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BW Businessworld

Media: A Second Life

English daily National Herald has been revived after eight years. But will marketers choose to advertise with it?

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Senior journalist and author, the late Inder Malhotra, once wrote a column about the demise of National Herald, an English daily. In his column, he mentioned his personal conversation with Feroze Gandhi, the then managing director. Malhotra wrote that Gandhi once asked J.R.D Tata why the Tatas never advertised with their newspaper. In his response, Tata said that none of the Herald’s readers bathed with eau de cologne soap and that was the only brand he had to sell.

After six decades, the situation prevails for Herald once again. Earlier this month, on 14 November, the National Herald newspaper, founded by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938, was revived after eight years. But this time the paper won’t become a mouthpiece for the Congress party.

Neelabh Mishra, leading the paper’s re-launch as its editor-in-chief says National Herald represents a broad spectrum of views, including those of Congress’s political rivals. “It won’t be a Congress mouthpiece. For that, the party has Congress Sandesh,” he says.

Associated Journals Limited, which owns the English title and Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz and Hindi paper Navjeevan, plans to start a print edition in the next three to four months.

The group is putting its team in place to create a management and editorial structure. It is still in the process of determining the cover price, initial print run and the number of pages for the paper.

The newspaper discontinued publication in 2008, but Mishra feels there is space in the market for a new English daily. The group feels it is not in competition with giants like The Times of India or Hindustan Times and will create its own niche audience.

The Delhi market is highly competitive when it comes to newspapers. Hindustan Times, The Times of India and Indian Express have maximum market share, leaving minimal space for any new player. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry body of publishers, advertisers and media agencies, The Times of India, The Hindu and Hindustan Times are the only three English dailies featured under the category of highest circulated newspapers (amongst member publications).

With so many options, will marketers choose National Herald? C.M. Singh, COO, Videocon says that it all depends on the strategy of the newspaper. “We are a neutral company and for us, two things are important — content and reach. If they can provide it we will go for it.”

Marketers decide to tie-up with any newspaper on two parameters. One is the Audit Bureau of Circulation which defines the reach of the newspapers and second is the Indian Readership Survey, which defines the readership.

However, they also pick their platform after consulting with their internal research team which keeps a tab on the dailies and measures the return on investment after advertising in the paper.

P. M. Balakrishna, CEO of media agency Allied Media, feels that National Herald is a credible brand and has existed for a very long time. “Their loyal readers will add value to campaigns. It will especially help brands for whom every bit of incremental reach and frequency in that market matters. However, the pricing and innovations they strategise will dictate how agencies and brands leverage the medium.”

The current court case going on in Delhi alleging Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi of having acquired Herald House given by the government only for newspaper purposes, but which is now used for running a passport office with rental income, may play spoilsport.

It goes without saying that marketers don’t want to associate with any platform which can backfire. This situation is likely to hamper the advertising revenue. One of the leading telecom marketers declined to comment when he heard about National Herald. Needless to say, he was not interested in associating with the brand.

The FMCG sector is the leading advertiser in print media. Sanjana Desai, business head of Mother’s Recipe says she will monitor the upcoming daily initially. “We really have to see what kind of space they are into now as they are just re-launching.”

Advertising will also depend upon the type of consumers and readers the newspaper will attract. Sunil Gadgil, director of marketing at Nivea feels that only big players will jump and support a new platform to flush out money. “If the existing platform is doing well for us there are minimal chances of shifting. Plus we are not heavily into print advertising until there are new product launches.”

Will the Congress support play the boon and bane card for National Herald? As a newspaper that has a strong political backing, it would mean brands taking sides.

The group is looking for organic growth in terms of advertising and revenue. Mishra says, “We are not looking for Congress party to subsidise all our efforts and raise funds for us.”

Priya Jayaraman, co-founder and business director, Propaganda India, a digital media agency, says she will not use her client’s budget, “Unless they have a compelling offering for advertisers and offer readership/journalism that is different from what is currently happening.”

Himanshu Malik , founder CEO says, “It can be considered for smaller campaigns where budgets are low or for targeted approach in certain geographies.”

Undoubtedly, the publication is an old player in the market. However, it needs acceptance from the public for it to be beneficial for any brand to advertise with them. But at the same time, all the leading brands that are in the publishing business are credible. TOI is over 178 years old, Hindustan Times is about to complete 100 years. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. How National Herald chooses to play on its pedigree and connect itself with the youth that is the fabric of India today, is going to be the clincher.