13th INMA South Asia Media Conference

in New Delhi reveals a forward looking perspective of news media industry

Organised from November 18 – 22 in New Delhi, the 13th International News Media Association (INMA) South Asia Media Festival was themed on topical and relevant current landscape—‘What matters most now: how to win in a world of unprecedented competition and disruptive changes.’ Delegates at the festival gained insights and a forward looking perspective into the unique strategies and best practices of the South Asian news media industry.

Participants at the festival learnt how news media companies have grown sustainable digital businesses without any capital burn. They further understood the experiences of the digital transformation story. They witnessed the unlocking of the next layer of growth with subscription businesses, examining closely how to build content experiences for digital platforms. And, they were exposed to the latest tools for the newsroom while gaining industry insights into content automation for new-age digital consumers with the role AI plays for the digital age. The unique, innovative and action-packed study tour offered a conjunction with leading stakeholders sharing their experiences.

Action-packed tour

The festival kick started with a study tour, entailing two days of exploration of the news media market of Delhi-NCR. The delegates visited the offices of The Indian Express, Facebook, HT Media Ltd, Times Internet Ltd, Google and StoryXpress and they received expert industry perspective on brand explorations, news media organisations, and digital start-ups with an eye for disruption, innovation, and growth opportunities.

Two seminars

For practitioners seeking perspectives into consumers and advertiser subject matters, INMA offered two half-day seminars after the study tour. On November 20, the morning seminar focused on understanding the consumer eco-system with two distinct sessions focusing on the impact of socio cultural patterns on news content consumption and mobile & video journalism driving a culture change, with presentations from Twitter, Facebook, MullenLowe Lintas Group, NDTV 24×7, HT Media Ltd and others.

The afternoon seminar assessed the evolving story for news media advertising and harnessing technology to its potential with discussions on Native Advertising and spearheading change via technology, with presentations from Comscore, Quintype Technologies, Adobe, The Times of India and Jagran Prakshan.

Core conference

The flagship two-day conference was started with welcome address by Rajiv Verma, President of INMA South Asia Division and introduction from Pawan Agarwal, Conference Chairperson & Deputy Managing Director of Dainik Bhaskar Corp Ltd. Dr Bhaskar Das, Group President of Republic Media Network hosted the two days of the conference as Conference Curator.

In the session ‘News Media Today—A Perfect Storm or A Perfect Opportunity’ Shailesh Prakash, Chief Information Officer & Vice President of Digital Product Development, The Washington Post, talked about the significance of being good in both journalism and newsroom technologies. Explaining how they gained five times growth over the last five years, he said tools like Headliner, an integrated headline suggestion system; Heligraph, which is developed in-house to automatically generate short multi-sentence updates for readers and others, are what it pushes The Washington Post further on the technology front. “For Indian users of our digital app, we offer an exclusive subscription rate at Rs 100 per month,” announced Shailesh.

Andy Brown, CEO & Chairman, Kantar Media, in the session ‘What Do Brands Want?’ talked about audience building through big data. He underlined the increase of smartphone penetration and decline of tablets. In the following session on ‘Debunking the Myth About Print Media’ in which Dolly Jha, Lead Marketing Effectiveness Practice, Nielsen and Mohit Joshi, Managing Director, Havas Media, explained that print is hyper brand for display ads and concentrated readership is stronger in print than digital.

‘War for Talent’—this was the topic in the next session with speakers, Pankaj Bansal, Co-founder and CEO of PeopleStrong; Anuranjita Kumar, Managing Director – Human Resources, International Hubs, RBS; Jyoti Malhotra, President, SAWM (South Asian Women in Media) & National Affair Editor, The Print, moderated by Abhijit Bhaduri, Author, Columnist & Management Consultant. Pankaj explained that work is not defined by a person or skill but his or her outcome. In this, Jyoti put in, “Hunger of the journalist about profession is more important than what he or she could write.”

Further carrying forward the conference, a panel of speakers comprising Gautam Mehra, Chief Data Officer (South Asia), Dentsu Aegis Network & CEO DAN Programmatic; Boby Paul, Head Marketing, Manorama Online; Miten Sampat, VP Corporate Development, Times Internet, with moderator Vivek Bhargava, CEO, DAN Performance Group at Dentsu Aegis Group, discussed over the topic ‘Is Digital Advertising a Virtual Cul-de-Sac?’ The speakers echoed to be optimistic about advertising on digital platform. Boby mentioned that Manorama Online has successfully transformed traditional classified ads into digital formats.

In the session ‘Monetising Digital Content—The South Asia Experience’, speakers gave an insight of readers’ behaviour when it comes to paying for digital content. Speakers in the session were Sandeep Amar, Founder –Innaj and Publishers Digital Lab; Akila Urankar, President, Business Standard; Rajiv Verma, President, INMA South Asia Division, with moderator Shaili Chopra, founder journalist, shethepeople.tv. “We launched our website in 1997; we are one of the first newspapers in India that introduced paywall, and we are happy with the number we have today,” said Akila. Rajiv however mentioned that digital content monetisation is a challenging task in India as people hesitate to pay for digital content.

