Content management versus content delivery

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newspapers

The Indian newspaper industry, which has thus far been a major exception to the overall decline of newspapers around the world, is nevertheless undergoing steady transformation. There are many daily news organizations that have been spending their money in upgrading their print plants with more presses and towers to deliver full color in all their editions. Hindi dailies like Amar Ujala are installing new 7-tower presses and adding towers on older presses to be able to print 28 broadsheet pages in full color at a time. These investments are now accompanied by automation, which includes autopasters and registration systems. Thus, as far print, increased pagination with color capability across centers with minimum wastage seems to be the trend.

Another trend that is still in its early stages, stems from the realization that future revenues will not come just from advertising but from some aspect of reader engagement including eCommerce—not from reach but from targeting and the ability to re-create content for a special context or community. Successful news organizations are reluctant to look beyond their established methods and formats, and it is increasingly apparent that the millennial audience (or let us say those with electoral and buying power) are no longer reading newspapers or even watching the broadcast TV channels. This means media organizations have to turn to digital distribution and in order to do this, they have to develop a new expertise in curating and delivering their content to those who show interest or engage. And they have to be ready for an audience that can talk back. The slow reaction to our readers is what is really killing us.

There is a convergence of media with print and broadcast fighting for the same target audiences. The new digital news platforms are also gathering strength in India because they are asset light and on the whole more diverse and willing to take on the government. Thanks to digital they can literally take on big media—a case of brains over brawn. However, the advantage of digital is that newspapers can also become audio and video broadcasters once they have a strategy and allot resources for implementation. Thus, apart from trying to figure out what to do, many media organizations in the country are searching (some say desperately) for expertise and technology solutions for what may be described as multi-channel content delivery solutions.

Historically, newspapers have invested in technology for production and not as much for content or delivery. One could even say that many news organizations are unprepared for the creativity that digital could unleash. They have preferred ERP software for advertising sales and for production workflow and in the main purchased editorial systems reluctantly whose main purpose was only the efficiency in generating print pages. Now they must invest in new types of systems that can help them engage with social media, create personalized newspapers, ePapers and interactive communities. Additionally, they will have to experiment with live video, as newspapers in Europe and America have, and even long-form video and documentaries.

Of course this cannot be done just with software; media organizations will have to innovate and become digital audio and video broadcasters. Above all, they have to learn how to deliver engaging content and offline opportunities to audiences that they have to dare to fragment. This calls for experimentation and transformation across all their operations from new technologies to reallocation of resources.      

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital 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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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