At a time when circulation of newspapers in the USA, Europe and other developed countries,
making some media expert declare that newspapers are dying? (Greenslade 2008), the Indian
print media industry has been bucking the trend in the past decade.
What does the future hold?
When the television revolution took off in India in the 1990s, many commentators doubted the resilience of print media. After initially losing advertising revenue to television, print presently receivesabout 48 per cent of the advertising budget in India. It also has grown to reach new regions and new readers with multi-editions, while established markets have witnessed intense competition via price wars and free gift giving strategies to gain market share. As a result, the Indian print media has become more dependent on advertising revenue than its cover price. Advertisements account for more than 65 per cent of newspapers' revenue, and higher for most of English dailies, compared to about 25-30 per cent three decades ago (Press Council of India 2008).
The Press Council of India in its 'State of Newspaper Scene 2007' points out that although readership has expanded, there are about 300 million adults who can read do not read a publication, while the younger readers are gradually moving to the Internet. The Council notes that the print media (as well as television channels) largely seems to be winning the market share of each other rather than reaching out to new readers or creating new markets (Press Council of India 2008: 6)). The other concern is the 'sameness' of the content on offer (Press Council of India 2008: 6).
The threat from the internet is real, and most Indian newspapers have their online news portals.However, as internet penetration grows, people will be accessing information online, putting pressure on newspapers. As has been witnessed in more advanced economies, the competition print media would face is not only from other mainstream media which has adapted to the online environment, but also from citizen journalism and social media web sites which may seek to fill the holes left by the print media in their coverage.
When the shift of advertisements to online media accelerates (as has been the case in other countries), the Indian print media may be left in a vacuum. As a result, representatives from the Indian newspaper industry during the third Annual South Asia Newspaper Conference, in New Delhi in August 2009, noted the need to gradually increase the cover price of a newspaper. N Murali, Managing Director of The Hindu, noted: "Just as we have been witness to the commodity price bubble and asset price bubble in the last five-six years, the newspaper industry too has been building during the boom period which ready to burst" (Sarkar 2009).
By Dr Usha M Rodrigues
At a time when circulation of newspapers in the USA, Europe and other developed countries,
making some media expert declare that newspapers are dying? (Greenslade 2008), the Indian
print media industry has been bucking the trend in the past decade. According to the World
Association of Newspapers' report Indian newspaper sales increased by 35.51 per cent in the
five year period between 2003 and 2007. The Indian Media and Entertainment sector is said
to be twice as profitable as its global counterparts, according to an analysis of 37 publicly
traded Indian companies whose gross profits grew by 31 per cent between 2003 and 2007
(Press Council of India 2008). Overall, in 2008, about 100 million copies of newspapers were
sold in India (WAN 2008), whereas according to National Readership Survey as many as 222
million readers read an Indian newspaper in 2006 (Press Council of India 2008). This
expansion of newspaper readership is at a time when television viewership and radio listener
numbers too are rapidly multiplying in India. This paper takes a critical look at the reasons for
this expansion in India, at a time when online media seems to be threatening the survival of
newspapers in more advanced economies. The paper discusses current trends and strategies
employed by media proprietors to maintain and expand their market share in a competitive
environment. The paper also raises questions about the quality of journalism, and whether it is
being compromised in these times of boom, in a rush to make money from this "sunrise
industry" in India.
The Indian print media is the envy of many a newspaper editor and owner in the developed
world. At a time when circulation of newspapers in the U.S.A. and in Europe is declining,
newspapers in India are increasing their circulation. According to World Association of
Newspapers (WAN), the number of paid-for newspapers published declined in North America
by 0.56 per cent and in Europe by 2.37 per cent in 2007, as opposed to their growth by 11.22
per cent in India (WAN 2008). The World Association of Newspapers reports that Indian
newspaper sales increased by 35.51 per cent in the five year period between 2003 and 2007.
