Times of India MD asked whether he still has a job after ‘Love Pakistan’ ad
KARACHI: While the newspaper industry in the West has taken a beating in recent years, publishers in South Asia can still expand their business on the back of a growing population and a young, aspirational generation yearning to read and write, a top official of The Times of India (TOI) said on Wednesday.
Newspapers in the region face no immediate challenge to survive against the onslaught of the internet and advertisers’ preference of television channels but the publishers must open themselves up to innovative selling ideas, said Ravi Dhariwal, the Managing Director, in a presentation on the success of the TOI brand.
It will take another decade before newspapers in South Asia see their readers waking up in the morning and switching on to internet devices for the latest information, he said. “We can prolong that turning point further just by inculcating the reading habit in the young,” he said. “The Times of India sells 500,000 copies daily to different schools. The paper is especially edited for children with games and other material attractive to young readers. But the essential news is the same.”
Dhariwal, who was in Karachi to attend two-day strategic dialogue on Indo-Pak relations, organized under the aegis of Aman Ki Asha, a joint initiative by the Jang Group and Times of India, spoke at length on the making of TOI brand. With a daily circulation of 4.4 million copies, TOI remains the largest selling English language newspaper in the world. It has witnessed an 18 percent revenue growth in the past ten years and sells for just 3 Indian rupees.
“When inflation went up and prices of all the other commodities increased, we cut the price of the paper by half,” he said. “The cost of publishing each paper comes to Rs12 and we were losing Rs10.50 per copy. But at the same time, due to a rise in circulation our incremental earnings from advertisements is Rs20.”
Over the years, the TOI has branded itself just like any other consumer good, creating a customer loyalty through constant engagements with the public in the shape of editorials, advertisements and other interactive and outdoor activities, Dhariwal said. “We try different things all the time. The masthead is changed and made colorful according to occasions. We take out special editions on education and other issues. The TOI also runs advertorial campaigns from time to time.”
One of the boldest initiatives taken by the paper was launching Aman ki Asha with the Jang Group. The launch happened in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack when feelings in India were running high. He said when they published an advertisement on page one of his newspaper saying ‘Love Pakistan’, his children asked him the next morning whether he still has a job or not!
To help make itself a viable brand in touch with its readership, the TOI has formed a team of 1900 sales people, a team bigger than that of Hindustan Unilever and Procter and Gamble in India, he said. The TOI has gone beyond a lot of other media groups in suggesting ways to different companies on how to use advertisements in newspapers for selling their products. “For Volkswagen, we ran cut-outs, and in one issue only Volkswagen ads were taken throughout the paper.”
The paper did not stop just there but even inserted small chips in one of the daily issues which played a jingle for the advertisement when the paper was opened, he said. “Editorial policy is not affected by these innovative forms of marketing as we try to stay away from their domain,” he said. “The whole idea is to create a brand which is trusted by the people.”
Hameed Haroon, CEO of the Dawn Group and President All Pakistan Newspaper Society, said that the Pakistani newspaper industry needs to carry out a survey of its readership to arrive at a factual position. “The TOI is an example of a powerful model, and it needs to be taken seriously,” he said. Â“Print media is big in India, and the prospect for this medium in South Asia is optimistic. However, in our own backyard, newspapers are having to make adjustments with the growth in the electronic media. “He said that time is running out for the newspaper industry in the country and publishers must wake up to the changing realities.
Chairman of Pakistan Advertisers’ Society Aly Mustansir warned that newspaper readership is declining in Pakistan. “We need to be asking ourselves the question: Is the new generation reading newspapers in the morning?” He said that a demographic shift and changing values has pushed up the average age of newspaper readers. “In the coming years, the older people who read newspapers will start to disappear. “Social media including, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, pose a challenge as internet users have started trusting each other to keep themselves informed and updated, he said. “In the next ten years, there could be a large number people who don’t trust what the newspapers are saying.”
Source: The News