India Today Editor-in-Chief on what the future holds

With digital content taking off rapidly and as the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, India offers plenty of challenges and opportunities for its traditional magazine publishers. 

Purie will share the stage with three CEOs in a View from the Top panel discussion at the FIPP World Congress Toronto, Canada. The Congress takes place from 13-15 October 2015.

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What brought you into the media industry yourself?

I am actually a qualified Chartered Accountant by trade and, via that, found myself running a commercial printing plant. During that process, I discovered that the only way to achieve sustained profits for the printing plant was to have a certain amount of business of our own. That is the reason we got into the publishing of magazines. That operation has of course grown much larger since then – and we currently have 33 magazines.

How has the business evolved into other areas?

After getting into magazines, I foresaw that a major shift in advertising was going to happen from print to television. So we launched four 24 hour news channels in response to that. At that time, my philosophy was to follow the money. But it has changed somewhat – not only to follow the money but also to follow the audiences, who are now moving to digital devices.

What does the magazine sector look like in India at the moment?

The print advertising market in India is projected to grow by 5.3 per cent in 2015 compared with the previous year. Dailies are expected to grow at a rate of 6 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, while the magazine industry is expected to remain flat.

In addition, readership of dailies grew at a rate of 4 per cent in 2014 versus 2013; magazine readership grew at a much faster rate of 12 per cent, albeit from a much smaller base; and English magazines grew at a rate of 9 per cent. So growth exists in the magazine industry.

What challenges does the industry face in India?

We are seeing a shift in that general-interest magazines are losing out to niche magazines. And there is a real focus on increasing reach – creating well-defined content that better engages the audience. Creating brand extensions and building a stronger connection with consumers via other properties and events enhancing the product offerings is a part of that. Overall, the print industry is expected to grow further in coming years, riding on the back of growth in tier II and tier III towns – where disposable income and literacy are on the rise. Advertisers have started realising the importance of localised impact over frequency.

But of course other challenges remain for magazines in India: we are seeing a sluggish advertising market and inadequate measurement of audience reach. Content being made available for free online means that the monetisation of digital titles remains a challenge.

How is the rise of digital and the multi-platform strategies that come with that changing magazine publishing in India?

At India Today Group, we have seen a 53 per cent+ growth rate of unique downloads from 2012 to 2014:

IndiaToday ()

The drivers for this growth are clear. The benefits of being on digital platforms are multiple and hard to ignore, including faster publishing and distribution, better knowledge of your readers and audience, measurability of advertising goals, flexibility of content, elimination of revenue loss from unsold inventory and wider reach.

With millions of smart phone and tablet users worldwide, through digital formats magazines are able to reach a much larger audience, both domestic and international.

Rich multimedia content, with features such as video embedded in stories, hyperlinks to other content, pinch-zoom and 360-degree panorama views etc, all add to the value digital magazines can provide and make the reading material much more interesting. It also helps publishers put together all the perspectives of a story. A shift of spend-to-digital is taking place from across media platforms.

How else is digital affecting the market?

Digital also offers easy discoverability. Frequent promotions and marketing by digital newsstands make digital magazines more discoverable through the Appstore/Playstore, thereby increasing probability of downloads. Partly as a result of this, in the coming year we are likely to see new companies entering the digital newsstand arena: telcos and Internet companies, for example. Google has launched its own digital newsstand in India now. Idea has launched its digital magazine store – e-read – which was made available exclusively for Idea subscribers from June 2015; and Reliance Jio is planning to launch a digital library towards the end of this year.

How are you responding as a business to the changes in the magazine industry in India?

In line with the changing readership habits of our audiences, we have now made most of our print magazines available in digital. Currently, we have 22 digital editions.

We need to create a single, unified platform that integrates content delivery across all digital channels and devices, culminating in a monetisation strategy for content and premium assets.

The future is multi-platform publishing, and key drivers for revenue will be video advertising and native advertising where non-intrusive ad formats will have prominence. Mobile-first will stay, and we will need to focus on providing content tailored for these devices.

In short – we need to concentrate on the three Cs: producing engaging ‘content’ that will help us build a ‘community’, which can in turn help us bring in the ‘cash’.

In terms of adapting our business model, our digital magazines are currently sold on Magzter and Zinio, and the new model is seeing us move across to the Digital Library.

To achieve new revenue streams, we need to know our consumers better and offer them content they find useful. For this, we need to capture as much information as possible – explicitly or implicitly. So in-depth understanding of the evolving needs of consumers and effective use of social media are also cornerstones of our digital strategy. 

What trends are you seeing across the wider digital and media industry in India?

In 2014, India was the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market – with the number of smartphones growing 54 per cent, reaching 140m in number.

Digital’s share of the overall advertising pie has really increased – from just 2 per cent in 2008 to more than 10 per cent in 2014. In 2015 it is expected to be 12.6 per cent, according to the Pitch Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2015.

In other trends, digital only businesses are realising that the future is multi-platform – and this includes print. Print has been very effective for targeting readers, engagement rates are often very high, understanding the readership is relatively easy and ad recall tends to be higher than online.

Social media is also taking more prominence in 2015, as more companies make their presence felt on various social media platforms. Facebook is the most preferred for B2C content marketing, LinkedIn for effective B2B content.

In terms of further digital trends, we are seeing that personal content distribution – apps such SnapChat and WhatsApp – is being experimented with by news providers. These apps offer a more personal means of communication than something like a push notification and are ideal for reaching a younger target audience. Also, look out for podcasts continuing their ‘renaissance’ in 2015, particularly in content marketing.

What does the longer-term future hold for your business?

I think the long-term future of our business is very bright. The fact that people are consuming more media, whether it is digital or physical, is great news. There is a demand for good content, which is our forte. The magazine business is going through a transition period where we have to integrate with the digital world in terms of building excitement and buzz about the magazines through social media – making it more interactive. There will be some loss in revenue on the print side, which will not be fully compensated by the increase in the digital medium. I see this, however, balancing out over the next few years as our digital audiences grow. We will also be launching many brand extensions by way of events and other spin-offs. Because we are multi-platform, there will be a great deal of synergy.

What excites you about the immediate future of magazine publishing?

Brand extensions across print, TV, digital, experiential have already become a reality. We have recently launched a 24-hour news channel under the India Today name and also have a website of the same name.

An integrated newsroom will help synergise editorial and business operations and help reduce costs. That’s already happening at our India Today Mediaplex.

Regional language markets are showing good potential – and native advertising and survey-led content are showing strong growth.

All in all, there is a lot to be excited about.

Aroon will be at the FIPP World Congress Toronto, Canada, taking place from 13-15 October 2015.

Register here to join 700-800 international delegates at the Congress

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• See more speakers here

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