New concerns and optimism for news media world at WAN-IFRA India Conference 2017 in Chennai

Discussions focused on monetisation models for both digital platform and printed newspapers

Bringing new concerns and optimism on a common discussion platform, WAN-IFRA India Conference 2017, marking its 25th Silver Jubilee Edition, was successfully organised from September 12-14 at ITC Grand Chola in Chennai. Around 300 senior news media leaders from 25 countries gathered for discussions and discourses over the changing trends, scenarios, machines, products and business models designed to take the industry to a new level. ALL ABOUT NEWSPAPERS brings a brief account of the three days of proceedings of the conference.

Common Inaugural Session

WAN-IFRA India Conference 2017 was broadly divided into main forums—World Printers Forums (Conference) and World Editors Forum (South Asia Summit), with some Common Sessions. At the onset of the event, under the Common Inaugural Session, Magdoom Mohamed, MD, WAN-IFRA South Asia Pvt Ltd (India), delivered welcomed address in which he recollected the early days of the conference, which was started in 1993 in India as a small gathering of just 50 delegates; and today it has gained full momentum of being a global event with 425 delegates.

Highlighting the signs of growth the industry has been receiving in diverse domains, KN Shanth Kumar, chairman, WAN-IFRA South Asia Committee & Board Member, WAN-IFRA and director, The Printers Mysore Pvt Ltd (India), delivered opening address, saying every one of us in the industry must take a move to embrace the challenges lying ahead, such as the onset of digital era. In the session, Somesh Sharma, president, INS (Indian Newspaper Society) and chief executive, Rashtradoot (India), also appealed the delegates the same approach, saying we all must explore the electronic/digital landscape, making the industry ‘One for all and all for one’. He conclusively urged, asserting “United we stand, divided we fall’.

Opening of the conference
Opening of the conference

In the session, David Callaway, CEO, The Street Inc (USA), in his keynote address, appreciated the vibrancy of the Indian newspaper industry. However, he mentioned that country’s vivacity and enthusiasm has been under threat, like that of the countries like Mexico and Turkey, with killing of media professionals/journalists.

Panel discussion
The panel discussion titled ‘Future of News Media Business’ under the ‘Common Inaugural Session’ had a prolific panel of speakers comprising DD Purkayashtha, MD & CEO, ABP Pvt Ltd (India); Rajiv C Lochan, MD & CEO, Kasturi & Sons (India); Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media (India); and Shrijeet Mishra, COO, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL) with moderator Thomas Jacob, COO, WAN-IFRA, Germany. The discussion very deeply and extensively focused on both digital and print parameters, with the highlight of new challenging strategies the news media houses took up for the printed platform.

Panel discussion: 'Future of News Media Business'
Panel discussion: ‘Future of News Media Business’

Rajiv C Lochan narrated how The Hindu bulked up its cover price with its strategies to ‘meet the minds’ of their readers. The speaker also mentioned how the newspaper expanded its Sunday edition packed with new features to sustain journalism with a focus of pushing readers to pay more for quality contents. DD Purkayastha agreed the notion of increasing cover price; but he unfolded the fact that printed newspapers now typically rely on advertising for 90 percent of their revenue. In this, Rajiv Verma said selling newspaper below its production cost ‘a strange business model’, so that it must be changed.

When discussed about the ways to monetise in the digital era, Shrijeet Mishra said ‘innovation’ would be the ultimate way. In the similar tone, DD Purkayashtha asserted that proper collaboration between digital and traditional media would bring sustainable future, as digital ads become dearer nowadays. Rajiv Verma said the era is for digital ecosystem, in which video captivating is one of the key approaches to engage audience. Rajiv C Lochan said the ‘obsession with the readers’ has seen The Hindu’s variety of new projects and features including creation of a service in the business section, especially targeting home-buyers.

World Printers Forum
The opening of the World Printers Forum (Conference) kick-started with the Session 1: Print The Profit Centre, in which Manfred Werfel, deputy CEO, WAN-IFRA (Germany) took on newspaper printing in digital world. The discussion revolved around ‘Print-Online Performance Gap’. In the aspect, Knud Kraft from Axel Springer (Germany) talked how his newspaper managed to attract its reader base amidst the digital disruption, by adopting innovative methods and strategies following its publishing competence.
In the follow-up, Bimal Mehta, executive director, Vakil & Sons Pvt Ltd (India), narrated an allied topic—book publishing. The speaker discoursed how the newspaper industry could learn from book publishing, as this (book publishing) is flourishing today and how successful book publishes take their business ahead.

