On 25 February, the second and final day of the Indian Magazine Congress 2014 in New Delhi, Hoshang Billimoria, CEO, Next Gen Publishing; Indranil Roy, president, Outlook Group; Sandeep Khosla, CEO, Network 18 Publishing; and Tanushree Hazarika, managing editor, Eclectic Publications engaged in a discussion moderated by Chris Llewellyn, president, FIPP. The starting point of the conversation lay in changes witnessed in the year gone by, by publishers.
‘Focus on the core’
Pointing to the fact that some aspects of the ecosystem remain unchanged, while others demand change, Billimoria said, “If someone still prefers to read in print, we respect their opinion and the others can read in digital. We also believe that to be successful in a competitive digital world content has to be unique, otherwise it will not stand out.”
Khosla revealed that it had been a dramatic year, with Network18 Publishing selling the iconic brand Yellow Pages, besides shutting down a better part of the 21 titles published by the company. “Our philosophy is future-building and we have kept the magazines that we believe are ready for the future and we are investing heavily on them,” he said.
Roy spoke about restructuring of his organisation. On discontinuing the licensed brands, he reasoned, “We have started concentrating on our own magazines. Now we have started concentrating on what we believe is our core values and core strengths.”
The speaker noted that the focus had been on building market share, reaching out to more number of people and building a community in the magazine’s ‘strong segments’ like travel.
The 2014 outlook, digital revenue
On the challenges for 2014, he said, “One of the challenges for 2014 is how we create a community around the brands that we are going to be concentrating on.”
Hazarika too acknowledged that efforts were to focus on brand building and creating communities in the last two years.
On the subject of digital revenues, Billimoria revealed that about nine per cent of subscription revenue for his company was from digital. The expectation is to grow this in three years to 20 or 25 per cent, he revealed.
While Khosla did not delve into digital subscription revenue, he said, “In terms of advertising revenue they (digital) are miniscule at the moment. Despite having three to four websites, it wouldn’t be more than two to three per cent. But, in one or two years we will be very strong in digital.”
Roy stated that it would be too early to comment on digital revenues, and said, “We will be ready in 2014 and we are looking forward to it.” According to Hazarika, digital revenue would be less than one per cent but she said that this was a focus area for 2014. She said, “We are launching our online portal and we will be promoting our digital projects.”
Cautious steps ahead
On future launches, there was understandable caution all around. Khosla noted that the intent was not to launch anything in print, but look at digital properties, especially in special interest areas. He said, “There are two sites, which would come in March and from there we would start building our digital platform. Magazines which we have retained will remain there. A major growth area for us has been in events.”
Hazarika concurred on not launching more titles, but added that the publisher would come up with annual editions of niche subjects, as supplements with the magazine. The focus for Eclectic too would be on the digital side, she revealed.
Billimoria touched upon the ‘crystallised philosophy’ of magazines and showed interest in launching magazines in ‘virgin areas’. He said, “There are many areas that are overcrowded now. We will look at licensing and will look at it very carefully before we sign on.”
Roy revealed plans to launch brands in the luxury and lifestyle spaces - among those he named was Outlook Splurge, to be distributed along with flagship Outlook.