publication like Dainik Bhaskar can bring to the table. We are focussing on generating content which is upgrading the reader rather than just updating them, and this is paying us rich dividends,” Gupta further explained.

According to Panchapakesan, the newspapers reach 65-70% of the NCCS A audience in the main cities (as per the last available IRS Report 2019 Q4). This makes the medium indispensable for brands to reach a premium audience. Print media also offers a very cost-effective solution for local businesses.

Expectations ahead

As per a top media planner, even though digital has been growing, advertisers still look at traditional mediums to draw the trust of consumers. He further said that now that IPL is over, categories like automobile will return to print.

Talking about what kind of recovery is further expected, Gupta said, “We see strong double-digit growth for both advertising and circulation this year on account of yield and volume hikes both. Our focus is on introducing more categories and clients to the large reach, Impact and engagement that our media solutions can offer. We are doing much more work in customer acquisition apart from retention and conversion through result-oriented advertising.”

Panchapakesan said the advertising momentum is still gearing up. “We can’t jump to a conclusion in the appearance of sporadic jackets, the print will surely grow from last year to the tune to 14% to 16% and will touch approximately Rs 19,000– 21,000 crore. This is close to the pre-Covid level.”

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