In the Session 2: Quality & Cost optimisation, Anjan Mazumdar, assistant VP- quality & EHS, HT Media, narrated the story of the company’s approach in changing Mint from Berliner to Broadsheet, and how they saved cost and improved quality in the move. In the subsequent session, two young engineers: Tonyraj Rajan, deputy chief manager, and Arvind Mallya, chief manager, Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (India), talked about the group’s various initiatives, which included web break reductions, downtime reduction and such practices to reduce cost of production. In the similar tone, Prabhu Natrajan, research engineer, WAN-IFRA South Asia (India) narrated production benchmarking using environmental key performance indicators.

In the follow-up session, on the topic Managing Newsprint Cost, PP Prakash, VP-materials, Malayala Manorama (India), narrated how the newspaper managed newsprint as major part of cost saving.

In the subsequent session, Nambi Rajan Narayanan, CFO & company secretary, Kasturi & Sons (India) took on ‘Newsprint and GST’ narrating all key factors involving in the new tax law and procurement, inter branch newsprint transport.

At the onset of the second day of the World Printers Forum, Anu Ahola, senior VP, UPM (Germany), spoke about how (special) inks can help to attract new business for newspaper printers. In the session titled ‘Improved Print Products and Distribution Models’, she narrated that newspaper printing houses opting for new business models, high performance and high bright newsprint, which eventually would help them to produce the products with great quality without any compromise in the performance. The next speaker SS Kulkarni, GM-technical, Huber Group, explained how special inks could help attract new business for newspaper publishers.

After a networking break, the session resumed with talk on ‘Greenolution’ in which Amit Khurana, COO-Newspaper Group, TechNova (India), talked about Green Evolution as holistic sustainable solution for eco-friendly printing technology in plates, chemicals and consumables, helping to offer improved print products. In the subsequent session, the topic of discussion was ‘Newspaper Distribution System’, which gave a highlight of how could distribution of a newspaper be organsised worldwide. Manfred Werfel, deputy CEO, WAN-IFRA Germany deliver an insightful talk on the practice.

Automated Newspaper Distribution System was the topic in the followed up session, in which the discussion was on how German newspaper Rheinische Post handles its delivery of not just their copies, but also their competitive titles. Michael Kiesswetter, MD, Rheinische Post (Germany) presented a case study on ‘automated MIS and systematic planning approach’ that has helped them deliver their copies to their readers on time.

Session 5, the last session of World Printers Forum, witnessed three keynote speakers who talked about New Revenue Streams. Narayanan VS, GM, Dinamalar, talked how newspaper printing presses could be utilised to boost business by diversifying activities into book and magazine productions. In the subsequent session, Kurt Naef, regional sales director, Muller Martini (Switzerland) presented some mailroom innovations. In the similar tone, there turned up Marcel Binder, sales director, WRH Global (Switzerland) and Per Hallendorff, executive project director, Schur (Sweden), who also talked about the new revenue streams.

World Editors Forum

Onset of the World Editors Forum (South Asia Summit) witnessed Mukund Padmanabhan, editor, The Hindu (India), talking in the Session 1: Journalism in the Digital World. The speaker talked about ‘Paying Reader Vs Promiscuous Reader.’ He narrated how and why the leading English daily of India increased cover price in Chennai and probably the highest in the country. And they still maintain the hold over their readers. He said readers haven’t abandoned them as a result of price increases. Price increase was part of a strategy of the newspaper’s 2016 re-launch/revamp, focusing more on content and approach.

The next in the session was on ‘Platform Publishing and the Way Forward in Collaboration’ by Raj Chengappa, editorial director, India Today (India), giving a spotlight on the emergence of social media platforms enabling the publishers to reach their specific target audience with precise content. He delivered tips on how news publishers can collaborate with social media platforms to maximise their growth. In the subsequent talk, Sitaraman Shankar, MD, Network 18 (India) explained how classic journalism in the digital world wouldn’t be dead. He said it would be about unlearning and learning again.

