Adapt or perish

The digital disruption is here

Attendees at the INMA seminar at The Imperial Hotel. Photo INMA

After two days of informative and educational study tours, the two INMA seminars took place on 20 November 2019. The seminars were focused on the shift in patterns of content consumption and how to resolve the problem of depleting ad revenue in print.

Two sessions particularly – ‘Deep dive into the consumer ecosystem’ and ‘Spearheading change via advertising and technology’ – included interesting insights from leading tech and social media companies, who educated the audience on best practices to succeed in the digital space. Leading newspaper groups, on the other hand, shared their coping strategies in these disruptive times.

Hyperlocal campaigns for better engagement and recognition

HT Media uses local campaigns to improve brand imagery, reader acquisition and strong local affinity. Rajan Bhalla, chief marketing officer, HT Media, presented a case study on a 100-day campaign by HT Media – Revitalizing Meerut – where the Hindi daily, Hindustan, was perceived as an outsider and could not make it among the top circulating newspapers in the region. HT surveyed more than 2 lakh households to find out the critical issues in the city. The research indicated that poor drainage system caused waterlogging, which directly led to traffic and illnesses.

Rajan Bhalla, chief marketing officer, HT Media. Photo INMA
Rajan Bhalla, chief marketing officer, HT Media. Photo INMA

Hindustan raised the issue by giving daily editorial coverage and print ads amplified with massive OOH campaigns to make the city dwellers aware of clogged drains and Hindustan’s initiative to resolve it. The newspaper also encouraged readers to contribute towards achieving results. The city administration took notice of the problem and mobilized its resources, which was covered by HT regularly. The campaign resulted in solving one of the most significant issues in Meerut and increased brand recognition for Hindustan.

Similarly, Basant Rathore, senior vice president – Strategy, Business Development, and Brand, Jagran Prakashan, presented how Jagran used campaigns to engage with hyper-local readers. The group created seven inspirational videos featuring 17 women who challenged gender stereotypes by taking up male-dominated jobs. The campaign resulted in increased brand engagement on social media, and the videos penetrated through a hyper-local audience. Jagran also invited 35 girls to its newsroom to create a unique newspaper for 11 October 2019 – the Internation Day of Girl Child. The group further appointed 62 girls as advisors to MPs, district magistrates and medical officers on 11 October and published the resulting stories in the next day’s daily. The 3 million copies of the resulting newspaper reached 17 million readers.

Harnessing the impact of social media

Tithi Sharma, News Partnerships India, Facebook, explained the audience how to leverage social media videos to engage with viewers and the different video formats available on Facebook for smartphones.

Amrita Tripathi, head – News Media Partnerships, Twitter, explained how newsrooms could leverage Twitter for storytelling. Her tips included using Hashtags and tweeting analysis during significant events such as elections, going live on Twitter to give live coverage as events unfold, and pinning live tweets for engaging followers. Creating threads for a story along with GIFs and photos, creating polls, and establishing an authentic voice also goes a long way to grab the attention of viewers, she said.

Amrita Tripathi, head - News Media Partnerships, Twitter. Photo INMA
Amrita Tripathi, head – News Media Partnerships, Twitter. Photo INMA

Mobile and video journalism for mobile-first users

Shitij Kumar Gupta, executive producer, NDTV 24 x 7, gave a presentation on NDTV’s shift from full crew and outside broadcast (OB) vans to a single smartphone and 3G backpack units for live broadcasts. Shifting to smartphones resulted in huge cost and resource savings for NDTV. He explained how the adaption of smartphones helped the news channel to launch its first-ever vertical digital channel, ideal for watching from a smartphone.

Shitij Kumar Gupta, executive producer, NDTV 24x7. Photo INMA
Shitij Kumar Gupta, executive producer, NDTV 24×7. Photo INMA

HT Media emphasized that before mobile-first screens and ad blockers were introduced, markets would create content for their platforms as well as host it on other platforms, but it was not visible to the audience. This changed three years ago when they learned to leverage social media for content distribution, and today content is created keeping in mind the consumer activity, discoverability, engagement and context. HT Media created a strategic content creator platform, HT Brand Studio Live, which had experiential value and supported cross-platform storytelling platform. The premium sponsored content targeting brands came from a mix of people with editorial, product, technology and marketing knowledge. To date, HT has created more than sponsored 1000 articles, 25 videos, 80 infographics and 15 specialty brand hubs for leading brands in the market, which is reported to have worked out well for the company.

Earl J Wilkinson, executive director, and chief executive officer, INMA with Basant Rathore and Rameet Arora, chief operating officer - HT Digital - HT Brand Studio Live. Photo INMA
Earl J Wilkinson, executive director, and chief executive officer, INMA with Basant Rathore and Rameet Arora, chief operating officer – HT Digital – HT Brand Studio Live. Photo INMA

Leveraging data for visibility

Neha Singh, director – Client Insight, Comscore, emphasized during her presentation that in India, news consumption is still high and is growing, although the formats will keep evolving. Partnerships are the cornerstone of news discovery and growth. Video journalism is increasing engagement and gaining traction. As internet access becomes more and more inclusive, vernacular news and content will continue to be consumed.

Ajay Menon, senior front end developer, Quintype, highlighted the benefits of levering smart data for content creation and increasing reach and reader engagement. Using data analytics and Google insights and commenting platforms and having a multi-channel distribution system can increase visibility on the web. Creating automated content will allow editors to work on rich content.

Ajay Menon, senior front end developer, Quintype. Photo INMA
Ajay Menon, senior front end developer, Quintype. Photo INMA

The seminars indicated that there is limited space for the traditional print model. Newspapers cannot rely on conventional ad strategies alone to survive. Adapting to the digital model, leveraging digital resources, market dominance and investment in technology could build the path to future success. The audience is no longer limited to one channel of information and news; so why should the ad revenue be?

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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