Wan-Ifra India 2019 Conference begins in Gurugram

The 27th edition of the annual Wan-Ifra India 2019 Conference, the largest gathering of news publishers in South Asia, was inaugurated at The Leela Ambience, Gurugram, on 18 September. The event is on until tomorrow.

18 Sep 2019 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

Organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and co-sponsored by Indian Newspaper Society, the theme for this year’s conference is ‘Driving revenue and excellence in challenging times.’

Featuring two parallel events — Advertising Summit and Printing Summit — the event will see the attendance of more than 300 senior publishing executives from over 25 countries. While the experts will share about innovations transforming the global media industry, there will also case studies and best practices directly relevant to local media operations.

At the exhibition coinciding conference, there are 25 exhibitors displaying their product and services. These include TechNova, PPI Media, Krause, Baldwin, Prakash, PoddarGlobal, Manugraph, QI Press Controls, NewsTech, Manroland Goss, ABB, among others.

The conference on 18 September started with three keynote addresses.

In the first keynote address, Lisa MacLeod, head of digital, Tiso Blackstar Group, vice-president, Wan-Infra, gave an overview of the South African newspaper market and the measures taken to work within the challenging environments of the market.

MacLeod said while the use of digital in South Africa is not as widespread as it is in India, due to the higher cost of data, the company has been pushing for news distribution via digital using the paywall model. She said while digital offers faster news delivery for the readers, it also works well for the company as it offers higher margin in lower cost. MacLeod said, today, 35% of Blackstar Group subscribers are in digital. She said the company has also seen a big growth in advertisement in its digital platform.

Meanwhile, for print, the group has taken measures by investing more on street sales, by consolidating retail and subscription and constantly optimising pagination.

“Our focus is on retaining customers above more than acquiring new ones,” she said.

In the second keynote address, Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief, The Straits Times & SPH's English/ Malay/ Tamil Media Group, talked about extending the life of the printed product, while gearing up for a digital-first newsroom. Fernandez explained how the company revamped the newsroom by starting with literally revamping the office space. He also gave the audience a run-down on the day-to-day activities of the newsroom.

“We are no longer a newspaper, but a multimedia operator,” Fernandez said, “It’s not platform first, but journalism first approach.”

He said while working on the revamp, the company travelled to different newsrooms in different country, finally it realised that it had to do it on its own. “We cannot follow others without understanding our needs,” he said.

Fernandez also gave the audience the details on World News Day to be celebrated on 28 September.

World News Day celebrates the work of professional news organisations and the impact they make on the communities they serve. World News Day aims to raise public awareness of the critical role that newsrooms and journalists play in providing the public with credible and reliable news and views, to help people make sense of — and improve — the rapidly changing world around them. 

In the third keynote address, Raj Jain, CEO, Bennett, Coleman & Co, gave an overview of the publishing business in India, with a reference to The Times of India

While praising the works being done by the Indian Readership Survey, Jain said TOI has not only increased its readership, it has also seen popularity among the younger age groups.

Talking about digital news distribution, Jain said while news in digital has certainly increased, it has failed to generate similar revenues, except for large scale aggregators like Facebook and Google. “Going forward, we need to build a strong foothold in the digital platform,” he said. “The newspaper industry needs to be its own innovator and its own distuptor.”

Going ahead, Jain said the news-making process and the readers are the key. “We need to transform the newspaper into a views-paper,” Jain said. “Newspaper publishers need to build capability in such a way that both print and digital can work together in a medium agnostic environment for a 360-degrees reach.”

Raj Jain, CEO, Bennett Coleman & Co

Session highlights

Pressing issues of the newspaper business

Looking back to leap forward: Wan-Ifra’s recent report ‘Newspaper technology history’ documented and analysed the milestone developments in the newspaper technology. These findings reveal interesting facts, which necessitated the invention of ground breaking technology and lessons we could learn from this study to change the course of newspapers business?

Speakers: Balaji Kasturi, former director, Kasturi & Sons; Gerhard Raab, owner, Gerhard Raab International Consulting, Germany

Newsprint demand-supply

Painful days of the past year caused by higher newsprint prices and uncertainty in availability has almost stabilised now. Nevertheless, the newspaper companies still worry about volatile prices. What is the present scenario, trends in the future and possible price indexes in the pulp and paper industry?

Speakers: Emmy Silva, engineering and newsprint consultant

Business model

Indian newspapers continue to invest in new press and production capabilities. How far this would go and what to invest in the future is in everyone’s mind. Some companies look to optimise the utility of the existing capacity by taking outsourced print jobs, and some outsource their printing job in new markets/non-competing areas to others. What is the ideal win-win model?

Women in News panel

‘Women in News' is the initiative of Wan-Ifra that aims to increase women's leadership and voice in news. It hopes to address head on the issues of women in newsrooms, in order to initiate a dialogue that aims at better gender diversity and equality in newsrooms. The panel on 18 September will discuss: What are the largest issues that need to be addressed regarding women in newsrooms? What happens when women take on decision making or leadership roles in newsrooms? It doesn’t begin and end with hiring and retention of women journalists – we need to bring balance to women as source and subject of stories. How do we achieve that? What has been the real impact of the #MeToo movement in newsrooms - on the rampant sexism in newsrooms? What are the HR practices, amendments to Vishakha guidelines that are needed now? How do we address the trolling against women journalists head on?

Speakers: Ritu Kapur, co-founder and CEO, Quintillion Media; Neha Dixit, independent journalist; Priya Ramani, national features editor, Mint; Ritu Sarin, editor, investigations, Indian Express

Elements of design thinking

Elements of design thinking and user-centric approach. How the design-thinking ideas could be aligned with putting customers first in newspaper business.

Speaker: Karthikayini Subbaraman, chief product officer, Xperian

Innovative approach in supply chain management

Innovative approach in supply chain management by HT Media for business excellence.

Speaker: Neel Kant Saxena, director, supply chain, HT Media

On-time distribution of newspaper

Distribution is still a challenge and complicated one for every newspaper company. Throughout the world, companies have evolved with different models to achieve with a good business model for on-time delivery. Case study from a European newspaper.

Speaker: Frode Finnes Larsen, chief technology officer, Distribution Innovation, Norway

High circulation numbers and door delivery of newspapers

Asian case study: Newspaper market in Japan is very similar to India, with high circulation numbers and door delivery of newspapers every day. How do Japanese newspapers manage distribution? A case study.

Speaker: Takashi Kanari, deputy manager, Asahi Shimbun, Japan

Efficiency of newspaper delivery

The efficiency of newspaper delivery: Optimising resources, routes, logistics to minimize and working with vendor/distributors to reduce the overall time of distribution. An Indian case study.

Speaker: Oliver Lesly Velitinger, general manager, circulation, The Printers, Mysore

Common closing session

Panel discussion: CEOs of leading Indian publishing companies discuss the challenges in print, how to extend its life, how each media group is transforming, where are the opportunities, etc.

Speakers: Thomas Jacob, chief operating officer, Wan-Ifra, Germany; Raj Jain, CEO, Bennett, Coleman & Co; Pawan Agarwal, deputy MD & CEO, DB Corp; DD Purkayastha, managing director and CEO, ABP