Building sustainable and diversified media business. Where to bet our futures?

At least two elephants in the room

(L-R) Bharat Gupta, CEO of Jagran New Media; Ritu Kapur, the co-founder and CEO of The Quint; Mariam Mammen Mathew CEO of Manorama Online; and, LV Navaneeth, CEO of The Hindu Group at the Wan-Ifra Digital Media India 2023. Photo Wan-Ifra

The Wan-Ifra Digital Media in-person event in Delhi took place on 16 and 17 March. Ostensibly, this physical event is held to exalt and levitate the somewhat intangible and possibly ephemeral or parasitical phenomenon of digital news. Notwithstanding the digitalization of communication, media, news, and entertainment in Indian society, the panelists in one session, Mariam Mammen Mathew, CEO of Manorama Online; LV Navaneeth, CEO of The Hindu Group, and Bharat Gupta, CEO of Jagran New Media, represented legacy news media seeking to take part in the new world through their digital channels and then to monetize them. The moderator was Ritu Kapur, the co-founder and CEO of The Quint, a wholly digital channel. 

Discussing the recovery of the Indian news media after the steep decline of the pandemic, Navneeth said that among the conservative tendencies of the publishers, perhaps the most unfortunate is the reluctance to invest in talent and to experiment. This amounts to a significant confession from a person who describes his job as a privilege and perhaps the best in the industry. 

On the reality of news media monetization, Gupta of Jagran New Media pointed out that of the Rs 30,000 crore (US$ 3.5 billion) ad spend on digital media in the country, the news media channels only get Rs 1,200 crore (US$ 150 million). 

In response to the moderator saying that the media industry had not come together to tackle big tech, Navneet said that collaboration could be useful – in so far as what impacts the consumer or consumer education. While some news media organizations are expecting the government and the competition commission to act meaningfully on their behalf, Gupta’s response was more circumspect and perhaps insightful. He said that the government’s involvement or intermediation with big tech may lead to complexities and that the entire activity or process could potentially become a ‘trojan horse.’

Mathew was outspoken in her response to Kapur’s queries and tactful instigation concerning the Indian news media’s constitutional rights and role, the forthcoming digital competition law, and the industry’s collective response to the iniquitous ad revenue sharing of big tech. She forthrightly supported the need for the news media industry to collaborate, saying, “We need to minimize or get rid of the need for all the distribution channels and rely on 50 to 60% of direct or organic web traffic.” She implied that there is room to act collectively – that technology could perhaps work as a leveler for Indian media in its attempt to become sustainable and also to attract the best talent.

The two elephants, unseen but looming ghostlike in the conference room were the Indian government and big tech. The question is whether the two elephants will continue to dance benignly with each other or will the Indian government as in Australia and elsewhere, defend the value of its media industry content and help it to leverage its revenue share? Or is there also a third elephant in the room – the Indian news media with its blind mahout?

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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