Indian print media hasn’t lost its steam yet

Print’s substantial slice in the adex pie amid digital onslaught

The Pitch Madison Advertising Report for 2024 and the Dentsu-e4m digital advertising report 2024 both say print media has managed to retain 19-20% of India’s total advertising pie in 2023

India’s print media, though slowing down, is not out yet, and has managed to hold fort amid the digital onslaught, suggest two advertising reports released in February 2024. The Pitch Madison Advertising Report for 2024 and the Dentsu-e4m digital advertising report 2024 — which Indian Printer and Publisher has seen — both say print media has managed to retain 19-20% of India’s total advertising pie in 2023, despite a gradual decline in its growth rate over the years and amidst a steep global decline.

Advertising expenditure on print media, though registering a 4% growth, has yet to touch its pre-Covid high of Rs 20,045 crore (US$ 2.44 billion) in 2019, netting just Rs 19,250 crore (US$ 2.35 billion) in 2023, says the Madison report.

Print surprises, says Pitch Madison Advertising Report for 2024

According to the Pitch Madison report, one of the sought-after reports in advertising industry trends and spends, India’s overall adex growth slowed to 10%. Within this, digital grew modestly at 15%, TV was at 7%, print at 4%, and outdoor (OOH) was up at a healthy 13%. In absolute terms, India’s adex closed just a little short of Rs 1 lakh crore at Rs 99,038 crore (US$ 12.08 billion) in 2023. In 2024, the overall adex growth at 12% is forecast to reach Rs 1,11,110 crore (approximately US$ 13.6 billion).

Factors such as increased prices of raw materials in the first half of the financial year forced some advertisers to be cautious about their ad spend or to stop altogether. The Russia-Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas wars are another factor. Inflation and rising prices, marginal or no increase in income have put pressure on the lower middle class and restricted their ability to spend on consumer goods. The startup funding winter continues, forcing many new ventures to abandon their advertising plans.

In terms of absolute numbers, print in 2014 was at Rs 15,274 crore (41% share of total adex) and today after 10 years is at Rs 19,250 crore (19% share), which means a compounded annual growth rate of only 2%, the report says. “Print has lost two percentage points in the last year but seen over a longer time frame, its share has dropped from 41% in 2014 to 19% today.”

Reversing the decline in print

The Pitch Madison report says print in India, however, continues to surprise the rest of the world. It expects print to grow by 7% in 2024 against an expected degrowth in print of -4% globally. If this does happen, the print adex should cross Rs 20,000 crore and will finally surpass the pre-Covid 2019 figures.

Many would say our print forecast is optimistic. But we believe print continues to be the first port of call for many conservative family-managed small businesses and the ever-expanding retail sector. Print will get a big boost with the upcoming parliamentary elections in April/May as print is a favorite of politicians and political parties and space for political campaigns is sold at a substantial premium over rates charged to brands,” the report says.

With this projected growth, print is expected to hold its market share of 19%. If the projection comes true, 2024 will be the first year after a gap of 13 years when print market share will hold steady for more than two years. “All these 13 years, print’s share has marginally declined, year on year.”

Despite its resilience, print’s adex share is falling

Auto, FMCG, education, retail and real estate contributed up to 50% to print’s adex. The year 2023 saw auto leading the pack with a 14% share, contributing the most to print adex growth. Travel and tourism, BFSI, corporate and clothing, fashion and jewelry were also other big spenders in the print medium.

In 2018, print adex stood at Rs 19,457 crore with a 32% market share but at a growth rate of 4%. In the year 2019, the Adex number went up to Rs 20,045. However, both market share and growth fell to 30%, and 2%, respectively.

In 2020, the Covid pandemic year, the print adex fell to Rs 11,925 crore, a -41% fall as circulation collapsed. The market share also fell to 22% amid the rise in digital. In 2021, when India started opening up, Adex rose to Rs 16,595 crore at 39% over the anemic previous year, but the market share stuck at 22%.