The Indian Media and Entertainment sector in India was twice as profitable as its global
counterparts, according to an analysis of 37 publicly traded Indian companies whose gross
profits grew by 31 per cent between 2003 and 2007 (Press Council of India 2008). According
to the Press Council, the Indian print media industry recorded a growth of 16 per cent in 2007
with an estimated worth of Rs 130 billion (AU$4 billion) – a trend which is set to continue to
reach Rs 281 billion (AU$8.5 billion) by 2012. Within the print media, newspaper publishing,
which constitutes more than 80 per cent, grew by 17 per cent (Press Council of India 2008).
Overall, in 2008, about 100 million copies of newspapers were sold in India (WAN 2008),
whereas according to National Readership Survey as many as 222 million readers read an
Indian newspaper in 2006 (Press Council of India 2008).
In a country where 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects are spoken, it is not
surprising that regional language newspapers would top the tally of dailies with maximum
circulation. The newspaper which sold the most copies was the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran
with a total readership
of 56.6 million, whereas the Hindi daily Bhaskar followed with a total
readership of 31.9 million and Amar Ujala was at No 3 position with a readership of 29.6
million (exchange4media.com 2008a). Other leaders among regional language newspapers
were Lokmat (20.6 million), Daily Thanthi (20.6 million), Ananda Bazar Patrika (15.6
million), Eenadu (14.7 million), Malayala Manoroma (12.7 million), Vijay Karnataka (9.6
million) (exchangexmedia.com 2008b). The Times of India tops the English daily tally with a
total readership of 13.6 million for all its editions, whereas The Hindustan Times follows with
6.3 million and The Hindu with 5.6 million a day, according to the Indian Readership Survey
for 2007 in round 1 of 2008 (exchange4media.com 2008a).
In this context, this paper takes a critical look at the reasons for this sustained growth, and the
current strategies being adopted by Indian newspaper proprietors and editors to maintain and
expand their market share in a competitive media environment, and whether these strategies
are compromising the quality of journalism in the country. The author conducted a number of
in-depth interviews in January 2009 to supplement the study of the existing media
environment and literature research on the subject. Fifteen journalists, media experts and
commentators were interviewed to gauge the impact of current market environment on the
practice of journalism in India. The interviews, while semi-structured, were broad, mutual
discussions and were conducted with an awareness of the social, political and technological
context of the topic. Interviewees for the study were chosen according to their knowledge of
and involvement in the media industry, and their position as decision making professionals in
Indian media (for example editor, broadcasters and senior journalists).
Setting the context
Indian print media has been associated with India's freedom movement, and as a result has
generally enjoyed a public perception of being a "watchdog" of a government in power.
However, despite implicit protection under the Indian constitution as part of citizens' rights to
the freedom of speech and expression, the first three decades after independence in 1947
witnessed government trying to control the media's reach through direct and indirect means,
including control over imported newsprint and high level of taxes on imported printing
machinery. But undisputedly the darkest chapter in print media history came in 1975, when
during the State of Emergency (which
effectively gave the then Prime Minister, late
Indira Gandhi power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties)
press was censored by the government. It was only after the Emergency period, in 1977, that
the new government repealed most of the repressive laws and that the print media in India
began "modernising" (Kohli-Khandekar 2006). Perhaps it was the ease with which the
government was able to control most of the elite media in India during the Emergency that the
politicians changed their views about the newspapers – which they started regarding as
friends in the new conquest of capitalism (Jeffery, 2000: 189-191). According to Jeffery
(2000), three factors influenced the growth of print media between 1977 and 1999: rising
literacy, increased availability of technology, and increasing influence of capitalism. In the
1980s the Indian polity was increasingly being influenced by the world phenomenon of
techno-managerial structure of governance (Kothari 1988). As a result, print media too
witnessed some revolutionary changes in the style of management, which became the
foundation of current growth of print media in the country. New offset printing and
computing technologies, introduction of colour, and the entry of young entrepreneurial
managers introduced the newspaper industry to shorter deadlines and risky marketing
strategies of price wars and big discounts to increase circulation and under-cut competitors in
the market. In fact, in recent decades there has been a seismic shift in the newspaper arena –
from being a family owned enterprise to becoming a corporatised industry, which has also
resulted in increased focus on the bottom-line and profit margins. As a result, according to
Vipul Mudgal, Editor (Research), Hindustan Times:
the trend is that the people selling newspapers are not coming from the newspaper
industry anymore. They come from soft drink companies. They know how
distribution of soft drinks is done in the country. How your products have to stay
fresh and crisp and still have to reach everywhere. A newspaper also has a shelf life
of a day. Fresh, crisp product distributed over a vast area. (Mudgal 2009)
Simultaneously, there was a new revolution taking place in the country as foreign and private
television channels via satellite technology arrived in India (Rodrigues, 1998 and 2005). This
hit the bottom line of the print media by making them less useful for the television audiences,
and undermining their revenue stream as advertisers started shifting to the new audio-visual
medium (Indiantelevision.com 2004).