After a break, the Session 2: Trust and Quality of News resumed in the summit. In the session, Michael Schmidt, media consultant (South Africa), talked about the importance of field reporting and archival research would be more than relevant today. His narration included the adoption of modern day practices. The session was followed by another on news credibility in the digital era, in which Unni Balakrishnan, chief of news, Mathrubhumi Television (India) talked about how to pay attention on the rapidly changing audience habits.

End of the day’s Session 2 at the summit was marked with an inspiring Panel Discussion on Trust and Quality of News, in which the panel of speakers were Arun Ram, editor, The Times of India (India); Bella Hurrell, assistant editor, BBC News (UK); and Michael Schmidt, media consultant (South Africa), with Sitaraman Shankar, MD, Network 18 (India) in chair.

Second day of the World Editors Forum was opened with the Session 3 on Big Data & Reader Engagement. In the session, Bella Hurrell, assistant editor, BBC News (UK) presented a case study on ‘tools for news search’ with further discussions revolving around machine learning and artificial intelligence. She revealed the latest technology developments that teach the industry about the future of news. What it drew attention in the session was the BBC’s award winning case study: The Power of Data visualisation, which the corporation bagged gold at WAN-IFRA’s European Digital Media Awards for the project ‘Life and Death in Syria, that aimed to bring the conflict’s toll to life with a mix of data visualisation and simple, stark facts.

The next speaker at the session was Tajdin Hassan, head of marketing, The Daily Star (Bangladesh) who talked about social media and its role to push journalism to a new extent. Then followed up with Parankusha S, VP & head of R&D, Ninestars Information Technologies Pvt Ltd (India), who took on machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence)—what’s its prospects in the future of news media. Further, the next speaker Edward Walker, editor (digital), Trinity Mirror Regionals, Manchester (UK), narrated about audience development and big data.

The session continued with Jagran Group’s presentation of a case study titled ‘No More Going to the Jungle’, a campaign, for which the group’s daily Dainik Jagran bagged the WAN-IFRA award. It’s an example of fine reader engagement. Basanth Rathore, senior VP – strategic planning, brand & business development, Jagran Group narrated about the case study in the session. After a networking break, Vinita Nangia, director, Write India, (The Times of India) (India) presented a ‘case study’ on sub-brand adding value to the main title. In the session, the next speaker turned up as Hiranthi Fernando, editor, Fun Times, Wijeya Newspapers (Sri Lanka) who presented Young Reader Initiatives and Unique Exercises the newspaper indulged.

Common Closing Session

The conference came to a closing session which titled ‘Shaping The Future of News Publishing’ in which Ultimate Paper Guide – OPHAL from WAN-IFRA was presented by Manfred Werfel, deputy CEO, WAN-IFRA (Germany). The guide looks into the international cross industry project on paper handling and logistics. The next session was on fake news and future of journalism. In the session, Shadi Rahimi, senior producer, Al Jazeera (USA), talked at length about fake news threats and disturbances upon news media world. She specifically highlighted the misuse of social media, with instances related to havocs in USA.
The last session was hosted by Gautam Sinha, COO, Times Internet Ltd (India), who narrated about transforming the legacy company to a digital conglomerate, in which the he explained the challenges and experiences they have had encountered. After the conference, manroland web systems sponsored a printing plant visit for select delegates.

Expo at the Conference

Leading web offset blanket, inks, newsprint and other allied product machine manufactures in the newspaper industry exhibited their products and technologies as part of the conference. Manugraph presented its S-Line 4-page newspaper press, attracting everyone around. Newsprint supplier Poddar Global, presenting its product line, awards and achievements, took part in the expo persuasively. ABB introduced Version 6 of its MPS Production press management system at the expo. Damian Steadeli, head of printing, ABB said the upgraded production management system is a game-changing tool for newspaper production.

PRAKASH Web Offset at the expo impressed the visiting delegates with its booth presentation of company’s widely accepted newspaper presses, which included the latest Newslight 36 that is now running in the production facilities of a number of newspaper printing houses across India and abroad. Production heads of some leading newspaper houses at the event thronged the company’s exhibition booth throughout the three days of the conference.

