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The Land Where Newspaper Has A Bright Future

Indian language newspapers have been quick to learn from the mistakes of the West or the English language media

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At a time when the newspaper industry across the globe is worried about shrinking circulation, India’s print media industry, pegged at $5 billion (Rs 32,000 crore), is growing at close to 10 per cent and is expected to remain in that curve for at least next four to five years. Hence, at least for near term and mid-term future, newspapers are here to stay and grow, with regular innovations.

And at the top of the growth charts are Indian language newspapers, which are firmly supported by 91 per cent of the Indian readers. There are several reasons for it.

On one hand, the penetration of regional newspapers is below 50 per cent, so there’s much ground to cover. Hundreds of small towns do not get newspapers on time even today. The newspaper reading population may be getting stagnant or shrinking in the English-speaking belt, but in the language belt this population is still growing. And that is one of the key reasons behind the growth in circulation in this belt, despite an increase in the cover price.

Newspapers that were predominantly a product carved to serve the 40-plus male bastion, who were also family heads, a few decades ago, have shifted their focus to appeal to the 20-plus audience whose numbers are swelling and who like to consume news of their choice. There has been a considerable increase in women readership too motivating newspaper organisations to satisfy the reading habits of different members and different age group of the same family. Growing education, increasing maturity, and eagerness to compete in this world will keep adding new readers from the developing and under-developed regions of this country for some time to come.

And on the other hand, with social media overtaking television as a source for news, newspaper organisations have become increasingly reliant on social media platforms for generating traffic to their websites. And the educated among this new traffic is coming back to the physical newspaper for in-depth analyses and perspectives on subjects of their interest.

In the era of information deluge, Indian language newspapers stands to benefit. They get to see how their regional readers replicate the metro readers’ news consumption habit. They also get to see what English newspapers in the West are doing for their readers and how successful they are, while continuing to practice an evolving method of journalism in their workplace. This gives them enough time to test the waters and take appropriate action to support readers’ interest and also the bottomline of the organisation.

Thus print media is here to stay —at least until the entire geography is covered. Publishers may add more in-depth analyses and articles for the growing educated class, or create niche newspapers for different segments of the same belt.

Indian language newspapers have been quick to learn from the mistakes of the West or the English language media. They are structuring themselves more as startups, than as corporate bureaucracies. They are creating a startup-like environment that encourages innovation in the newsroom, which gives them a distinct advantage and also an idea as to how the regional, yet new-age, consumer is consuming news.

But the underlying fact that all newspaper organisations have realised is that they are in the business of “news” and not in the business of “paper”. Since the focus is on news, the vehicle on which it travels will keep changing as the world progresses, from print to some other form. The medium can be anything in the coming decades. Hence, the focus, I think should be on making the readers consume the news rather than on how they consume it.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Girish Agarwal

The author is director, DB Corp, which publishes Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati newspapers in 62 cities

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