However, the trend was reversed in the mid-2000s and presently print media (newspapers and
magazines) share about 48 per cent of the country's advertising revenue, while television
receives 37 per cent (Indiantelevision.com 2009). In print media, about 34-35 per cent of the
advertising revenue went to the English media, whereas about 24 per cent was spent on Hindi
publications, leaving a little over 40 per cent for all other language papers (Press Council of
India 2008: 19). India, unlike the United States, has had strong national and regional
newspaper brands, and it is only in recent years that newspapers have started differentiating
and marketing their hybrid products – a combination of national and local news pages – to
local communities (Ninan 2007). Similarly, Indian newspapers have long been debating a
coalition with their international counter-parts to fund their expanding repertoire of offerings.
However, unlike the television industry, it was only in 2002 that the Indian government
allowed 26 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI) into print media. The rules for foreign
investment were further modified in 2005, resulting in several Indian newspaper companies
raising capital in domestic and international markets (Kohli-Khandekar 2006). In 2008, the
Indian government approved that foreign news and current affairs magazines publish their
local editions in India, in effect making them cheaper for the Indian consumers (Reuters
2008). Meanwhile, in the non-news category of publications, 100 per cent foreign investment
is allowed, opening the floodgates to technical and specialty magazines and periodicals, such
as Vogue, Rolling Stone and Marie Clare. Magazines are seen as the most suitable product for
the niche market, for advertisers to reach the right demographic of savvy and upwardly
mobile. Similarly, 100 per cent foreign investment is allowed in corollary sectors such as
advertising agencies, market research, public relations and media planning (Press Council of
Structural reasons for the increasing circulation
The print media management has implemented a number of strategies to cash in on the
increasing literacy and purchasing power of the Indian consumer. Thakurta (2009), a media
commentator and educator, says as the economy grows, income grows, and accordingly the
individual family's demand for media and entertainment grows. Similarly, The Pioneer's
editor, Chandan Mitra says apart from the increase in people's purchasing power, the idea that
newspapers should be shared communally is gradually coming to an end. Mitra says the third
reason for the print media's growth is the people's "urge" for more and reliable information.
"Television coverage has penetrated and cable television covers more than 60 per cent of
households in India, and people recognise that television is quite sensational and not really
reliable, so they cross-check and balance the information with newspapers." Also, with an
increase in literacy levels, families' aspiration levels are increasing. "Parents want their
children to be well informed and they believe that inculcating the habit of reading newspapers
in children is important – I am talking particularly of smaller towns and villages" (Mitra
2009). According to the State of Newspaper Scene 2007 (Press Council of India 2008: 4):
Four important factors could be attributed to the growth trend of newspapers. First,
the spread of television particularly news channels, this unwittingly created a base for
newspapers. Second, the competition: between television channels for viewership and
between newspapers for readership and, then, between new channels and newspapers.
Third, economic and demographic aspects to do with literacy and lifestyles, Fourth,
the wide gap in readership, between regions of the country and male-female, urban-
rural, started declining although the differences are still glaring, constantly reminding
the potential for growth.
