Noel D'souza
May 05, 2023

FICCI Frames 2023: Over 40% of print revenue should come from subscriptions

On the second day of FICCI Frames 2023, a panel discussed how to retain print readers, how to navigate the impact of digital news, cover price increases and more

From left: Pavan R Chawla, Monica Nayyar Patnaik,Devesh Gupta and Shashi Sinha.
From left: Pavan R Chawla, Monica Nayyar Patnaik,Devesh Gupta and Shashi Sinha.
On day two of FICCI Frames 2023, Monica Nayyar Patnaik, managing director, Sambad Group; Devesh Gupta, executive president, Jagran, and Shashi Sinha, CEO, Media Research Users Council India (MRUCI), shared insights on how print can scale, cover price increases, community building, and the impact of digital news.  
The panel was moderated by Pavan R Chawla, founder and editor,
Print newsrooms are alive
The panel kickoff with Patnaik pointing out that print continues to thrive in India. 
“Whether it is the English dailies or the regional media, India is still abreast with the newspaper print. Print won’t be going away anytime soon and is still the most trustworthy, credible and value-oriented medium. However, there is a lot of scope for improvement and reinvention," expressed Patnaik. 
Sinha seconded Patnaik’s statement on print sailing through stormy weather in the media landscape. He believed that print brings in a huge factor of credibility with news. He voiced, “I believe in the power of print. Hyperlocal content works in print's favour. TV aims to provide pan coverage. Viewers want to see news that is local and affects their lives. Print media has the infrastructure to produce fast, cheap and trustworthy news content. The concept of news gathering that print media has is here to stay.” 
Too dependent on ad revenues
Sinha also shared that print in this country is too dependent on advertising revenues and feels that customers should be the ones to drive revenue growth. 
“The print industry in our country should focus on circulation revenues which are paramount to gauge the growth trajectory. There are many newsprint publishers out there that undervalue their product value and do not rise their prices. They feel that the readership numbers will decline if the prices have surged. The print industry should reach a state where over 40% of its revenue should come from subscriptions. When consumers are in charge of the revenues rather than the advertiser, brands will also see the space as a credible source to market their products and services. 
Local appeal
Sinha said that the goal should be to move away from a nationalist approach. “Be more local when it comes to content so that advertisers also view cohorts in that manner. If markets are segmented and clusters are made there is more potential for advertisers to come on board as cohorts will be well defined," Sinha remarked. 
Rise of cover prices
Contradictory to Sinha's views, Gupta shared that in UP, their publication has taken a 50% rise in cover prices after the pandemic. 
Talking about the impact the price rise has had on their revenues, Gupta, said, “India is a price-sensitive market. Even if 50 paise is increased, sales slightly fall. Every time prices have risen we have taken a hit of a 10-12% decline in sales. There is a grave impact but factors like consumption habits shifting to digital also contribute to the losses.”
Gupta added that even though volumes have dropped, the readers that are paying higher prices are the ones that are more serious about the medium than they are brand-loyal readers which makes them a vantage point for advertisers as it is easier to decipher their purchasing habits.
Tapping into new readers
Patnaik shared that there are not many new readers coming into the print gambit but there are community readers that are gaining interest. “We have a literature house and have promoted literature through our publications to draw readers in. Through niche columns, we have gained clout amongst communities and are gaining new readers. We need to go to grass root levels and gain extra mileage through communities”, stated Patnaik. 
On a parting note, Gupta stated that the industry needs to capitalise on the credibility factor of print. He said, “Print can not be in the breaking news business. Digital news will always beat us to it. But credibility is where print news shines. We need to add value to what we are printing and give in-depth information that the reader won’t find anywhere.” 
Patnaik tags newsprint as the main hindrance that is slowing down growth. “Print isn’t dying. People still want to read credible news. But we need more pages for that. With newsprint prices on the rise, it is hard to provide those sources. The only way out, to reduce the cost is to reduce the number of pages which doesn’t give the reader what they want. Newsprint is a huge impediment and if the government helps us in that we will be able to scale. Also, there is no local newsprint as industries are only focused on packaging and paper. If these pain points are addressed, the news industry will be able to flourish," he concluded. 
Campaign India

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