Wan-Ifra Trends Outlook 22-23 and the IppStar Survey of Indian print newsgroups

Digital Media India Conference on 16 and 17 March 2023


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

The financial results of a select group of 12 Indian newspaper groups over the past 5 years are examined by IppStar www.ippstar.org
The financial results of a select group of 12 Indian newspaper groups over the past 5 years are examined by IppStar www.ippstar.org

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.

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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