In 2001, the overall literacy rate improved to about 65 per cent of the population of a little
over one billion from about 52 per cent in 1991 (Census of India 2001). The gap between
male-female literacy rate was 75-53 per cent, whereas between urban-rural population was
80-59 per cent, indicating a skewed impact of economic development in India.
Meanwhile, Ninan (2007: 18) in her study of the expansion of Hindi newspapers also notes
that it was the revitalisation of panchayat raj (local self-government) in 1992 and its
subsequent implementation, which has resulted in a considerable degree of grassroots political
participation, creating awareness and hunger for news, thereby giving an impetus for regional
media to expand its reach by launching a number of local editions in smaller cities and towns
in each state. "Newspapers brought increased awareness, a growing consumerism, and civic
participation in their wake, and no one was left untouched. Readers, civil society, politicians,
panchayats all experienced a media saturation that was as rapid as it was new," (Ninan 2007:
13-14). Statistics provided earlier support the assertion that it is the expansion of Hindi and
regional language press in the recent decade which has continued to lead the industry's
. According to the State of Newspaper Scene 2007, both the growth and
expansion of regional language print media has coincided with proliferation of news
broadcasts (Press Council of India 2008: 13). "Although the English print media and
television reach out to the more affluent sections of the population and therefore command a
disproportionate share of advertising revenue, but in terms of reach and circulation, in terms
of readership figures, the non-English newspapers are far bigger" (Thakurta 2009).
Strategies for maintenance of growth
The increase in circulation goes hand in hand with increasing competition in the print media
industry. Although, as stated above there are some structural reasons for the industry's
growth, individual media groups are implementing new management and marketing strategies
to continue to survive and thrive in a lot more competitive market place. Media groups see an
opportunity to expand their reach into new territories, particularly in rural India, and an
opportunity to encroach on other groups' stronghold with aggressive marketing strategies.
Whether these strategies have had an adverse impact on the quality of journalism is a moot
question. "In cities, newspapers have refashioned themselves, they've added glamour and
other things which were earlier treated cursorily, which has led to a lot of young people
reading newspapers…This has also led to serious news getting underplayed and the glamour
and commercial things getting precedence" (Mitra 2009). The press is moving from being
elite to being a mass medium, and the Indian newspaper is evolving from being a politics-
driven product for the serious-minded reader into one that is fashioning itself for the upwardly
mobile, as well as for the reader who has barely begun to read, and is looking for news of his
immediate universe (Ninan 2007: 18). Similarly, Vipul Mudgal (2009), Editor (Research)
Hindustan Times outlines the various marketing strategies of Indian newspapers:
Readership drivers – everybody knows that a good sports supplement or good sports
coverage attracts more readers, engages them more with the paper. Everybody knows
that good Bollywood coverage is interesting, people like it. It is very common for the
Hindi newspaper to have a Bollywood supplement, even without advertisements,
because they see it as a good readership driver.
Ninan (2007: 276) says Hindi newspapers such as Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran, Alar
Ujala, Rajasthan Patrika and Hindustan have expanded their reach over a period of ten years
(from 1995 to 2005) by creating multi-editions, adding pages, supplements, colour to their
paper, and by investing capital in machines and marketing, and squeezing out local stand-
alone papers by initiating price wars. As a result, competition from the bigger players with
deeper pockets have forced smaller players in the Hindi heartland to either come up with
strategies to carve out a niche for themselves in the market by covering corruption and
pollution related stories which the bigger papers do not cover, or close down (Ninan 2007).
Mitra (2009) agrees that one has to make a distinction between mass circulation and niche
papers, which have different strategies to compete in the market. Niche papers have to rely on
newspaper subscription for their revenue, instead of advertising which usually goes to the
mass circulation papers. According to the executive editor of The Times of India, Arindham
Sengupta (2009) the younger generation has always been the target of print media, but today's
newspapers need to be "less preachy", and connect with people, "interactivity is important".
