By Aman Gupta
Small chance! Just as radio survived dire predictions following the launch of television, the print media will ride the storm too. Although 2009 was Annus horribilis for the print media in terms of lower ad revenues and falling margins due to the global economic slowdown, there was a silver lining too.
First, the bad news: the print media purportedly lost Rs. 2,000 crore of ad revenue and de – grew a whopping 21% compared to 2008. Magazines reportedly fared worse than newspapers. With advertising revenues critical for the print media, growth in ad spends of just 4.5%, compared to 18.9% in 2008, spelt bad news for media moguls. Given the negative investment sentiment, ads were procured via massive discounts on the listed ad tariffs.
The good news: unlike the West, few Indian newspapers or magazines folded up, with lower retrenchments too. Indian media managements were more street smart, resorting to salary cuts and reduction in page numbers, including more scrapping of supplements and less scrapping of staff. Uncertain times forced the media to employ innovative means to combat sluggish market conditions and run low–cost operations by curtailing staff and capital costs as well as overhead expenses.
Though corporate advertising suffered a setback, ads from educational institutions (particularly private ones) saved the day. Ad spends during the General Elections were another godsend. Both categories offset corporate advertising losses.
Unfazed by dwindling revenues and embattled readership figures, foreign magazines stayed the course to launch Indian editions (Forbes, Harpers Bazaar, CFO), while new Indian magazines such as Open and Career 360 also hit the newsstands. The trend continues in 2010 with the launch of BBC’s Lonely Planet magazine.
Although the Internet, TV, and other forms of infotainment are eating massive chunks from print media readership and revenues, magazines will nonetheless survive the onslaught of the new media well into 2020 and beyond. Can you ever imagine people sitting over the commode every morning with anything but a newspaper or magazine in their hands?!