The Indian print media industry recovers – Part 1

With costs streamlined – a return to print media growth in FY 23

Indian news media in print| print media
Indian print news media in recovery mode

The pandemic has been a stern lesson for the Indian newspaper industry, which by and large thinks it is an exception to media trends that predict its demise sooner than later. According to IppStar estimates, it lost about 40% of its circulation and ad revenues in the pandemic year to 31 March 2021. But, on the other hand, Crisil says that in the media and entertainment sector, which includes television, print, digital, film, outdoor, and radio, there was only a 26% decline FY21 from Rs 146,500 crore to Rs 107,700 crore. (Approximately US$ 19.8 billion to US$ 14.5 billion).

Crisil expects or forecasts the media and entertainment sectors to bounce back by 27% in the current FY 22 to Rs. 137,000 crore (US$ 18.5 billion) and projects further gains for television and digital at the expense of print and outdoor, and radio. If print’s market share is 20% in FY22, as Crisil projects, it will generate subscription and ad revenues of Rs 27,400 till March. Although this is 6.5% lower than print media revenues in FY19-20 of Rs 29,300 crore, it still looks like a good recovery and seems to be borne out by recent reports from the market.

Recent reports from some leading newspapers indicate that August 2021 was profitable in terms of circulation and ad revenue. Although the pandemic has put some fear into publishers’ minds and pushed a few into accelerating their efforts in monetizing web traffic, print advertising has come back by and large. As a result, premiums for ad positions are hardening. Tempered by realism based on last year’s disappointing festival season, expectations of an advertising bump for this Diwali are nevertheless optimistic.

Costs have been trimmed to maintain profitability. Since there is no real need to print extra copies that were distributed free at airports or schools and given away to tempt potential subscribers, the savings in production and consumables continue. Increasingly some of the larger organizations are streamlining their business and technology functions by outsourcing these. Editorial personnel are already on contract, and the day is not far off when ad sales and newspaper page-making will also be outsourced.

The longer-term outlook of the news media is still positive, with consumption continuing to drive GDP growth, although there is some hope of infrastructure spending in the coming year. However, while Indian regulations permit cross-ownership of radio and television, these channels have not been as profitable for media owners as print advertising which is their cash cow.

Although there have been few innovations beyond cost-cutting at every opportunity, Indian publishers do see their future as omnichannel platforms with digital subscriptions and other innovations taking hold gradually. The Indian news media has its own pace and dynamic mainly driven by the readership growth and consumption headroom. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect a natural increase in products, circulation, and ad revenue in FY 2022-23.

Look for Part 2 of the India News Media recovery story on 20 October 2021. – Editor

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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