Future of digital media as decoded by Raghav Bahl

Digital media predictions for 2022 – a Quintype panel discussion

Raghav Bahl
Raghav Bahl and Chirdeep Shetty in a webinar discussing Digital Media Predictions for 2022.

Raghav Bahl, a leading Indian media entrepreneur spoke at a recent webinar on ‘Digital Media Predictions for 2022.’ As part of this insightful discussion, he shared his views on topics concerning the future of digital media. Organized by Quintype, the webinar featured Chirdeep Shetty, chief executive officer, Quintype in conversation with Bahl.

Digital ad revenues were one of the key points of discussion and Bahl observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a significant movement towards digital and while the first wave of the pandemic saw a decrease in the serving of digital ads, subsequent waves have seen advertisers come back and adapt to the new digital paradigm, reflected in the increasing digital ad revenues for publishers in 2021. It is likely that this trend of increasing ad revenue will continue, albeit the advertisers need to be mindful that the secret sauce is in serving ads across channels and in several formats. 

In the same cautious vein, Bahl added that traffic comes from different channels and website traffic is not the only indicator. Varying formats of content distributed across several channels add up to a publisher’s digital presence. While specific businesses may want to focus on particular channels for distribution, depending upon their business model, the true power of digital, in the foreseeable future, is in being present across channels, and in distributing content across formats. Speaking of sources of traffic, Bahl stated “It’s not only website traffic that matters – in the digital world, but website traffic is also legacy.”

The discussion also covered call outs on specific formats like short-form videos which are likely to keep trending. Specific methods (or channels) such as newsletters were also discussed with the conclusion that niche-content newsletters would witness greater engagement than generic ones! The panel also discussed the elevated interest in recent times around the ‘creator’s economy’ and the fact that the plethora of digital channels is giving more opportunities for individual content creators to build a following for their brand driven by the intellectual value they offer. 

Bahl shared his views on the choice of social channels for publishers – while niche publications might want to focus on specific platforms, the best way forward would be to have a well-balanced presence across a mix of old and new-age platforms, also to cater to the entire spectrum of demographics comprising the audience. He shared his mantra of, “Do less, engage more,’ in this context – to have a ‘smarter’ social presence.

The panel also discussed pay-walled content and subscriptions with observations around the importance of knowledge-driven value and a reputed brand. In this context, Bahl’s said that upcoming brands could still have a significant presence in certain channels and demographics. He also spoke about the distinction between memberships and subscriptions wherein memberships cater to following for a certain ideology or specific interest, whereas subscriptions are almost always driven by super-specialized, vertical-specific content. 

Shetty touched upon the proverbial ‘subscription fatigue’ and the potential for one-time micropayment purchases. The panel concurred that the perceived fatigue is real and most consumers would likely have a maximum of two (primary and secondary subscriptions), going forward. It also concluded that micropayments would likely be a rare occurrence and not really a widespread trend in the future. In the context of the discussion of subscription revenues, Bahl observed that ad revenues are still at a nascent stage and so while subscription revenues are important, publishers should not take their eye off the ad revenues pie that promises a massive potential.

The discussion flowed towards consolidation of media in the future, which was emphatically termed as an inevitable phenomenon, with the need for catering to varied content needs of the same consumer. This could only be achieved by consolidating various specialized properties under the same brand, with central control on the dissemination of content.

The panel closed the conversation with remarks on the impact of technology on journalism and publishing. It collectively observed that investment in technology is necessary for publishers, albeit they may want to modulate their spending based on the state of their business. Here, Bahl said that machine learning generated content is still not going to be as impactful as what can be possibly created by a human mind. Discussions ensued on the recent buzz around the metaverse its possibilities where he said that as long as the ‘metaverse experience’ does not strain our senses or our mind, it would become really sought after, with a lot of content dissemination and consumption.

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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