Print media loses Rs 4,000-5,000 crore in two months

Major pandemic impact on Indian print publications

Newspapers get thinner and fewer during the Covid-19 lockdown in India
Newspapers get thinner and fewer during the Covid-19 lockdown in India

The Indian economy came to a virtual halt on 25 March when the government announced its decision to implement a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19. Although the lockdown has impacted businesses across the board, the print media, cinema and live entertainment industry are hit especially hard.

According to a report by Adfactor, the Indian newspaper industry is expected to lose Rs 4,000-5,000 crore in just March and April due to the lockdown. The media and entertainment sector’s annual revenue is likely to decline by 16% in FY2020-2021.

“India’s media industry has been hit hard by the unparalleled economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the report said. “Dwindling advertising revenues and circulation of print copies have led major media houses to shut or scale down operations that were non-profitable further restructuring the organization. A major impact of this was seen on print publications.”

Scaling down media operations

Due to the lockdown induced economic shrinkage, some leading media houses and publications have resorted to workforce reduction and salary cuts. The Economic Times Hindi and Sandhya Times have stopped publishing their Delhi editions while Maharashtra Times in Marathi has shut down its three editions — Kolhapur, Jalgaon and Ahmednagar. 

The TV Today Network announced ceasing operations and transmission of Delhi Aaj Tak with effect from 30 June 2020. The group may also close down all its niche print products, including Harper’s BazaarCosmopolitan magazines, and the Mail Today newspaper.

Mint Lounge has disengaged a couple of regular columnists, and senior journalists Priya Ramani and Natasha Badhwar have been asked to leave. 

Leading Marathi media house Sakal Media Group has ceased operations for Sakal Times and Gomantak Times. The closure impacts 45 editorial staff and 13 journalists, respectively. Furthermore, Sakal (Marathi) has closed the Jalgaon, Solapur, Nanded, and Akola editions.

Dainik Bhaskar has temporarily closed its 4-page pullouts and merged the Gurugram and Faridabad news in its Delhi edition. Amar Ujala’s Gurgaon and Faridabad editions have also been merged. 

The Telegraph in English shut down its Jamshedpur, Ranchi, and Guwahati editions from 1 June 2020. The ABP (Anand Bazar Patrika) Group, which also owns The Telegraph and Fortune India, sent an internal email announcing vacating its rented offices in Delhi, Bengaluru, Noida, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

The ABP Group shut down its Infocomm department and is most likely to close the iconic Bengali magazines — Sananda and Desh. Henceforth, only digital copies will be available. ABP is shutting all offices other than Kolkata as a large number of employees have been sacked, and the rest are working from home.

Network 18 has announced the shut down of its lifestyle channel FYI TV18 from 8 July, while Firstpost has shut its business desk. Forbes India suspended print operations beginning its issue dated 27 March. Bloomberg-Quint announced shutting down of its television division. The move leads to 100 people losing their jobs.

Nai Duniya, owned by Dainik Jagran, suspended its print operations while Bennett Coleman’s flagship Times of India has shut all editions in Kerala except Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. The New Indian Express has started to vacate all offices across eight bureaus in Kerala; has discontinued Auto Publishing of news from various wire agencies.

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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