Flourishing together…

There are more than 16,500 newspapers registered in India… and the number is still growing. In a population of 1.27 billion people, it hardly comes as a surprise. But what really makes us thinking is the fact that though the Indian newspaper segment is ruled by a few big players, the smaller newspapers are also flourishing. Varsha Verma finds out how.

Gone are the days when different editions of a particular newspaper title reaching out various cities were produced at a single printing facility and at a particular location. These editions were popularly known as Dak Edition, City Edition, Late City Edition, etc. Then, came the era of data transmission through satellites, when the newspapers were printed locally…but this did not help the newspapers in increasing the ad revenues as it contained the same ads as the main edition. Local advertisers also did not benefit as they were not targeting these.

Multi-city editions

These days, in order to cater to different cities, large set-up newspapers have started multi-city editions, with local news and advertisements. For example, The Indian Express, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, New Indian Express, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan, Rajasthan Patrika, Punjab Kesari, etc, have editions at multiple locations with printing facilities either of their own or being printed on contractual basis. Besides, these newspapers have a wide reach in almost every nook and corner of the nation, with the availability of either printed or/and digital format of their newspapers.

Small vs big newspapers

But the competition has increased. There are a number of small local newspapers to compete with. Each newspaper has its strengths and weaknesses. What makes a particular newspaper demand more market share depends on a multitude of reasons.

Let us take an example of a local general store and a similar store running in a shopping mall–both may be doing well. Customers of a local general store would still like to shop at the mall as they might be getting the personal attention from the shopkeeper and he might be enjoying some discounts and freebies like free-home delivery, credit, orders by phone, etc On the other hand, customers of a shop in a mall get to see a variety of products before zeroing in the one they need. The ambience, of course, would be better and so would be the shopping experience. But both these outlets are doing well and might be catering to same or different customers. Similar is the case with the newspapers.

USPs of local newspapers

Local newspapers have an edge in reaching out to their readers. Even readers are more comfortable in sharing their voices and opinions through these local newspapers. News of poor infrastructure at a school might not be big news for bigger newspapers but it might be worth reporting for a local newspaper.

The reporters and other staff of a local newspaper are majorly from the city itself, where personal relationships mean a lot. This helps them in getting to the root of the news. Also, small-time advertisers prefer to advertise in local newspapers to reach their target audience without spending much on their ads.

USPs of bigger newspapers

We just cannot ignore the fact that newspaper is like a morning cup of tea – absolutely necessary! Bigger newspapers often give out free copies to the potential readers and once they are accustomed to reading it, the free copies disappear but by this time, the readers are willing to pay for the same.

These set-ups have the capacity to invest in experienced staff and pay them well; hence they can maintain the quality of the content of their newspaper. On the other hand, smaller newspapers have to dig out people who can perform equally but within the affordable budget.

As far as advertisers are concerned, many national players and government prefer to place their ads in multi-city editions, for which they even get a better price from these bigger set-ups – an area where local newspapers cannot beat them.

Keeping in mind the print runs of the newspapers, these small set-ups install printing machines accordingly. For example, if the target is for 15,000 copies, they would invest in a machine with a capacity to print 25,000 – 30,000 copies, so that their printing needs can be met for the next 2-3 years. These machines are mainly indigenous and fit perfectly within the budget.

Flourishing together…

Being a country where the population is growing and so is the literacy rate, the demand for newspapers will not go down, especially in smaller cities, where the digital invasion has still not taken place. There’s a room for multiple players in this segment. Local newspapers can fight their way through affordable advertising rates, better local coverage and of course by incurring lower overheads. At the same time, bigger set-ups can cash on their wider reach and better machinery and manpower. The competition is high but a healthy one is always better for the industry, the readers and the advertisers. It’s not a question of who the winner is; it is the question of keeping in mind the reader’s interest.


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