In 2022, print’s Adex rose to Rs 18,470 crore but the growth rate fell to 11%, and the market share remained at 22%. In 2023, while the absolute print Adex rose to Rs 19,250 crore, its market share fell to 19% with the growth rate declining to a low of 4%.

According to the report, Hindi and English periodicals contribute over 64% to the total print advertising space in India, registering a growth of 10% and 8%, respectively, according to Pitch-Madison. Marathi comes next. However, the volume of space used collectively in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Odiya, Bengali, Punjabi, Assamese and Urdu is relatively low, which is worrisome for the majority of language media. Publications of these languages show flat to marginally negative growth.

dentsu-e4m report – less optimistic for print

The Dentsu-e4m report, however, pegs the Indian advertising industry’s growth at 8.6% in 2023 over 2022, presently holding a market size of Rs 93,166 crore. By the end of 2025, it is expected to further grow at a compounded rate of 9.86% to reach Rs 1,12,453 crore.

The digital advertising industry witnessed a growth of 36.6% over 2022 with a market size of Rs 40,685 crore and is estimated to reach Rs 62,045 crore, growing at a compounded rate of 23.49% by 2025.

In 2023, digital media surpassed the persistent dominance of television media spending, securing the largest share of 44% (Rs 40,685 crore) in the Indian advertising market. Television’s contribution now stands at 32% (Rs 29,836 crore), followed by print media at 20% (Rs 18,652 crore), the Dentsu-e4m report says.

According to the Dentsu-e4m report, print’s media share in Adex has gradually declined from 35% in 2016 to 18% in 2024. It was 34% in 2017, dropping to 31% in 2018, 29% in 2019, 25% in 2020, 23% in 2021, 22% in 2022 and 20% in 2023. In 2024, print’s adex share is forecast to drop further to 18% and reach 16% in 2025 – slightly less than Pitch Madison’s forecast.

In absolute terms, however, ad spending on print was estimated at Rs 18,652 crore in 2023, a rise of 33.5% from Rs 13,970 crore in 2020. In 2021 it was Rs 16,599 crore, while in 2022 the spending was Rs 18,258 crore, the report said.

The decline in print Adex is attributed to the rise of digital and a shift in consumer preferences towards digital screens, particularly among the younger demographic. Rising costs, distribution challenges, and environmental sustainability concerns are further hindrances, the Dentsu-e4m report says.

The government sector was the leading advertiser on print in 2023 with 79% of its ad spending dedicated to newspapers. M&E and education each contributed 56% of their adex in 2023 to print. Retail and auto sectors were also among the top advertisers but FMCG, eCommerce and BFSI have reduced their print spending. Tourism, a new entrant, assigned 39% of its ad budget to print. Real estate (8%) and telecom (6%), consumer durables (17%) and pharma (16%) were some of the other contributors.

Media houses optimistic amid better profitability

Nevertheless, the slow but steady revival of print media is reflected in the financial results of major newspapers, which Indian Printer and Publisher has been reporting. In Q3FY24, DB Corp reported a 156.8% YoY growth in net profits and a 15.5% growth in revenue. And Jagran Prakashan, even with a lower YoY growth at 4.7%, stayed profitable with PBT in Q3FY24 up by 43.4% YoY. HT Media, however, reported flat results or no growth but managed to narrow down its losses. Malayala Manorama reported a 17.5% jump in total revenue for the financial year ending 31 March 31.

Speaking on the Q3FY24 results, DB Corp’s non-executive director Girish Agarwal expressed optimism about print media’s future on the back of softening newsprint prices and the renewed interest of advertisers in newspapers during the festive season. Agarwal said in Q3, most of the advertising categories have grown in double digits for the company. Categories such as automobiles grew by almost 47%, FMCG by 20-25%, real estate by 20%, and jewelry by 26%. He said government spending had shown 36% growth because of the elections in several states.

Asked if the ad rates had gone back to pre-Covid levels, Agarwal said in a Q3 con call that in a few categories, they are higher. Both Agarwal and HT Media chairperson Shobana Bhartia in their statements felt that the general elections this year will provide a much-needed impetus to the print media, an expectation endorsed by both reports.

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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