The discussion over content monetisation continued in the following session titled ‘High Time Readers Pay for Print Media’, in which the panel of speakers comprised Sridhar Aranala, Head of Sales and Distribution, The Hindu; Sanjeev Bhargava, Brand Director, The Times of India; Basant Rathore, VP Strategy and Business Development, Dainik Jagaran, with moderator MK Vanu, Founder Editor, The Wire. Basant shared that Jagaran Group monetises 30 percent of print content and 10 percent digital. Sridhar said The Hindu for a long time is a content-based newspaper, now feasibly bridging between traditional legacy and digital, but still 70 percent of revenue come from ads.

The second day of the conference was started with the session ‘Newsroom Transformation – How to Drive a Culture Change?’ with speakers—Jadgish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Growth, Tech Mahindra; and Anup Gupta, Managing Editor, Integration, HT Media Ltd—analysing the aspects of the need of modern newsroom setups and technologies. In the following session, discussion was on the business models for print media which are effective and relevant globally, discussed by Ankush Wadhera, Partner, Boston Consulting Group and Pradyuman Maheswari, Editor-in-Chief & CEO of MxM India.

Giving a focus on the ongoing digital transformation, speakers in the session ‘Navigating Digital Platform for Growth’ said digital is a new opportunity for news media. The speakers in the session were Bharat Gupta, CEO, Jagran New Media; Milind Khandekar, Digital Editor, India, BBC; Shouneel Charles, Business Leader in Digital Media & News – CXO, with moderator Puneet Gupt, Moderator, COO, Times Internet. Bharat said that Jagaran penetrated onto digital platform three years back. “Credible content creation is the key to growth on digital platforms,” he mentioned, adding that print is losing relation with millennial population and this is where digital has gained advantage.

In the session ‘Mobile and Consumer Evolution’, Neeraj Roy, Managing Director, Hungama Digital Media Pvt Ltd and Rajesh Sawney, Founder, InnerChef, discussed that mobile platform has brought in a paradigm shift. “30 years back nobody expected that cinema would compete with online platforms,” pointed out Neeraj. In the subsequent session titled ‘The Changing Paradigm for Editors – A Perspective on the Transformation Time for Journalism’, a panel of three speakers—Ritu Kapur, Co-Founder, The Quint; Anand Nath, Editor, The Caravan and Executive Publisher, Delhi Press; Siddharth Varadarajan, Founder Editor, The Wire, with moderator Sevanti Ninan, Media Commentator and former Founder-Editor of TheHoot.org—explained why digital is a new rule. “We at The Wire don’t wait for morning to deliver news. This is the opportunity on the digital platform,” said Siddharth.

A discussion over consumerism, in a session titled ‘What Will CEOs Do Now?’ a panel of CEOs of some of the leading media houses analysed the increasing significance of digital platform. In the panel were Pawal Agarwal, Deputy Managing Director, Dainik Bhaskar Corp Ltd; Vinay Maheshwari, Executive Director & CEO, Sakshi Media Ltd; Praveen Someshwar, Managing Director & CEO, HT Media Ltd, with moderator Dr Bhaskar Das, Group President, Republic Media Network. “The current market scenario is not all about onslaught of digital upon print media. It’s more or less about losing relevance of print medium in terms of time and audience,” said Praveen.

Another panel discussion of CEOs comprised speakers—Suresh Balakrishna, Chief Revenue Officer, The Hindu; Rajiv Beotra, Executive Director, HT Media Ltd; Satyajit Sengupta, Chief Corporate Sales & Marketing Officer, Dainik Bhaskar; Sivakumar Sundaram, President, Revenue, Times Group; I Venkat, Director, Eenadu Group, with moderator K Srinivas Rao, National Director Buying, MediaCom. I Venkat said every newspaper house has different policy when it comes to advertising on web or print.

The conference addressed the overall issues unique to news publishers in South Asia with an aim to reposition print alongside a fast evolving digital landscape. Conclusion of the two days of conference and the overall media festival was marked by Earl J Wilkinson giving a glimpse of the news media outlook of South Asia with a spotlight on India’s thriving potential on both print and digital fronts.

Comments from Delegates

“Uniqueness of this conference is its deep observation of the changing paradigm of digital platform, which is well positioning alongside the thriving print media in India.”

— Abhimanyu Shrivastava, Head –Strategy, Dainik Bhaskar Group, Film City, Noida

“Debates and discussions over disruptions taking place in the print media landscape of India are quite interesting and useful learning we get from this conference.”

— Sunil Mirza, DGM–Circulation, The Hindu Group Publishing, New Delhi

“Overall conference is good. But I feel there is need for more speakers from the overseas news media companies on the panels.”

— Md Tajdin Hassan, Head of Marketing, The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh

“This conference is the best place where we can learn the changing news media landscape in which digital platform is flourishing with new news delivery models.”

— L Santoshkumar Iyer, Deputy Manager, manoramaonline, New Delhi

“We are privileged to meet and connect with the industry leaders in this conference. In addition, this is a premier industry event where new trends and technologies are revealed.”

— Prakash Kumar, Head Digital Marketing, Prabhat Khabar, Ranchi

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