Topsy–turvy rise of magazines in India

At this year’s PrintWeek India Conclave, Tarun Rai, chief executive officer, Worldwide Media, and president, The Association of Indian Magazines, spoke about the myths perpetuated by mainstream media about the impending decline of print. He then brought up an engagement survey AIM had undertaken.

15 Dec 2012 | By Mihir Joshi

3,600 people were surveyed in 10 cities and some of the points that came out of the survey were fascinating, according the survey about 62% of the people find magazine trustworthy and reliable (more than any other media).

There's little doubt about India's market potential. According to a national survey, 300 million literate adults still don't read any publication. Readership of newspapers and magazines is up 15% since 1998 to 180 million. It's a reflection of a younger, more educated population, especially in smaller cities.

The Indian Readership Survey for Q2 2012 has shown decline in the readership of six of the top 10 magazines in India and most of these magazines are regional language periodicals with a couple of English magazines giving them company. What is interesting to note is that most of these magazines are non-news magazines. Media channels like television and internet are able to provide real time news and newspaper provide in-depth analysis, this has affected the readership of news magazine, and this is a classic case of fragmentation of media channels.

Print media in India is more than a century old and a well-established industry, it basically consists mainly newspaper, book publishing and magazine publishing. Since the liberalisation of the Indian economy in the early 90’s a steady stream of new magazines have been launched every year. India has been one of the fastest growing world economies in the past three years. This growth has given rise to rising income levels and robust consumption, which in turn have propelled the growth of print media. Add to that a vibrant and young population with an ever increasing literacy rate (Indian literacy rate grew to 74.04% in 2011 from 12% at the end of British rule in 1947) and we have what many consider as a recipe for success.

The Indian magazine publishing industry is facing a challenge i.e. fragmentation of media channels. Newspapers have added supplements to their main issue and infringed on the content covered by magazines earlier. There has been a proverbial explosion in the number of television channels between then and now. The increased penetration and adoption of the Internet as a mode of information in the country has also increased. Technological advancements have opened new vistas. Smartphones and electronic notepad have taken publication into a different medium; print is no longer the only form of media for a magazine.

India has well over 49,000 publications, most of them are regional publications in a vernacular language and have limited reach, resources and scope for expansion. A handful of publishers dominate the market thanks to their nationwide presence and impeccable distribution system, which the smaller regional publications lack. Technological divide also exists among the nationwide publishers and their regional counterparts. With the magazine market expanding to Tier II and Tier III cities, a robust distribution and marketing system is required to reach out the new consumers. There is also the need to localise the content in order for it to be more relevant for the readers.

Globally, low disposable income and high uncertainty due to the recent recession diminished advertising revenue and circulation for the global magazine publishing industry during the past five years. Fragmentation of media channels has also added to falling readership. Alternative media, including quickly expanding online content, is increasingly competing for readers' time (diminishing magazine circulation) and for advertising spending.

Many magazines have able to offer something unique which keeps the readers coming back for more. AutoCar India’s anniversary issues are one such example. For their 13th anniversary issue AutoCar came out with 500-page bumper issue. It was a brilliant and innovative idea in order to break-free from its competitors and breaks the clutter bubble.

There has also been a cultural shift in the way the magazine works – magazines are much more than just printed periodicals, we are a brand now, and as a brand we communicate through many different mediums. We have a website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, apps etc. These extensions should not detract from print version it should enhance it, getting the balance right is the key.

In 2009, the re-elected UPA government had taken a further step in liberalisation by opening the print media sector for foreign investors. The Government gave its nod to an increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in facsimile editions of foreign newspapers. The Government also announced customs duty exemption on newsprint. The Indian Government unveiled a set of guidelines to allow Indian editions of foreign news and current affairs magazines 26% foreign direct investment as long as all key executives and editorial staff are Indian.

PrintWeek India Magazine Printer of the Year Award Winners

PrintWeek India Consumer magazine Printer of the year  Spenta Multimedia For Adorn, Domus, India Boating andMarwar    
PrintWeek India Business magazine Printer of the year   Jak Printers For Art India, G2 and IFJ-41          

The favourable economic conditions and the largely untapped Indian English-reading demographic have already attracted some major international publishing companies like Dow Jones, Haymarket, News Corp, Pearson and Time India.

Show me the money
Approximately 73% of the revenue generated by magazines is from advertisement, while the rest of it is contributed by the subscription fees. So it becomes paramount to keep the advertisers interested and provide a good return on investment in the advertisements. The AIM engagement survey had also found that 87% of the people that were surveyed did not do anything else while reading a magazine (undivided consumer attention), Ad avoidance much lower than any other media at 12% as most of the magazine readers don’t see magazine ad as a nuisance, but as part of the magazine experience.

A recent AdValue study, which was collated from an analysis of sales and media data based on both consumer panels and econometrics, found that advertising in magazines led to an 8% average increase in spend per consumer household. According to the study, carried out by market research firm Nielsen, magazines give advertisers a better rate of ROI on ad spend than TV. Nielsen’s director of UK media and analytics Simon Nudds said: "AdValue demonstrates the ability of magazine advertising to increase sales and deliver measurable results."

Many publication houses have created a brand around their magazines by organising various seminars, awards ceremonies and events which apart from pulling in revenues also serve as a brilliant platform for industry players to network. Conde Nast has Reader’s Travel Awards, where the readers are given the authority to choose their winners. Magazines like Stuff which is focused mainly on consumer electronics, gadgetry and lifestyle products recently organised Stuff Gadget Show, Nishant Padhiar, editor, Stuff and What Hi Fi India said,“ We will be doing a similar show to our Stuff Gadget Show in a condensed manner around malls in the country. We are also looking at changing the whole vision of the Stuff Show next year. It might become a much larger show in terms of size, scale and breadth. We want to make it an evolution of the Stuff Show. “

Way Ahead...
Digital media is here to stay. It offers easy access and mobility. Perhaps print as a medium can only prosper with exclusivity, much of the content in the magazines suffering major losses can be availed for free on the internet. Publisher should also try use the digital media to pull readers towards their print versions, the print magazine has to be the pivot on which all other channels rotate and into which those other channels can feed. Uniqueness will remain the key in the age of fragmented media channels.

The Economist ran story about the revival of the magazine industry in the developing world on 9 June this year and poetically concluded a rather prosaic report with “As long as there are coffee tables, people will want things to put on them” It sums up this article in sentence.