Conference highlights rapid growth of digital sphere

Conference highlights rapid growth of digital sphere
L-R: The panelists DD Purkayastha

Hosting over 425 delegates from across 22 countries, the Wan-Ifra conference began on a high note at Chennai’s ITC Chola Hotel on 13 September 2017. The conference kicked off with a welcome address by KZ Magdoom Mohamed, managing director, Wan-Ifra South Asia, followed by an address by KN Shanth Kumar, chairman, Wan-Ifra South Asia Committee and director, The Printers Mysore, and Somesh  Sharma  of  Rashtradoot  Saptahik daily and president, Indian Newspaper Society.
In his opening address, Kumar highlighted the rapid growth of the digital sphere while praising print for its consistent performance and steady growth. Sharma stated that the vernacular dailies are out-scoring the national English dailies by miles with their robust growth. According to him, print media is slated to see strong growth in both India and China with improved literacy levels.

“With press freedom and financial support concerns around the world putting unprecedented strains on journalism, this conference, which gathers the best of India and Asia, is more important than ever for discussing these vital issues,” said David Callaway, chief executive officer of The Street and president of the World Editors Forum, in his keynote presentation. Callaway condemned the recent murders of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Pankaj Mishra, calling for the prosecution of the assassins as a first and necessary step.

He further added that it is imperative to take a stand and talk about the specific concerns about press freedom in India, as also the growing oppression in places like China, Turkey and the U.S.
The conference, co-sponsored by  The Indian Newspaper Society, hosted a parallel World Editors Forum – South Asia Summit, which addressed issues such as journalism in the digital age, trust of news and engaging with audiences. 

“Despite the challenges, more people worldwide need and are consuming news than ever,” Callaway said. “The opportunities for us are enormous if we can work together to understand and support each other.”

Launch of World Editors Forum – South Asia Summit
Unarguably the largest conference for news publishers in South Asia, the event included an expo with more than 35 suppliers from both India and abroad displaying their products and services for the newspaper printing and publishing industry.

The event also featured the World Printers Forum Conference, where delegates discussed printing efficiency, innovation, business models and more. One of the highlights of the program was a panel discussion on the future of media business and of print. The speakers and panelists included Sitaram Shankar, managing editor, Network 18, who examined the exercise of presenting news to new age readers and Mukund Padmanabhan, editor of The Hindu, who talked about attracting paying readers for good journalism, saying, “I really worry about digital journalism which has led to a series of bad practices. We must avoid poor headlines used as click-bait and find a better way of projecting our content. Arun Ram, editor of The Times of India, Chennai, also shared his perspectives on the quality of journalism and ways to address the issue, as did Raj Chengappa, group editorial director, The India Today Group, who talked at length about reimagining India’s number one newspaper. Knud Kraft, head of production at Axel Springer, Germany, made a presentation on adopting innovative methods to retain the attractiveness of the printed newspaper; and PP Prakash, vice president – materials, Malayala Manorama, who spoke at length about managing newsprint costs and logistics. Apart from outlining Manorama’s best practices in reducing waste, his key observation was that reducing wastage yields nominal benefits in comparison to the reduction of newsprint grammage, which can yield considerable cost savings.


2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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