“Print media in India may have faced challenges, but its resilience speaks volumes. It remains an indispensable cornerstone of information dissemination in our digital age”

Since the advent of digital media, many predicted the demise of print, expecting it to be overshadowed by the immediacy and convenience of online news. The COVID-19 pandemic appeared to hasten this decline, disrupting distribution channels and causing a siggnificant drop in advertising revenue as businesses cut budgets.

However, these predictions proved premature. Instead of fading away, print media has demonstrated resilience and adaptability. Amid the pandemic, its credibility and depth of coverage have been increasingly valued, leading to a resurgence. Publications have innovated with digital integrations and targeted niche markets, ensuring that print continues to thrive and maintain its vital role in providing trustworthy information.

How Print Media in India Still Has Scope and May Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Despite these challenges, print media in India retains significant potential and might recover to pre-pandemic levels. It remains a powerful medium for advertisers seeking to build trust and credibility. In July 2023, Crisil predicted a 13-15% revenue growth for print media in India, fueled by increased corporate and government ad spending. Supporting this positive outlook, data from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) shows that 23.7 million copies have been added to the circulation of Indian newspapers and magazines over the past 10 years. Additionally, the circulation of India’s print publications grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.87% between the end of 2006 and the end of 2016, reaching 62 million copies a day.

I believe one key factor is the strong cultural affinity for newspapers in India, where reading a physical newspaper is a daily ritual for many. Print media in India also benefits from a relatively low cost of production and a vast distribution network that reaches remote areas. Furthermore, the diverse linguistic landscape of India ensures a steady demand for regional language newspapers, which cater to local news and interests more effectively than digital platforms.

Advertising in print media, especially in regional and vernacular newspapers, remains robust as businesses recognize the value of targeted, localized advertising. According to Kantar, a marketing data and analytics company, 57 percent of internet users prefer to access the internet in Indian languages, with Hindi being the most preferred. With improved digital integration, newspapers now offer e-papers and online subscriptions, blending the traditional with the modern to attract a broader audience.

Credibility of Print Media vs. Online News Portals

A significant advantage that print media in India holds over online news portals is its credibility. Newspapers have long-standing reputations for thorough journalism and editorial standards, which foster trust among readers. In contrast, online news platforms and social media are often criticized for spreading misinformation and lacking accountability.

According to a recent research paper by Havas Media Group India, print media has emerged as one of the most credible sources of information for consumers, brands, and marketers. The rigorous fact-checking and editorial oversight inherent in print journalism help maintain a higher standard of reliability. This credibility is crucial in an era where “fake news” is rampant, making print media a trusted source of information for many.

English Broadsheets and the Media Vacuum for High-End Consumers

English broadsheets in India, are experiencing growth due to a unique market vacuum. For advertisers targeting high-end consumers with premium products like luxury cars, high-end phones, and advanced home appliances, television and most digital media options are not effective. The TechNova survey indicates that advertising categories such as FMCG, education, auto, retail, and home improvement will continue supporting the industry. Additionally, segments like fashion, jewelry, and start-ups are expected to contribute to the growth of the print sector.

I think television has become too broad in its reach, leading to significant wastage as it cannot specifically target affluent consumers. Similarly, most digital media platforms operate on a Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) model, which eliminates advertising opportunities. Services like Netflix and Hotstar Premium focus on subscription revenue, leaving little room for advertisers.

Television has also overlooked the chance to target a more affluent demographic by failing to differentiate, such as with the HD channels they once introduced, thereby neglecting to cater to that segment entirely.

In this landscape, English broadsheets provide a targeted advertising solution, reaching an affluent, educated readership that aligns well with the target demographics of premium brands. This market positioning has kept English newspapers buoyant, as advertisers, by default rather than by choice, turn to them to reach their desired audience.

English broadsheets are thriving due to this lack of viable alternatives in the advertising market. Therefore, while they may not be growing out of a conscious consumer choice, their market standing is bolstered by the limitations of other media forms in effectively reaching high-end consumers.

Despite the encouraging growth trends in print media in India, it is crucial for the industry to maintain synergy with digital platforms to ensure sustained success. While print continues to be a trusted medium, integrating digital strategies can enhance reach and engagement. Leveraging the strengths of both print and digital can create a comprehensive media approach, allowing for greater flexibility and responsiveness to market changes. By adopting a hybrid model that includes e-papers, online subscriptions, and interactive content, print media can stay relevant and competitive in an increasingly digital world. This synergy will not only retain traditional audiences but also attract new readers, ensuring the long-term vitality of the print sector.