Day 2 of Indian Magazine Congress 2013 saw media honchos such as Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison World; CVL Srinivas, chief executive officer, South Asia, GroupM; Ambika Srivastava, chairperson, ZenithOptimedia and Vivaki Exchange; and Ashish Bhasin, India chairman and chief executive officer, South East Asia, Aegis Group plc discuss ways and means to generate adequate ROI for the magazine industry.
Balsara started off the session by presenting a few pointers that were in favour of magazines vis-à vis other mediums, primarily TV. "If I recall, in the 1980s, TV almost demolished magazines as a medium. But today, as we speak, TV's shelflife (the lingering effect of advertising as we say), has come down, while it has seen a significant increase for magazines," he noted.
From a standpoint of the consumer, Balsara pointed out that reading a magazine was an active activity, while viewing TV was considered to be a passive activity. And therefore, a combination of TV with magazines should be more frequently used in media plans. He further said that while the TV-magazine combination was effective, it was important to schedule them together, and not one after the other.
"A lot of fashion and travel brands have found magazines useful and have seen positive impact on sales," he observed. Balsara also pointed out a few drawbacks about magazines as a medium. "Magazines contribute by only four per cent to the overall advertising pie, which is lower than global average. And to add to that there is stagnating readership - and this despite the country's increasing literacy rate."
Balsara suggested a few action points for the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM). He said, "AIM should conduct studies on impact of multimedia on different categories to measure ROI when magazines are added to TV. It should develop case studies on impact of use on magazines advertising on actual sales and should work closely with advertising agencies on exploring ways of creatively using digital media to promote magazines."
Srinivas called for a change in the mindset. "All the good news about magazines that its shelf-life is higher, it offers special interest content etc. is not translated into revenue, and that's very unfortunate. It requires a change in the mindset." He stressed on the need to sell engagement as against selling vanila ads. He noted, "We need more relevant research. It is high time we look at magazine consumption formats. There is an opportunity for magazines to ride a digital wave. It has to move from creating passive communities to active communities. And that could be done by extending formats; introducing new properties that'll become advocates for magazine brands."
On the slew of innovations that have happened in the magazine industry in the recent past, Srinivas said, "No matter how fancy innovations you come up with, you need to guard your readers."
Srivastava stressed on keeping the focus intact on content creation. "Magazines work very well in guiding the consumer in making a purchase decision - be it in case of automobiles, travel or food. So content plays a critical role, if you look at it from the long term point of view. While you may want to try various things to generate more ROI, one must not take the focus away from content."
As for the advertising sales part of the business, she said that magazines should look beyond cover pages, double spreads and full page ads. "Engagement is critical. While selling, there is no point talking about numbers, because at the end of the day, it's the engagement that brands will look at - and not absolute numbers."
In his presentation, Bhasin persuaded magazine publishers present in the audience to play at their strengths and not focus on cutting the other person (competitor) down. "There is the whole universe of 94 per cent to look at. Somehow, the mindset has to change," he maintained.
"As a magazine brand, you're selling much more than numbers. There is no point slicing and dicing numbers into various ways. Talk about things that are your core strengths."
He referred to magazines as a medium that is best suited for innovation. "It's the magazines that started the innovation game in the country, and they must continue to do that. Yes, there may be lack of ideas for innovation, but one has to think hard and come up with innovations that are not done in the past, he concluded."