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.      

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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