The Times of India has launched several verticals: education, property, life-style, The Daily
Times in each city, "to add greater muscle power to the main product and in times to come
there will be still more verticals (supplements)" (Sengupta 2009).
Quality and sustainability of growth
However, the aggressive strategy of selling more copies has also had an impact on the quality
of journalism and the credibility of journalists in India. Media, particularly, the print media, as
stated before, has a legacy of being part of the freedom movement in India and therefore
enjoys a level of respect among its audiences which is unknown in some of the more
advanced democracies where sometimes journalists are compared to car sales people. The
increasing circulation of newspapers in India according to some commentators is under-
cutting this credibility because of a fall in the quality of journalism. Some commentators are
critical of the media strategy of "dumbing down" news content to attract new readers in rural
and less educated segments of the population. Mudgal (2009), who was in-charge of the
Hindustan Times' new editions in Lucknow, Jaipur and Dehradun, explains that as
newspapers are going to smaller cities to expand their readership, they have to modify their
language standards to reach the masses. In smaller towns, very few people can speak English,
and the paper wants to cater to a large proportion of aspiring readers and for the "wannabees",
which results in lowering of standards, says Mudgal.
The page 3 idea – emphasis on sports coverage, the dumbing down of stories which
are covered with a lot of violence, crime, rape rather than political or social stories –
all of these are some of the things the papers are doing to make them more attractive
and to get new readers that is those who aren't reading the papers. (Thapar 2009)
Thapar is also critical of the education level of the new crop of journalists, who are joining the
booming industry with some technical skills, but "haven't learnt to think, to question, to
analyse, to understand, to judge between relevant and irrelevant and to be discriminatory."
Ninan (2009) too believes that the print media has become too focussed on its revenue base
rather than quality of journalism:
Even print media (similar to television) is heavily going into one big story mode on
their front pages. There are regional newspapers who would have 10 stories on their
front page, whereas English newspapers would have three-four or one dominant news
story on the front page. This trend is also influenced by the revenue base of
advertisement where news publications want to grab the reader and satisfy their
curiosity about that one big topic of the day… it is rating based, it is based on what
the media think its audience want.
However, Sengupta (2009) thinks that journalism quality in India has "gone up, rather than
down" because newspapers today have become more responsive to local readers' need for
local news. Rather than giving them news about distant places which has little impact on their
day to day lives, readers now get news about themselves and their locality. But, he argues that
the quality of English language in the newspapers has gone down:
It's another matter that there is a tendency to sensationalise, but that is not across the
board. Stories are not as well examined and filtration process is not as good as it used
to be, but 25-30 years ago, those were more innocent days. Things are happening so
fast these days, you need to do things at such a rapid pace that there is a bit of a
problem in that sometimes a few things that ought not to go in, go in. But you get
huge volume of news, that is being covered today, and from every possible sector. I
think content of newspapers has gone up rather than down, what has declined is the
quality of English language.
Sengupta believes the quality of language education in India has nose-dived, and as a result
the newspaper desk which used to be the "real pillar of a newspaper establishment" is under
staffed and under qualified. Mitra (2009) agrees: "Sometimes when you talk of the quality
going down, I would agree only to a limited extent that the presentation and the language in
which the reporter has prepared is not as exact as in the past, but overall, in terms of coverage,
things are pretty good right now with the print media."
However, there has been criticism of the media's coverage of trivial and sensational stories in
a bid to maximise their readership, in the process breaking the Press Council of India's
"Norms of journalistic conduct" (Mitra 2009; Ninan 2009). In the recently concluded General
elections, media watchers reported several cases where the press was paid to carry favourable
news reports about the local political parties and candidates (Shridhar 2009; Chamdia 2009).
