Major Hindi dailies can flex their muscles in the coming 5 years

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Hindi dailies

The Hindi dailies represent around one-third of the printed newspaper in the country. Recent examination of the DAVP list of language papers, ABC circulation figures and the IRS 2017 readership survey figures have been decoded by IppStar (www.ippstar.org). These public figures taken together with its own survey data and discussion with expert informants in the language dailies has led to a quantitative understanding together with some thoughts on how the Hindi dailies will progress over the next five years. IppStar has also begun its research of Marathi and Tamil dailies some of which will be shared in subsequent articles.

The main proposition that we sought to test was that the leading Hindi dailies will continue to grow in editions, color pagination and circulation. It is likely that circulation revenues will increase with a gradual rise in the cover price but this is seen by publishers as merely a way of keeping up with newsprint price rises, which as a rule of thumb may be anticipated to rise at US$ 60 each year given the global shrinkage in demand.

Hindi dailies have cover prices ranging from Rs. 1 to Rs. 5 and the price can vary from day to day, reflecting both pagination changes and a way of increasing prices gradually while moderating customer resistance. Other circulation schemes include sale of annual subscriptions in advance that can be encashed each month in exchange for the daily of one’s choice at discounted rates.

We examined approximately 800 Hindi dailies and divided these into five group according to their circulations which we estimate to be about 5 crore copies or 50 million. More than half this circulation comes from the top 20 newspaper groups while another 1.5 crore copies are produced by the next 145 newspapers. The balance copies are produced by the remaining more than 600 much smaller dailies.

The thesis which is propounded by several leading Hindi newspaper professionals is that in the next five years till FY 2022-23, it is likely that the big groups will continue to expand. And that the smaller dailies especially those that produce 4, 8 and 12 broadsheet pages daily with little or no color and which have circulations below 50,000 copies are likely to effectively close down. (It must also be pointed here also be that in no other Indian language are there so many more dailies in the DAVP list than those with ABC audited circulations.)

IppStar forecasts that with moderate growth the circulation of Hindi dailies will increase by .5 core or 5 million copies in the next five years with the maximum growth accruing to the leading 165 Hindi dailies. In the case of high growth over the next five years the forecast is for a circulation growth of 1 crore or 10 million copies daily which will primarily accrue to the leading 165 dailies and of these the top 20 groups are expected to get the major share. IppStar and its expert informants expect that the bottom 600 dailies will decline in circulation by more than 5% and that many of these will close down.

The thesis of some of the leading Hindi publishers is that the potential readership now demands local, national, international news and infotainment in one place and in full color, a requirement that can only be met with larger resources and at least 20 full color broad sheet pages, with more pages for supplements and festival season advertising opportunities. This indicates that only the leading Hindi daily newspaper organizations have access to the capital and resources to provide these type of products. In fact, one can expect several scenarios in which the leaders compete to expand in terms of geography, demographics and even omni-channel media.

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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