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Indian newspaper industry is cashing billions of dollars from ads

US, UK, Chennai, FICCI, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Newspapers

Opinion

Indian newspaper industry is cashing billions of dollars from ads

While many local newspapers in the US and the UK, which have been forced to shut down or scale back because of diminishing advertising income, scenario for Indian newspaper industry is totally contrast. Take the example of a tiny weekly newspaper named Mylapore Times, which prints every Saturday with thirty thousand copies, while its circulation in 2011 was just four thousand. According to its website, “Mylapore Times is a free, English weekly, local area newspaper was launched in 1994 for the neighborhoods of Mylapore, Mandaveli, R A Puram, Alwarpet, San Thome, Abhiramapuram”. It does not have even one-tenth of online readership compared to the readership of Blitz. Every Thursday, Blitz prints over 30,000 copies. But, if we consider revenue of the Mylapore Times and Blitz, while we are struggling for survival due to scarcity of advertisement revenue, Mylapore Times earns hugely from the ads.

Back in 2011, when Mylapore Times was 17 years old, it could afford a tiny office, as described by BBC, “One small room with bright blue walls houses the production team which comprises no fewer than seven people at any given time.

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“The adjacent room, piled high with old editions, is the reception area hosting a steady stream of local businessmen and women here to take out advertisements”.

Now the scenario might have slightly changed. The Mylapore Times currently has its office at Shop No.27, 2nd Floor, Corporation Shopping Complex, Ramaswamy Road, Alwarpet, Chennai. The newspaper launched its online edition, in addition to print in 2010 – 16 years after it began its print edition. Since the COVID pandemic broke out in March 2019, Mylapore Times suspended its print publication and its web site has been a 24×7 space for info and news. But the weekly resumed print edition from mid-January 2021 and has been witnessing rise in advertisement revenue and circulation in its print edition.

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The key reason is significant increase in advertisement revenue to print media in India. Despite the hold the television industry has on the country, it is the print press which is attracting more advertisers, making up 47 percent of the overall share. In 2010 alone, advertising spend for print media was worth US$2.86 billion (£1.74 billion).

According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) the value of the Indian newspaper industry has grown by two-thirds during 2005-2011. In 2005, the total industry was worth US$2.64 billion dollars. This rose to US$4.37 billion in 2010. There is an increase in annual advertisement revenue to the tune of 10 percent. Meaning, by now, the volume of advertisement in the print media is above US$ 8-9 billion.

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More than 107 million copies of newspapers were circulated daily across India in 2009, according to the World Association of Newspapers, and it’s estimated that one in every five daily newspapers in the world is published in the country.

Increased literacy is one reason for the rise in newspaper readership in India – not just in English language titles but in regional languages. Over 800 million literate population is said to read a newspaper now.

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Across India there are hundreds of titles in regional dialects. The country’s two top-selling newspapers are Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, according to the Media Research Users Council. Both are published in Hindi and continue to attract readers and revenue.

Another reason for increased readership is the low cost of buying a newspaper. Pricing is at about a tenth of the price of a newspaper in America or in the UK so it’s possible for an upper middle-class family to buy two or three newspapers a day.

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While many newspaper markets have been hit by the growth of online journalism the outlook for Indian print media remains buoyant. But things will change as India has already emerged into a country with the third-largest Internet users after the US and China.

According to industry insiders, while hundreds of regional and weekly newspapers in the US and rest of the Western countries are forced to shut-down due to shortage of advertisement revenue, newspaper industry in India witnesses just the opposite. Number of readers for both print and online edition of newspapers are on rise. At the same time, in India, for example, the size of readership of weeklies with daily online edition has been significantly increasing. This is yet to happen in Bangladesh despite the fact of increase in literacy rate and the size of Internet users.

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Sohail Choudhury is the Executive Editor of Blitz

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