The year 2022 proved to be a rather challenging recovery period for the Indian print media. Though quite a few news publications exceeded pre-Covid advertising revenues, the rise in newsprint prices adversely affected profitability. With the newsprint prices now stabilizing and projected to drop in the following months, there is some optimism in the industry that the challenging period has passed. According to Amit Chopra, joint managing director, Punjab Kesari, newsprint prices touched $900-950/ton (approximately Rs 74,402 – Rs 78,535 per ton) last year but have come down to $650/ton (approximately Rs 53,734 per ton). The prices are expected to decline further. The factors that are expected to bring back growth include the revival of circulation in the past two years, the Indian economy resuming its trajectory, state elections and the upcoming 2024 general elections since both politics and political advertising play a substantial role in the Indian news media. The credibility of print as a source of information and its hyper-local nature contribute to both circulation and ad revenues.
According to a recent report by rating agency CRISIL, the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry is likely to log a 12-14 % year-on-year increase in revenues to clock Rs 1.6 lakh crore in FY 2023- 2024. With a 16% growth expected in 2023, ad revenues, which comprise a staggering 55% of the media and entertainment industry’s revenues, are forecast to grow by 14%, mainly driven by economic activity. However, CRISIL’s report says that even though print ad revenue is expected to rise by 14% year on year, it will still trail the pre-pandemic levels by 800-1000 basis points. In a recent article in exchange4media, MV Shreyams Kumar, managing director of Mathrubhumi Printing & Publishing, said that 2017 and 2018 were golden years for the print media, which is operating at 75-80% revenue compared to that period. “We are estimating to get closer to 90% in 2023 and surpass the golden period’s numbers by 2024. If we look at a decade of print starting from 2017 and our projections till 2027, one could undoubtedly say 2017 and 2018 were the golden period of print,” he states.
The growth is coming mainly from the vernacular news market, both in print and digital. “While Jio disrupted the accessibility framework, almost 90% of those new customers have also come in from Tier 2 and 3 markets. Vernacular holds a big story for the future. And as a vernacular newspaper, we are optimistic of getting the benefit of that,” Kumar added.
Digital media is also on the rise owing to its ease of use and its on-the go nature coupled with technological advancements. The seventh edition of the dentsu-e4m Digital Advertising Report 2023 unveiled on 2 February 2023, says the advertising industry in India is poised to grow by 14.7% to reach Rs 98,363 crore by the end of FY 2022-2023 with digital ad spends expected to take a 40% share.
Sports and politics are key contributors to this growth. These include the Cricket World Cup 2023, IPL 2023, Women’s World Cup 2023, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and the Assembly elections. The advertising space seems to have stabilized with a higher average growth rate and restored advertising opportunities compared to the years before the Covid-19 pandemic. Ad spends in eCommerce, consumer durables, retail, BFSI, and pharmaceuticals categories have shown maximum growth in the past year.
According to the dentsu report, by the end of the calendar year 2022, television contributed 40% (Rs 33,954 crore) to the advertising market in India, while digital media contributed 35% (Rs 29,784 crore). Print media contributed 21% (Rs 18,258 crore) to the Indian advertising market.
Media investment company Group M’s recent Indian adex forecast report also paints a better picture for the print media in the calendar year 2023 compared to previous years in terms of overall volume, though digital takes the cake. Print’s share is estimated to be around Rs 14,520 crore in 2023 of the overall Rs 1,46,450 crore for digital, print, OOH, radio, and cinema combined, the Group M report said. In 2021, adex share of the print media was Rs 12,067 crore and Rs 13,519 crore in 2022. In terms of percentage though, print’s share is expected to decline marginally – 10% in 2023 over 11% in 2021 and 2022, the report said.
There are huge differences and discrepancies amongst the several agency reports on the Indian adex or advertising spend. With differences as large as Rs. 40,000 crore one can only guess that the news media industy is unintereded in investing in serious research.