The Reality Check
Life after newspapers!!!
This is time of transformation in the newspaper industry, which naturally poses new challenges for the all stake holders, compelling them to change appropriately accepting the reality. V Siva Raja of HT Media Ltd analytically describes the scenario.

Newspapers are at a very crucial stage today with increasing cost burdens and decreasing revenues. The newsprint prices are on an increasing trend with newsprint industry grappling with their own cost pressures and so are the other inputs like the inks, the plates, the chemicals and other materials. This puts a huge cost pressure on the newspapers and it is a struggle for survival on a daily basis. On the other hand there is a serious fall in the revenues due to the increased sharing with the other media like the internet, television, broadcasting and many other sources whose percentage shares are increasing by the day.

Another serious issue with the Indian newspapers is the anomalous pricing of newspapers which sell for a dollar a dozen, while it costs more than five times to produce a copy. This would increase the deficit as the print orders increase, a serious impediment to growth.




India is a growing market for newspaper readership and has a potential for growth of fifteen percent year on year as our country is growing in terms of literacy, as well as prosperity and will continue to grow for more than a decade provided we have a model to sustain…it would not be the reader who will fail us. Unfortunately, it will be the advertiser who will switchover to more economic media vehicles and the share for print will keep diminishing and it would become uneconomical to print while the reader would still love to have the copy of his favorite newspaper with his cuppa.
The Newspaper distribution on the other hand happens in the most luxurious style of delivery at the door step for which the newspaper has to shell more than 35 percent of the cost. During a price war the remaining returns on sales go into gifts and schemes.

India is a growing market for newspaper readership and has a potential for growth of fifteen percent year on year as our country is growing in terms of literacy, as well as prosperity and will continue to grow for more than a decade provided we have a model to sustain it.

This puts us in an interesting scenario. What will happen to newspapers in a few years? Whenever this question is discussed, the answer is more or less the same. We are safe and nothing will happen. While this may sound comforting, no body has a serious hypothesis which could answer the inquisitive amongst us. Will the inevitable happen and when is the big question.

Every technology or a medium has a life cycle, but when we are on a merry go around, we generally close our eyes and the ride comes to an end sooner than later.

Pigeons, horse riders, in the ancient times, gave way to the motor cycle riders, the telegraph, the telephones and the post men of the medieval times to carry news for each one of us. I think a kid in the nursery would read about them in his history books rather than the science books in a few years. This is the age of the mobile, the small device which does every thing you command and doubles up to every conceivable application. And, why should anybody be expected to do a cross country ride when a super highway is available to him at a fraction of the cost?

The newspapers of today are probably waiting for the right technology to arrive at the right cost to take over. The earlier we recognize and accept this reality the faster we will come out of it.

The best newspapers in the world including India have already put their talent, efforts and resources into multiple media vehicles. While print has been a strong medium in the last few decades for dissemination of news and views, other multi media like the internet, TV and many other media have already taking over quite a bit of the ground.

However my neighbor next door assures me that he would never stop reading the newspaper. I would agree with him and it would not be the reader who will fail us. Unfortunately, it will be the advertiser who will switchover to more economic media vehicles and the share for print will keep diminishing and it would become uneconomical to print while the reader would still love to have the copy of his favorite newspaper with his cuppa. It would be interesting to foresee the scenario after this change and who would be the players of the future. For sure, there will be a lot of new and emerging talent taking over. Printing machines will be replaced by some other devices, and newspapers will be replaced by probably tablets or something smarter. And ofcourse, there will be a few newspapers, probably the most interesting ones, which would somehow adapt and serve some new purposes. Some newspaper professionals I am sure, will adapt to the change and do well in the new scenario as well.

Is there no solution to this jigsaw puzzle? I think there are numerous solutions. It is for us to look out and work towards the right solution that will keep the print alive in the next decade. It will be interesting because we are not just the newspaper guys we think we are, but we are also the readers who will benefit immensely with this transformation.

So, isn’t this the demand of the day to perform and take initiatives with new strength and spirit for tiding over the challenges and ultimately retain the handle to steer and survive by setting new milestones and new rules to the game of print.

(V Siva Raja has been contributing to the newspaper industry since last three decades in the areas of innovation, projects, training and development, previously being associated with various organizations like The Printers House, The Times of India, Indian Express and Danik Bhaskar.)

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