Manroland India also presented its WEB store where the company’s spare parts and other products are available in the click of a mouse. Sudeep Bhattacharjee said they are introducing the online platform for making everything easy for their customers. Attractions at the stall of 4C Plus were the company’s complete newspaper production solutions made for content, apps, newsroom systems, editorial system, dashboard, etc. On the other side, Trelleborg announced its web offset blanket technology relating to newspaper production, presenting fresh developments, in its globally recognised brands: Vulcan, Rollin, Printec and Axcyl.

Cadgraph (Anygraaf) at its stall presented dynamic range of publishing solutions, which include the AProfit ad management system. Hannu Inbeg, MD, Anygraaf, said they are now exploring the Indian newspaper market, which is vibrant and growing, for further expansion. Wellprint was another exhibitor showing its varied range of inks for web offset presses. At its stall News Hub Media (NHM) launched the ‘newest version’ of Ark DAM system, which is designed specifically for both digital and print productions. Swapan Chaudhuri, CEO, NHM said they received good feedback to their newly unpacked solution. In the similar tone, Amit Desai from QuadTech said their showcases of products received positive feedbacks and enquiries.

OneVision presented its automation line, which consists of print-ready files designed for quality control. Harish Prasad, country sales manager, OneVision said the overall mission of the company is to offer newspaper production houses fully automated quality control tools. Protec Media, with its India partner Newstech, showcased software solutions, such as Milenium Cross Media, a wide portfolio of open modular solutions, impressing every visitor around at the expo. Similarly, ppi Media also presented its cross-media publishing solutions for web-based systems. Other host of Indian and overseas exhibitors at the expo included Muller Martini, Summit, Kapoor Imaging, TOYO Inks, TPH, Seiken Graphics, APL, Adwonce, Novurania, Digital Navigation, Harland Simon, PS and others.

South Asian Digital Media Awards 2017

The winners
The winners

As part of the conference, WAN-IFRA announced this year’s winners of South Asian Digital Media Awards 2017 as listed below:

News Website
Kasturi & Sons Ltd (Gold)
Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd (Silver)
New Delhi Television Ltd (Bronze)

Best in Lifestyle
Sports or Entertainment Website Arré (Gold)
Kasturi & Sons Ltd (Silver)

Best Use of Online Video (including VR)
Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd (Gold)
Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd (Silver)
India Today Group (Bronze)

Best Data Visualisation
Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd (Gold)
Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt) Ltd (Silver)
Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt) Ltd (Bronze)

Best News Mobile Service
New Delhi Television Ltd (Gold)
Times Internet Ltd (Silver)
Malayala Manorama Company Ltd (Bronze)

Best Innovation New Product
Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd (Gold)
Jang Group of Newspapers (Silver)
Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (Bronze)

Best in Social Media Engagement
The Daily Star (Gold)
Sakaal Media Group (Silver)
The Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co Ltd (Bronze)
New Delhi Television Ltd (Bronze)

Best Digital Advertising Campaign
(including Branded Content)
The Daily Star (Gold)
The Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co Ltd (Bronze)

Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audiences
Kasturi & Sons Ltd (Gold)
New Delhi Television Ltd (Silver)
The Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing Co Ltd (Bronze)

Delegates comment

“I love the talk of Mr Anjan Mazumdar of HT Media, who gave us an insight of the newspaper’s growth strategies, focusing on their changing of Berliner format to Broadsheet. After all the conference is quite fruitful in an overall manner.”
–Pradeep A Unny, AVP-production
(Newspapers & Commercials), Amar Ujala

“Over the last 12 years I have been a regular attendee to WAN-IFRA India Conference. My attraction to this event is the ‘case studies’ presented by the leading newspaper and machine/product manufactures.”
–Navneet Kumar, production manager, The Tribune

“This conference is the ultimate destination for us to upgrade ourselves with new technologies aand business models. It’s really good to meet the industry stalwarts in one place during the conference.”
–Bhausaheb B Patil,
director (operation), Sakal Media Group

“WAN-IFRA India Conference is a mecca of the newspaper industry. This is the place where you can interact with the industry leaders and get fresh knowledge of developments and trends.”
–L Adimoolam,
business and technical director, Dinamalar

“The printers forum in the conference is where I take extra interest, because it gives me new ideas and methods where the industry is on and heading to. Even the case studies are thought oriented.”
–RC Malhotra, All India controller-production,
The Indian Express (Pvt) Ltd

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