The Wan-Ifra Digital Media India summit comes at a crucial time for the Indian newspaper industry. Good stories will emerge about the unique digital campaigns and creative ideas coming from newsrooms and publishers over the past year, but the real issue that needs to be addressed is the digital monetization of the Indian print news media’s investments on the Internet. Here is where the Wan-Ifra World Press Trends Outlook 2022-2023 report seems worth a look. On reading its executive summary as it arrived this morning, it seems to strongly correlate with IppStar’s recently published article of its survey of the ‘Five-year financial results of a dozen Indian newspaper groups’ published in the March 2023 issue of Indian Printer and Publisher.
There are several significant correlations between our work and the Wan-Ifra report, especially concerning the financial picture. The executive summary of the report says that as far as Business Outlook, “The COVID bounce reflected in our 2021-22 report has quickly fallen flat.” The IppStar 5-year survey based on five years of actual financial data of a dozen Indian publishers shows that in FY 21-22, although only one company was showing a loss, the combined profit of these mostly leading newspaper groups had only recovered to 75% of that achieved four years earlier in FY 2017-18.
Although we have seen only the executive summary we believe the full report will also correlate with our survey in some respects – for instance, that the main revenue for news publishers is coming from print advertising, and for the Indian publishers as perhaps for other parts of the developing world, circulation revenue in comparison is far lower than for the developed countries’ publishers.
On the expenses side, our survey shows that the leading Indian newspaper groups pay out a smaller share of their expenses on human resources than what the trend report indicates – “Editorial continues to make up a third of all costs: This is some way ahead of the next biggest area of expenditure for publishers, print production at 20% of all outgoings.” Our financial data of the leading Indian print news media groups indicates an inversion of the global trend in the sense that print production including raw materials would be a third of all costs and employee benefit expenses would be closer to 20% of all outgoings.
The trend report seems to be spot on in a couple of things such as, “New outlets continue to face major press freedom challenges.” And even more so when it states, “Other tactics targeting journalism are much more acute in developing markets: Although they are by no means limited to them. One in three participants from developing nations said their staff faced physical threats (vs 5% in developed countries) and more than half (55% vs 10%) say their own governments have threatened them.”
We look forward to these points being discussed at the Digital Media Summit even if they may not be on the agenda. Additionally, it would be time to catch up on the latest negotiations or absence of negotiations with the tech giants for some reasonable sharing of their news media-based revenues.