“Paradigm shift happening in the way English news is being consumed”

Downsizing of English language dailies continues

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What has happened at ABP Group is fundamentally similar to what happened at Hindustan Times. While Hindustan Times said that it is “now shifting gears to move towards an accelerated digital trajectory,” at the same time it closed smaller Bhopal, Kolkata, Ranchi and Indore editions. It also shelved its operations from Allahabad, Varanasi and Kanpur

After the news came out last month that Hindustan Times has decided to drastically reduce staff across several locations in the country, another English newspaper, Kolkata-based The Telegraph is reportedly laying off a significant number of its employees. However, News laundry has reported that the retrenchment has taken place across all ABP Group’s print publications including The Telegraph, Anand Bazar Patrika and Ebela and doesn’t factor in stringers associated with the group.

“The [retrenchment] exercise is still going on and the number may touch 300,”ABP chief executive officer Dipankar Das Purkayastha told News laundry. Outlook magazine, in a separate report claims that almost 700 people have been sacked by the ABP group.

Speaking further with News laundry, Purkayastha said the decision to review the group’s staff strength across its print organizations was taken in September 2016. He said while demonetisation has impacted print revenues, the lay-offs are not a direct result of it.

Although, exact details of the layoffs was not provided by News laundry, the impression is that majority of the staff being handed the termination notice are district correspondents. For example, in Bihar, reporters covering eastern Bihar, districts of Gaya, Munger, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Motihari and Chhapra were taken off the payrolls. A number of photojournalists have also been asked to leave. Similarly, 11 people from the Guwahati edition of The Telegraph were laid off, according to News laundry. In Jharkhand, reporters from Ranchi and Jamshedpur were asked to put in their papers. From The Telegraph’s national affairs bureau, outstation correspondents covering states like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Gujarat were laid off. In the Kolkata edition, too, it is the district correspondents and photojournalists that were hit the hardest, according to most accounts.

The trend to continue  

What has happened at ABP Group is fundamentally similar to what happened at Hindustan Times. While Hindustan Times said that it is “now shifting gears to move towards an accelerated digital trajectory” at the same time it closed smaller Bhopal, Kolkata, Ranchi and Indore editions. It also shelved its operations from Allahabad, Varanasi and Kanpur. Many experts believe developments like these are likely to continue to happen.

After the news came out last month that Hindustan Times has decided to drastically reduce staff across several locations in the country, another English newspaper, Kolkata-based The Telegraph is reportedly laying off a significant number of its employees. However, News laundry has reported that the retrenchment has taken place across all ABP Group’s print publications. 

“Many publication in West have gone through a similar phase. In India too, we will continue to hear news like this from time to time for the next decade or so as the print industry inches towards an inflection point,” Paritosh Joshi, principal at Provocateur Advisory, a media advisory practice and ex-chief executive officer of India TV told Indian Printer and Publisher. 

According to Joshi, English newspapers will be the first to go through this inflection as they are not able to attract new consumers. The millennials have no connection to print as they are consuming news digitally, he said, adding that regional language newspapers too will go through the phase but there is still some time for that. 

Not only is the stagnant consumer base of the print format a problem, rapid proliferation of television is another major headwind facing the newspaper industry. According to Joshi, in the last decade the proportion of households having a television set has grown from onethird to two-thirds and the time being spend in front of the television is also going up. “The television medium has given advertisers a big avenue. Rising penetration of television and a stagnant consumer base for print is a double whammy,” he says. 

Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive officer, Future brands and a media expert echoes a similar sentiment about readership of physical newspapers. “There a fundamental shift happening in the way news is being consumed in India. The younger generation is bypassing the physical format and going directly to the digital platform to consume news. This trend is most pronounced in the English newspaper industry. The result is that readership of traditional format has more or less peaked,” says Desai. “The natural byproduct of this is that we will see more such downsizing going forward in the newspaper industry.”

He adds that as the digital medium gains currency, news publications must look for ways to wean themselves away from an advertising-based revenue model towards a subscription based one. “The churn that is happening is the industry will force the newspaper industry to change its revenue model. Some players have started doing and other will gradually follow.” 

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

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