The lack of distinction between advertising, advertorials and news is adversely affecting the
credibility of the media. The Press Council of India (2005) in its 'Norms of Journalistic
Conduct' covers the issue of commercialism and advertising adversely affecting the quality of
28. Newspapers to avoid crass commercialism
While newspapers are entitled to ensure, improve or strengthen their financial
viability by all legitimate means, the Press shall not engage in crass commercialism or
unseemly cut-throat commercial competition with their rivals in a manner repugnant
to high professional standards and good taste…
Commercial advertisements are information as much as social, economic or political
information. What is more, advertisements shape attitude and ways of life at least as
much, as other kinds of information and comment. Journalistic propriety demands
that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from news content carried in the
newspaper. (Press Council of India 2005)
This is similar to the Australian Press Council's Statements of Principles which say:
6. Publications are free to advocate their own views and publish the bylined
opinions of others, as long as readers can recognise what is fact and what
is opinion. Relevant facts should not be misrepresented or suppressed,
headlines and captions should fairly reflect the tenor of an article and
readers should be advised of any manipulation of images and potential
conflicts of interest. (Australian Press Council 2009)
It is the intensification of competition and the commercial pressures which are
causing media to break the voluntary norms of journalistic conduct. Similarly, some
commentators noted further politicisation of the media in India, particularly the trend
towards partisan coverage (Ninan 2009; Mudgal 2009). "There is a trend of
politicising of India. Like in pluralism, you have all kinds of lobbies jostling with
each other for attention, for getting their agenda fulfilled. In the same way, their news
has to be reflected in their sympathetic media" (Mudgal 2009). During the Gujarat
riots, some of the regional print media's coverage was criticised for being biased and
sensational, inciting riots based on religion. Subarno Chattarji (2008: 47) in his study
of mass media discourses in India and Pakistan said that during the Kargil war and
Gujarat riots, the Indian media's coverage was inconsistent and shallow, lacking an
analysis of the impact of the history of communal violence and hate speeches on
Indian population, causing anxiety (among both majority and minority sections)
"frying the secular fabric of Indian polity and institutions". Similarly, the Indian
media has been criticised for ignoring the plight of the one third of the population,
including farmers, women and minorities, which still lives below the poverty line. P
Sainath (in Fernandes 2008), the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, says that the media
has neglected to analyse and report the real big issues: impediments to development,
corruption, and structural reasons for poverty in India. Commentators also lament the
non-effectiveness of the Press Council of India, a body of representatives from print
publications and nominees of the two houses of parliament, who are unable to punish
the perpetrators (Mitra 2009; Thakurta 2009). Meanwhile, the "government has no
interest in uplifting the level of journalism. If they did that, good journalism will
devour the government of the day" (Mudgal 2009).
What does the future hold?
When the television revolution took off in India in the 1990s, many commentators doubted
the resilience of print media, and its ability to thrive against the capacity of the audio visual
medium to reach the masses. After initially losing advertising revenue to television, print
media has clawed back some of its share, and presently receives about 48 per cent of the
advertising budget spent in India. It also has grown to reach new regions and new readers
with multi-editions, while established markets have witnessed intense competition via price
wars and free gift giving strategies to gain market share. As a result, the Indian print media
has become more and more dependent on advertising revenue than from its cover price.
Advertisements account for more than 65 per cent of newspapers' revenue, and higher for
most of English dailies, compared to about 25-30 per cent three decades ago (Press Council of
India 2008). The Indian media too is following the worldwide phenomena of increasingly
blurring the line between editorial and marketing departments, resulting in downgrading and
devaluing of news, analysis and public affairs information provided by the newspapers.
"There are tendencies of hyper-commercialisation, which tackles the newspaper and its
journalism more or less like any other commodity or "product" and sees any higher ground
vision as old-fashioned, sanctimonious humbug" (N. Ram 2007:3). It is significant to note
that most of the top advertising, public relations and media planning agencies in India today
are controlled by foreign owners (due to 100 FDI allowance), and considering their influence
on media content (blurring of lines between news and advertorials), it does raise a question
about the need to restrict foreign ownership to 26 per cent in the print news media.
