Sakal Times shuts down its print edition

Newspapers during Covid-19

Sakal Times is the English language daily of Sakal Media Group

Sakal Times, the English language daily of the Sakal Media Group, has laid off its entire editorial section — around 50-60 employees — and shut down its print edition. Only its editor, Madhav Gokhale, did not lose his job, according to a report by Newslaundry. He had recently joined the paper from Sakal Marathi and has now moved back.

In addition to Gokhale, the paper’s web team was also retained — two employees who upload stories to the website, and three or four employees who were hired in April to write for the website.

The Sakal Media Group told employees the paper was shutting down due to financial constraints. In March, Newslaundry reported that Sakal Times had asked 15 of its employees to resign.

The Sakal Media Group is owned by the family of NCP chief Sharad Pawar; his brother Pratap Pawar is the chairman, and Pratap’s son Abhijit Pawar is the group managing editor. Sakal Marathi is one of the leading Marathi dailies in the country.

The Indian newspaper landscape has been hit hard due to Covid-19 induced lockdown which came into effect on 25 March this year. In the last three months, reports have emerged that numerous media houses have laid off employees or rolled out salary cuts. Some of the country’s leading media houses such as Times Group, HT Media, The Telegraph, The Hindu, NDTV, and the Quint, among others have sent employees on indefinite leave without pay.

Late last month, Times of India announced the closure of all editions in Kerala except Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.

“So, it is with a heavy heart we announce the closure of TOI’s editions circulated in the districts of Kollam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanmthitta at the end of this month,” Times of India said in a statement issued last month. “The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown has led to an unprecedented economic crisis. The newspaper industry has been among the hardest hit. It has left us with no option but to rationalize some of our editions.”

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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