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

Major pandemic impact on Indian print publications

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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; Business-Standard.com has discontinued Auto Publishing of news from various wire agencies.

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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