Thursday, 28 July 2005, 4am, 39Ã‚Â°C. I am visiting the INA Market newspaper morning distribution centre in India’s capital, New Delhi. This shopping arcade consists of small shops that operate as hardware stores during the daytime. But every night, it transforms into a buzz of activity when about 6,000 newspaper vendors collect their stock here from the agents of different newspapers.
!_LT_EMThe newspapers are loaded in huge piles onto the bicycles !_LT_/EM!_LT_EMÃ¢Â€Â“ !_LT_/EM!_LT_EMat the front, the sides and the back. These cyclists would put a trapeze artist to shame. It’s amazing how they manage to balance the entire pile, which often is higher than the bicycle rider himself.!_LT_/EM
But it is only when my host explained that this is only one of the 50 distribution centres in New Delhi, that the real magnitude of newspaper circulation figures in India struck me.
According to the latest information supplied by the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI), the number of dailies published in the country are 6,529. Of these, 481 are published in English and 2,912 in Hindi. The rest are constituted by the 14 other official languages and more than 800 regional dialects of India.
A significant number of newspapers are published in languages other than English: Bengali (116), Gujarati (186), Kannada (428), Malayalam (242), Marathi (469) and Telugu (375).
India has a population of more than 1.1-billion, of which approximately 250-million are classified as middle class. It has a geographical area of 3.3-million km2. The government follows a Federal multi-party parliamentary democracy. The literacy rate stands at close to 65 percent. It is a religiously diverse country, with 82 percent Hindus, 12 percent Muslims, two percent Christians and two percent Sikhs. English is the accepted language for education, business and finance.
In India, low cover prices, spreading literacy and rising incomes have translated into rapidly growing newspaper sales. Elsewhere in the world, print may be losing out to television and the internet, but in India, the leading print media players enjoy revenue growth rates of between 20 to 40 percent, with even faster growth in profits because of the buoyancy of advertising.
According to the 2007 PWC Indian Entertainment and Media (E&M) Industry Report, print as a medium continues to dominate over other media in terms of revenues from advertising with the highest market share of total advertising spend in India in 2006 (48 percent), which amounted to Rs. 78-billion. Backed by increasing overall ad spends, the print media industry grew by a healthy 17 percent to Rs.128-million in 2006 over 2005. The size of the industry is expected to further increase to Rs. 232-million by 2011.
With several new publications released in recent years, both the newspaper and magazine industry are expected to show healthy growth rates. The newspaper industry, currently estimated to be worth Rs. 112-million, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent to Rs. 201-million by 2011.
More than 18-million newspapers are circulated daily in India and about 95 percent of these are delivered by vendors at households before sunrise. Cover prices are extremely low, on average Rs.1.50 (28c), which means that this is actually a “free newspaper” model and the cover price just ensures that copies are not picked up straight from the market and sold as waste paper. Though the vernacular newspaper titles are more and their circulation and readership much higher than the English newspapers, it is interesting to note that the advertising and circulation revenue of English dailies is significantly higher than the vernacular newspapers. Of the vernacular dailies, Hindi language newspapers that are published in the prosperous “Hindi belt”, in northern India, perform the best. The latest findings of 2007 IRS (R2), one of the two official national readership studies indicate a reduction in the readership of most of the top dailies.
Dainik Jagran is the most widely read daily in India. Dainik Jagran is a Hindi language newspaper that has a circulation of 2.11-million and readership of 17.11-million. Its editorial positioning is targeted towards a youth and middle age audience looking for serious news content. However the Hindi used is easy to understand which ensures widespread popularity.
Dainik Bhaskar is neck-to-neck with Dainik Jagran. It is also a Hindi newspaper in northern and western India. It has the highest circulation of all the dailies in India at 3.5-million and a readership of 12.5-million. It is a regional newspaper that has a focus on the second tier city population, aimed at people who can read as well as write in Hindi language.
Malayalam Manorama is a Malayalam language daily based in Kerala in the South of India and circulated in Kerala, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. It has a circulation of 1.54-million and a readership of 8.66-million. It is one of the best newspaper brands in India and is the number one non- English and non-Hindi Newspaper in India.
Hindustan is the fourth-highest read newspaper on an all India basis and is published in the northern states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It has a circulation of 0.98- million and readership of 8.55-million. Its emphasis is on political news. Hindustan is published by the prominent HT Media Group, whose flagship is the English daily, Hindustan Times.
Amar Ujala is the fifth most-read newspaper. It is also published in Hindi and is circulated in the second and third tier cities in Northern India. It has a circulation of 1.4-million and readership of 8.08-million. It targets the general mass market and is positioned towards the middle age audience seeking hard news content.
The real advertising spend, however, is still with the English dailies in India with Times of India and Hindustan Times at the top of the list.
The Times of India, having nine editions in English with a circulation of more than 2.6-million, is often marketed as “the world’s highest circulated English broadsheet daily”. It is a newspaper that is targeted towards young professionals and the youth, with a focus on markets with purchasing power and disposable income. The Times of India is published by India’s largest media group, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., a 167-year-old media conglomerate with interests ranging from Publishing, Internet, Radio and Music, to Retailing, Events, Television, etc. It is the most prominent and respected media and entertainment group in India.
The current fastest-growing daily in India on the basis of readership is Rajasthan Patrika, a Hindi language daily published in the state of Rajasthan with a circulation of 875,000 and readership of 7.4-million, that increased by 10 percent in the past year.
However, for the first time, with the publication of the India Readership Survey’s second round for 2007 (IRS comes out with two readership surveys a year), it is now evident that there can be a slight decline in readership figures. This is in keeping with global trends and India will probably see similar trends in the future.
The effect of the expected growth of 35 percent in paper cost on a business model which is based on high circulation on a low cover price, can have a major effect on the non- English, frontrunner dailies in India. They will have to cut down on circulation, while advertising rates won’t grow enough to cover the rise in paper costs.
Internet penetration is growing rapidly in India, but off a very small base, hampered by slow access speeds. While India has one of the biggest fibre optic networks in the world, the last mile remains the same issue for internet as it is for Cable TV. Most players see broadband internet opportunities as being at least 10 years away, with mobile platforms far more immediate and compelling.
Willem Breytenbach was based in New Delhi for three years, doing business development for the Naspers Group.
Ã¢Â–Â This article first appeared in !_LT_EMThe Media!_LT_/EM magazine.