Jagran : newspaper distribution in the pandemic

Newspapers collaborate to strengthen distribution in pandemic 

Newspaper hawkers/Jagran : newspaper
Newspaper hawkers during the pandemic

The Covid-19 induced lockdown has severely impacted India’s newspaper industry primarily due to the disruption in distribution and logistics challenges and the steep drop in advertising in the April to June quarter. Although circulations have improved in recent weeks, they are still significantly down from pre-lockdown levels. However, some newspapers like Jagran utilized the pandemic to innovate on the logistics front and look for new opportunities.

According to Deepak Pandey, senior vice president, Jagran said that the newspaper collaborated with other newspapers such as Amar UjalaThe HinduTimes of India, and Hindustan Times and formed a group to share knowledge during the lockdown. The news publishers shared market intelligence, made joint strategies, and shared costs, and best practices from markets.

“We realized that everybody was doing their own thing, which did not lead us anywhere. So we came together to drive a common strategy into the market,” Pandey said during the WanIfra India 2020 Printing eSummit.

Distribution has been gaining in importance as the news publishers try to ensure the last mile reach of their dailies on time. Pandey stated that even when the essential goods supply chains collapsed, newspaper distribution was not interrupted for even a single day despite the reduced circulation volume. “The pandemic has made us realize that logistics is the backbone of the newspaper business,” he added.

Teaming up with leading publishers helped reduce costs. For instance, they shared sanitation stations that other publishers could effectively use instead of each setting up their own. Also, since the publishers were open to sharing their market intelligence and best practices transparently, joint campaigns were organized collaboratively. Sharing taxis for shipping to the smaller cities and towns from the printing plants reduced costs by as much as 30%, and they were able to make this happen within the first 15 days of the lockdown coming into effect.

When the Coronavirus spread led to the closing down of a printing plant of one of the dailies, Dainik Jagran stepped in with a quick turnaround time of 1 to 2 hours helping it continue to print until the plant was reopened. There were also instances when to control several dailies’ printing costs, the entire printing was carried at the Jagran plant.

New marketing opportunities to reader households

The Jagran group also collaborated with non-newspaper companies to help them in their supply chain decision making. Jagran’s team helped a blue-chip consumer product company identify its distribution channel issues and provided field-level workforce and resources in support.

“We used our vendors and even our personnel to deliver their products directly to the customers’ homes. This helped the company reduce intermediaries and go deeper into their existing markets and enter new locations. We also engaged in brand and promotional activities on their behalf,” Pandey said.

According to Pandey, this collaboration is beneficial to both the consumer goods producer and the publisher if it is seen as a new business opportunity to get better ROI from the same household and increase income in difficult times. “Jagran has a new revenue model and a new learning curve. We are leveraging our distribution strength and creating a positive trade perception,” he said.

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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