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.

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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