Circulation of printed newspapers recovers to 75 percent in India

Experts at ‘Re-imagining Print’ live chat estimate that the lost circulation of printed newspapers in India has recovered to 75 percent, full recovery like to happen soon. The leaders predict the remaining 20-25 percent copies that are yet to make a comeback are expected to be back in circulation sooner than later.

Printed newspapers in India took a hard hit during the lockdown but as most of India enter Unlock 1.0 newspaper publishing and circulation is also coming back to normalcy. The newspaper circulation in the country has come up to almost 70-75 percent said experts at the ‘Re-imagining Print’ live chat hosted by The Advertising Club Bangalore.

Sivakumar Sundaram, Chairman Executive Committee, BCCL and Girish Agarwal, Promoter Director of Dainik Bhaskar Group were the two speakers in the panel that was chaired by managing partner at the ad club, Radhika Ramani. Girish explained that the circulation of newspapers got impacted on the first week of lockdown and there were two reasons for this, one, because of the national lockdown where people did not understand how to deliver the newspapers; second reason is the rumors that were going rounds in social media on newspapers spreading the COVID-19 virus, which got clarified in a week.

The newspaper circulation went down to 60-65 percent, and by April came up to almost 70-75 percent. By May-June, most of the Indian language newspapers crossed the mark of 80 percent mark. Interestingly, Malayala Manorama has already reached 97 percent. The remaining 20-25 percent copies that are yet to make a comeback are expected to be back in circulation in a month or two.

According to Sivakumar, COVID-19 started as an urban phenomenon and therefore in the initial stages maximum impact was seen in the major cities as compared to non-urban centers. He addressed the issue in two ways—household copies and other institutional copies (in hotels, airlines, airports, etc.) and institutional copies that are not so important, and it will take time as there is a lot of work from home happening. What has been found out is that the language papers got picked up during the COVID-19 crisis

As the noise around COVID-19 started around November 2019 none of the newspaper houses anticipated the extent of crisis the virus would lead to and the first thing most of them wanted to ensure was adequate newsprint stocks. In this respect, Sivakumar said that they were quite well equipped and stocks were well distributed. He added that as a policy, they always maintain 45-75 days of the stock and they developed good inventories, given the softening of prices happening over the last 18 months. At the beginning of April, they were almost 70-80 percent in stock.

Girish asserted that they believe in Make in India. That’s why they take 50 percent from India, and the other 50 percent of the stock is imported, for publishing newspapers from 65 locations. It was difficult for them in the initial two weeks to send copies to these markets; it was resolved. In a positive way none of the newspaper publishers in the country got shut down during the lockdown period.

As 75 percent of the newspaper revenue is from advertising and 25 percent from circulation, according to Girish, Dainik Bhaskar Group generally subsidizes newspapers. During this COVID period, the volume of advertising for them was nil, and 75 percent of revenue went down to almost 10-30 percent. They were able to reduce the pages, and as a result, publishing cost came down, and subsidy came to zero. Because of these reasons, the group was able to survive with the 10-30 percent revenue.

Print to go big in post-corona

Printed newspapers have been one of the most affected sectors during the COVID-19 crisis. The medium has started to recover now, but the recovery rate has been different from region to region. In a webinar titled ‘Print: Emerging Stronger Post Covid-19’ with moderator Kishan Kumar Shyamalan, Vice President, Wavemaker India and panelists comprising Abhinav Khare, CEO, AsianetNews Network; Eshwar N, CMO, CASAGRAND; KRP Reddy, Director – Advertising and Marketing, Sakshi Group; Suresh Balakrishna, Chief Revenue Officer, The Hindu Group; and Varghese Chandy, VP, Marketing, Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama.

During the course of discussion, the panelists would deliberate upon the evolution of the print industry in the ‘new normal’, both in short-term and long-term. They also discussed how print, being a tactical medium, how they could engage better with advertisers and showcase its true strength. With circulation numbers decreasing in Q4, the panelists forecast the impact on ad-rates and how would print evolve in the media mix.

The other focus of the discussion would be on challenges faced by the print media on account of continued pressure on ad-rates, on driving subscription, targeting the younger demographics, and stabilisation of newsprint costs; and its subsequent impact on production costs. With the festive season kicking off in a few months, the panel deliberated how print players can get advertisers back on board with the message that this is the right time to advertise.

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