Print media business booming in india, future tense !

Vienna: Despite assurances that the
print media is a booming business, Manjula Rajagopal, associate editor
of the Tamil daily Dinamalar, returned home from the World Newspapers
Congress that concluded here Saturday wondering if she can compete with
the tablet market.

The newspaper business in India is gaining 10
percent per year, but the fear of editors like Manjula is that a whole
generation of readers may grow up getting their news on a tablet
computer. The emerging tablet market is a challenge to newspapers like
Dinamalar with a circulation of 850,000 copies, considering that the
Indian government is giving free tablet computers to students.

Many people at the Congress wondered about the future of print and to see publishers still believed in printed newspapers.
The
verdict is that the future of print is bright, particularly outside
Europe and, unlike in Germany, where most of the publishers are focusing
on the digital media.

It’s true that the newspaper circulation
declined in print worldwide last year, but it more than made up with an
increase in digital audiences, as per the World Association of
Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) annual update of world press
trends.

Other trends include varying media consumption patterns
across the world. Print circulation is increasing in Asia, but declining
in mature markets in the West. The main decline is in free dailies.

For
advertisers, newspapers are more time-efficient and effective than
other media. Newspapers continue to reach more people than the internet
does. Digital advertising revenues are not compensating for the ad
revenues lost to print. Social media are changing the concept and
process of content gathering and dissemination. But the revenue model
for news companies in the social media arena remains hard to find.

The news publishing business has become one of constant updating, of monitoring, distilling and repacking information.
Innovation is key and it begins with the name as far as Shyam Parekh, editor of DNA Ahmedabad is concerned.

“No
newspaper has dared to drop its edit page. We did,” said Parekh at the
Editors Forum session titled Innovation in Print, adding but the
newspaper didn’t ditch the opinion or analysis. It moved opinion and
commentary to the front page.

“Rather than confining the
newspaper’s opinions to an editor’s page, the move “made readers realise
the importance of our opinion,” he said.

The Malayala Manorama group is working hard to capture the important growth in the digital markets, particularly mobile.

“While
print circulation continues to grow in India it is important to note
that the growth is from rural areas, and the urban youth are turning to
TV, online and mobile,” said Mariam Mammen Mathew, chief operating
officer of Manorama Online in India.

Internet penetration in India is less than 10 percent, but the country has 519 million mobile subscribers.

“Most
Indians will first experience the web on their handset…. There is a
plethora of platforms vying for the media consumer. We need to innovate
to get the eyeballs and retain our customers. It’s all about creating
alternate revenue streams. The good news is the markets are slowly
recognising the value of content. . We empower our editors, we tell them
content is important and there is value to it,” she said.

Madhav
Chinnappa, formerly a manager at the BBC and presently a strategic
business partner development manager for Google News & Books, said
that things have fundamentally changed with the emergence and growing
influence of players such YouTube, WikiLeaks, Twitter and Facebook.

“We
are in an area of experimentations, and making mistakes is not
important. What is essential here is how fast you correct them.
Creativity should not be driven by short-term financial
reward…innovation should not be seen as a luxury. The cycle of changes
is too rapid, hence innovation needs to be an essential part of any
news organization.”

The Congress attracted 1,1000 visitors from
over 100 countries, many of whom recalled how the publication of
WikiLeaks last year by The Hindu had rattled the Indian government. The
controversial findings were a result of a formal agreement between N.
Ram, the paper’s editor, and WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

Ram
said that his decision to publish the cables has forever changed the
game of journalism and the current politics in his country.

“It
shows the power of new technology. But even more the power of ideas of
justice and freedom, including the idea much beloved in the hacker
community that information wants to be free,” said Ram, adding that
newspapers need to be more aggressive and bold while working with
unconventional sources of information and whistleblowers.

“Take risks with collaborating with the geeks and the hackers and develop your IT and digital platforms,” he said.

During
the World Editors Forum, WikiLeaks was described as a non-traditional
journalism source. However the golden rule remains the same that it is
not the source that is as important as the credibility of the
information leaked to editors.

(Mehru Jaffer can be contacted at mehrujaffer@yahoo.com)

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