Digital subscription survey of Indian and South Asian news media

IppStar launches paywall and digital subscription survey

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The continued reluctance to put up paywalls by Indian news media is in spite of suggestions a year ago that it was an inevitability. “Anybody who tells you in the news media industry that they won’t be taking the subscription route is either lying or soon going to be bankrupt,” said Rajiv Bansal, head of the Hindustan Times’ Digital Streams to exchange4media in May 2018.

Shy of paywalls, there are some signs that Indian newspapers, magazines and web news platforms are figuring out other ways to monetize the internet. They are resorting to referral revenues for services to monetize the internet, such as dining out and investment.
However, it is inevitable that paywalls and subscriptions will have to play a role. This is in spite of some feedback that IppStar has already received about the reluctance of most news organizations to bite the bullet. Some say that they will continue to rely on ad revenue, others that the market is not ready to pay for news, and still others that say they have plans that they cannot yet talk about.

Dailies such as The Hindu and Business Line have begun by setting up subscriptions for their ePaper while Business Standard is monetizing its premium content with a dynamic paywall. Looking for these stories shows the headline and a couple of sentences followed by, ‘Key stories on business-standard.com are available to premium subscribers only.’ The Caravan magazine has put up a dynamic paywall and has already gathered more than 3,000 digital subscriptions.

The new platforms on the web seem bolder since they don’t have any print revenues to lean on. The Ken is a subscription-only site, The Scroll has launched an ad-free subscription and Newslaundry has moved some of its content behind a paywall. The Wire is trying out an interactive banner asking for donations similar to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, IppStar, the leading organization for detailed primary research of the Indian publishing, printing and packaging industry, has initiated a quick snapshot survey of digital subscriptions of South Asian newspapers, magazines and news platforms. While seminars, conferences and webinars on digital subscriptions are all the rage, it seems that South Asia is lagging behind on the monetization of digital content.

Purva Dwivedi, analyst at IppStar asks, “Where are we on this critical subject in South Asia? While publishers keep repeating that they have to produce content that is worth paying for, what is holding them back from building paywalls? And, we are keen to share the initial results of the few who have put up paywalls, and kept them up.” A snapshot of the results will be published on our platforms, including our print monthly Indian Printer & Publisher. The survey is also available on www.ippstar.org.

Or you can fill out the Paywall survey online by simply click here.

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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