The commercialisation and corporatisation of print media is having an adverse impact on
journalism quality of Indian newspapers, which have so far maintained their historical legacy
of being a plural and diverse industry reflecting the vast regional, linguistic, socio-economic
and cultural diversity of Indian society. The Press Council of India in its 'State of Newspaper
Scene 2007' points out that although readership has expanded, there are about 300 million
adults who can read do not read a publication, while the younger readers are gradually
moving to the Internet. The Council notes that the print media (as well as television channels)
largely seems to be winning the market share of each other rather than reaching out to new
readers or creating new markets (Press Council of India 2008: 6)). The other concern is the
'sameness' of the content on offer (Press Council of India 2008: 6). In addition, dark clouds
of concentration of media ownership are on the horizon with smaller newspapers being driven
out of the market by predatory pricing by bigger counter-parts. There are 13-14 media groups
emerging as conglomerates in the country, which are in the news business, consolidating their
position horizontally across cities and towns, and vertically across various media platforms
(Press Council of India 2008). The bigger players are now becoming multimedia empires by
launching or acquiring interests in television and radio stations. One such example is Dainik
Jagran launching its own television channel, similar to The Times of India which has a sister
television network complete with news and entertainment channels. As noted earlier, the need
(greed) to maximise profit and maintain political influence is resulting in newspapers in some
instances selling their news space to political parties, compromising the principle of
demarcation between news and views content. This may be short-sighted in terms of
undermining a newspaper's credibility, but it is increasingly becoming a reality in a
competitive market (Sridhar 2009).
Meanwhile, the threat from the internet is real, and most of the Indian newspapers have their
own online news portals. However, as internet penetration grows, people will be accessing
information online, putting pressure on newspapers. As has been witnessed in more advanced
economies, the competition print media would face is not only from other mainstream media
which has adapted to the online environment, but also from citizen journalism and social
media web sites which may seek to fill the holes left by the print media in their coverage.
There is a danger that in the process of pursuing larger profits and market share, Indian
journalism may lose its credibility with its audiences forcing its readers to look for quality
elsewhere. Also, competition and commercialisation has forced the Indian newspapers to drop
their cover prices to minimum (AU$0.05-AU$0.10 per copy), which means the pricing model
is heavily skewed towards revenue coming from advertising. When the shift of
advertisements to online media accelerates (as has been the case in other countries), the
Indian print media may be left in a vacuum. As a result, representatives from the Indian
newspaper industry during the third Annual South Asia Newspaper Conference, in New Delhi
in August 2009, noted the need to gradually increase the cover price of a newspaper. N
Murali, Managing Director of The Hindu, noted: "Just as we have been witness to the
commodity price bubble and asset price bubble in the last five-six years, the newspaper
industry too has been building during the boom period which ready to burst" (Sarkar 2009).
Perhaps, there is still time for the Indian print media to buck the trend and learn from the
successes and failures of Western counter-part and modify their marketing and content
strategies to meet the hurricane of online media which is still to penetrate into Indian media
heartland. The talk of charging for online content by News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch has
raised the level of debate about whether newspapers can fund their print versions by charging
for their online content, particularly when readers have got used to 'free' news content on the
internet. It remains to be seen how well the Indian newspaper industry adapts to these news
trends and continues to expand to new audiences both in urban and rural India.
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According to Press Council of India (2008), English dailies have on an average 3 to 4 readers per
copy as against 5 to 7 readers for leading dailies in regional languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Kanada
and Gujarati, whereas leading Hindi dailies have 5- 6 readers per copy.
Please note, almost all the readership surveys in India are disputed by one or more media groups.
Accurate surveying in India is difficult because of diversity of languages and access to rural and remote
Readership and circulation of dailies in Southern States of India have been growing, which coincides
with proliferation of television channels including language television in these States (Kerela, Tamil
Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karanataka). Similarly, in the neighbouring state of Maharashtra where
Marathi newspapers have flourished (Press Council of India 2008: 5).