Wan-Ifra hosts Digital Media India and Newsroom Summit 2019 in Mumbai

Media houses discuss challenges affecting digital news

Digital Media India

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) hosted the 8th edition of its Digital Media India (DMI) conference on 19 and 20 February in Mumbai. Over 140 news media executives from over 15 countries attended the event. Together with the Newsroom Summit, this year’s DMI is powered by the World Editors Forum India chapter. The digital event brought together ideas on digital trends, technology, innovations and revenue strategies.

Michael Cooke, the outgoing editor of Toronto Star, started off the conference with a keynote address on leading from the front, and said, “Future of digital is not clear, but future of print is clear and is not a very happy one.” He urged the audience to embrace digital. On digital journalistic challenge, he continued, “They say that anger and hate spread faster than any other emotion … and so that’s lighting speed on social media … as a leader you have to stand strong in front of this tsunami of poison and threats.”

The two-day conference covered a smorgasbord of issues affecting the digital news media business such as digital transformation, revenue strategies, advertising, fake news, audience engagement and artificial intelligence.

The opening session included a panel discussion on how digital media companies, compared to technology giants, can garner the larger share of the revenue pie. The panel comprised Rajiv C Lochan, managing director and CEO, The Hindu Group, who chaired the discussion; Bharat Gupta, CEO, Jagran New Media and Anant Goenka, executive director, The Express Group.

“For The Hindu, digital accounts for less than 5% of the total revenue, but we do it profitably. The Hindu e-paper has been behind a paywall ever since it was launched. The brand quietly introduced a soft, optional paywall last week,” said Lochan.

Jagran garners about 3% of their revenue from digital. Within digital ad pie, 60% come from display advertising and that pie is increasing.

“How well we know our audience is where the digital journey begins. Brands need to know how the audience is consuming content and what do they want to consume” said Gupta. He continued, “There is still more to garner from digital advertising. And, if time spent by the audience in our product is substantial, then we are ready for reader payment. At the moment, less than 10% of the audience fit in this”.

Similarly, “Indian Express’ digital revenue is shy of 10%, but it is a fast-growing number. We have to know the audience and own that audience. And then sell them things that they would like to buy,” said Goenka. Brand credibility is the strength of news media companies that advertisers will respect this. And reader revenue would come if we find our content niche, he added.

The Newsroom Summit India program covered classic journalism challenges such as tackling need vs. want dilemma, social media impact on journalism, combating fake news and mobile first news strategy. The highlights of the Newsroom Summit India discussion on the first day was a panel on ‘gender parity in newsroom’ discussing how gender-friendly the newsrooms are and how to improve the current situation.

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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