Indian Print Media’s Innovation Dilemma: Digital Natives Are Coming

More than 200 years after the country’s first newspaper was published, the industry is faced with what is a classic example of the innovators dilemma. Should they cannibalize existing sales and invest in the future that is digital, or milk the cash cow some more?

Recent developments in the print industry suggest that it might be too late to act, if the industry doesn’t start now. A few publications are up for sale and few others have been sold, shut down or downsized. Sales and marketing teams are under more pressure than ever.

Earlier this year, Business Standard Limited sold its BS Motoring magazine to Delhi Press. At the time of sale in April, the magazine incorporated in 1998,  had racked up losses.

Few days ago, much to the disappointment its loyal readers, the Times Group pulled the plug on “Times Crest,”  the Saturday special it printed for the discerning reader. For the edition which was in circulation since 2009, the publisher said

“Alas, for any venture to be self sustaining, revenues need to at least match costs;critical acclaim alone cannot keep it alive forever.”

That’s not it. Here’s another one. Outlook has given up licences to three international titles because it was too costly.

Declining print readership in India

According to the Indian readership survey for the fourth quarter, the average issue readership (AIR) of the top 10 hindi dailies has declined by 6.12%. For English dailies, the decline has been 4.75. A cumulative decline of 30.15% was seen in readership of top 10 magazines, the hardest hit.Readership Survey Q4
Only five out of 10 top English dailies saw a growth in their readership this quarter as compared to 7 in the previous quarter. While these numbers tell a story, these can’t be treated for absolute truth.

These numbers aren’t surprising if one looks at the second quarter of 2012 when print media grew only .9 % cagr while digital media grew 34.8%.

Digital Growth in India

Online advertising spend in India is expected to reach Rs 2,700 crore in Jan-Dec 2013. It’s a 31% yoy growth as compared to previous year, with Internet advertising taking 7% share of the overall Indian advertising market.Advertising Spend in India

The decline in Indian print media isn’t as pronounced as it is in the west yet. However, early signs of declining readership, flow of english readers from print to digital media and increasing advertising pressure can not be ignored.

There are 87 million mobile internet users in India which are expected to grow by 164 million by 2015. And nearly 40% of the mobile internet users have already ditched newspapers to consume content on Smartphone.

But Indian Digital Media Has a Long Way To Go

According to a PWC forecast, the Indian newspaper market will be the only one which will grow by double digits cagr (10%) by 2017. While it is a long road ahead for digital media in India. Revenues from newspapers is still far higher than revenues from the Internet. The former leads the Indian advertising revenue with 39% of market share as compared to 7 % advertising share commanded by digital.

Pwc indian media

However, for the last two years, print growth has been nearly stagnant with about .8% cagr. Meanwhile, Digital grew about 34% in the second quarter and 24% from second to fourth quarter.

Large media houses, however, aren’t unaware of the challenge. While DNA, under its new leadership has been thinking of new digital initiatives, The Indian Express has been quite vocal about its digital ambitions. The 75 year old group, is all set to relaunch group’s digital properties under the leadership of Anant Goenka, Director & Head of new media, Express Group. [Source] In June, the group’s online property witnessed more than 60 million page views as compared to 20 million in January 2012. The Times Group has partnered with the likes of Gizmodo and Business Insider to push digital revenues. It has also been experimenting with augmented reality and mobile applications. Mint, the business publication of the HT Media, has gone digital first and has launched a few online initiatives.

What’s going on in the West?

The last few years have wreaked havoc on print industry in the west with many newspapers shutting shop. Year 2012 has not been well for print magazines either. Many reading print publications closed their print operations to go digital.

Just couple of weeks ago, global computer magazine PCWorld announced its demise after being in print for 30 years, with August issue being the last.

The Quick & The Dead

Here’s a list of publications that shut print operations in 2012-13.

  • PCWorld magazine stopped its print edition and will shift to digital only format. Duration: 1983-2013, total time in the business: 30 years.
  • Weekly news magazine Newsweek has shut down print edition, will go digital from now. Duration: 1933-2012, total time in the business: 80 years.
  • Future US, leading publisher of gaming magazines shuts 4 of its print editions to focus on digital properties.
  1. PSM3. Duration: 2000 to 2012, total time in the business: 12 Years
  2. Xbox World. Duration: 2003 to 2012, total time in the business: 9 Years.
  3. Nintendo Power magazine, oldest gaming magazine in US.Duration: 1988-2012, total time in the business: 24 Years
  4. PlayStation: The Official Magazine. Duration: 1997 to 2012, total time in the business: 15 Years
  • Game Developer Magazine shuts print edition. Will transit to digital edition on Gamasutra. Duration: 1994-2013, total time in the business: 19 years.
  • Music publication Spin announces closure. Plans to expand its digital offerings.Duration: 1985 to 2012, total time in the business: 27 Years.

All of these shutdowns have one thing in common; all of them are going digital!

A Survey by Pew Research Centre conducted, on news consumption patterns by Americans, reveals some interesting findings which signify the decreasing popularity of print and increasing share of digital media.

  • 19% of American citizens viewed news on social networking sites in 2012, up from 9% in 2010.
  • In 2012, 39% of US public used online sources for getting the daily news in comparison to 29% who preferred print newspapers.

Assuming India follows the west, it is high time publications started making disproportionate investment into their digital business.

Audience vs. Revenue: Globally

News Consumption through digital means is growing at a fast pace on a yearly basis. In comparison to 36% last year, 40% of the world’s digital audience read online newspaper online in 2012, as per a report

However, according to “World Press Trends 2012” a report by World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), 2.5 billion people read newspapers in print at least once a week, in comparison to 600 million people who access it online. Since 2007 global newspaper audience has increased by 4.2% with paid-for circulation increasing by 1.1% globally. Global Growth

Despite this phenomenal increase in audience, global advertising revenues from print newspapers states a different story altogether. Revenues from print advertising have seen a massive shrink in past couple of years.

Share of newspaper advertising expenditure went down to 18.9% in 2012 from 20.3% in 2011 and it is further expected to decrease to 15% by 2013. On the contrary, Internet’s share of global advertising rose from 16% in 2011 to 18% in 2012 and is expected to reach 23% by 2015 according to forecasts by Zenithoptimedia.

2 comments

  • yeaa being a media student , I can also say yes readership for print media is declining day by day. because the youth is focusing on the digital aspect. due to their busy schedule they cannot sit at a place and read newspaper of 30 pages approx. after a span of years rural areas will no longer be rural in digital sense.

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