Newspapers need to engage with readers: Dainik Jagran Inext’s Alok Sanwal

Dainik Jagran Inext launches five sub editions in UP

Alok Sanwal, CEO, Dainik Jagran Inext

At a time when newspapers face uncertain times, and many publications across India and the world shut down print editions, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, two media houses in India have gone into an expansion mode, in what can be seen as a whiff of fresh air for the embattled sector.

While Inext, an urban-aspiring and youth-centric bilingual daily broadsheet newspaper from the house of Kanpur-headquartered Dainik Jagran has launched five new sub-editions in Uttar Pradesh, Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi newspaper from the Nagpur-Jabalpur-based Bhaskar Prakashan has set foot in the highly competitive market of Mumbai.

Dainik Jagran Inext‘s five new sub-editions, or satellite editions, have been launched in Chandauli, Jaunpur, Unnao, Kaushambi and Pratapgarh within the master editions of Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh.

Inext’s success journey

In an interaction with the Indian Printer and Publisher, Alok Sanwal, CEO, Dainik Jagran Inext, sounded quite confident while explaining the purpose behind the new editions amid such turbulent times for the print media in general and newspapers in particular. 

Sanwal feels that, unlike metros, print is still evolving in smaller towns and cities as well as in rural India. “Plus, there is the trust factor in print, especially after the pandemic.” Print, he explained, is read comfortably. At the same time, keeping the digital audience in mind, they have adopted a quick-browsing format in terms of layout with a lot of briefs and QR code pointers to the online edition.

Dainik Jagran Inext’s five new sub-editions, or satellite editions, have been launched in
Chandauli, Jaunpur, Unnao, Kaushambi and Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh.

Dainik Jagran Inext’s USP is its rich content, which typically engages the audience with pictorial stories, a colloquial language that retains a lot of commonly used English words, citizen journalism, reader feedback and interaction, etc. “Typically, around 500 English words are not translated into Hindi.”

Born 17 years ago in 2006, Dainik Jagran Inext now has 12 main editions and five sub-editions. It caters to what Sanwal described as those who are young at heart in tier 2 and 3 cities, looking for content akin to what leading English dailies provide in the top metros – the B1 plus segment, mostly 18-35 years of age.

Apart from the new sub-editions, there are main editions in Kanpur, Agra, Prayagraj, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Meerut, and Varanasi in UP, Patna in Bihar, Ranchi and Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Dehra Dun in Uttarakhand. 

“Here we are talking about the district centers, which we call mini-metros, where people look for something more from newspapers. They want content with a world view, aspiration, technology, startup news, wellness, and new opportunities – similar to what the English newspapers offer. So we decided to target this audience and launched 12 editions in four states in three years in tier 2 cities.”

These towns and cities, he explained, have undergone a sea-change in development parameters and their socio-economic scenario over the years. Jaunpur, for example, where they have launched a sub-edition, has a population of 30 lakh in the entire district and 5 lakh in the city. “We now see big brands and luxury car showrooms in these mini-metros.”

Inext is initially looking at a circulation of 10-15,000 per sub-edition at a price point of Rs 3-4 for a 12-14 page newspaper. “This is where we score as we can offer good value at a competitive price. Whereas, bigger newspapers charge Rs 6-8 for 18 pages.”

Dainik Jagran Inext’s (online and offline) share of revenue in the entire group is roughly 6.5%, while only print’s share is 8.5%. Initially, 15% of revenue came from subscriptions and 85 from advertisements, which increased to a 28:72 ratio. “The tilt is coming. Gradually, over time, we hope to move towards 50:50.”

Talking about the recent surge in prices of newsprint, Sanyal said it was kind of a blessing in disguise and helped media houses raise their cover prices. “We got a seed spot in terms of price point. But now newsprint prices are rolling down and the bottom line, which was affected, is being care of.”

The growth of print, he said, is being hindered by print itself. To take on competition from digital and survive in the evolving world of news, newspapers have to constantly innovate, take into confidence advertisers and readers and invest in research.

Dainik Jagran Inext, incidentally, was the only print media house to bag an award at the 12th Global Customer Engagement Awards 2023 – Silver for the Best Use of Celebrity Endorsement.

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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