Ananya Saha
Jul 31, 2013

‘Magazines that cater to evolved audiences will survive’

Q&A with Manas Mohan, publishing director, National Geographic Traveller India and COO, ACK Media

‘Magazines that cater to evolved audiences will survive’

Come August, and ACK Media will create buzz around the 125th anniversary celebrations of National Geographic magazine (NGM). In 2007, ACK Media took on the licence to publish NGM in India, following it up in 2012 with the licence for National Geographic Traveller India (NGTI), the travel magazine of the National Geographic Society.

Distribution house India Book House (IBH), a subsidiary of ACK Media, has been distributing National Geographic’s flagship magazine for the last 18 years and now also manages the distribution for National Geographic Traveller India.

Manas Mohan, publishing director, National Geographic Traveller India, and COO, ACK Media, takes us though what’s in store.

What are your plans to bring in the 125th year for National Geographic magazine?

We will do a lot of market coverage, increasing the sheer retail presence of the magazine. We will concentrate on online advertising, campaigns across ACK publications and radio. Finally, we are looking at customer engagement programmes from August. The programmes would include photography workshops, National Geographic Expeditions, etc.

How are magazines – NGM and NGTI – doing in India?

The television channel by same name has definitely helped the magazine. Over the last 18 years, we are slowly and steadily growing the subscription revenues. In the last two years, the subscription revenues have grown by 40 per cent. Subscription of NGM, from 70,000 copies every month until two years ago, has grown to 90,000 copies as of today. We sell about 1,05,000 copies of NGTI per month. The growing numbers are a reflection of good customer service coupled with focus on growing subscription numbers and concentrated campaigns such as e-campaigns and direct mailers.

Having a distribution arm, IBH, gives the group an advantage to know where and how much to sell. This helps advertisers and retailers to work together to ensure the best efficacy of the business.

The magazines are niche. Are they attracting good number of advertisers?

We have just been able to invite Indian advertisers in numbers by cutting down on the turnaround time of the magazine. While the response to NGTI from the advertisers has been excellent, it has been slow for NGM. Of late, every edition of NGM has been carrying 15 to 20 pages of advertisements. This is double from what the magazine had a year and a half ago. NGTI is averaging about 20 to 25 pages of advertisements every month. We have been attracting the likes of Glenfiddich, Shell, Tata Motors, Oracle, etc.

What is ACK’s strategy to attract the advertisers?

We create print innovations – ad and content. We have a four-page fold out every second issue of the magazine. We have been able to bring brands communication and engagement solutions - not necessarily selling their products. Brands focussed on B2B businesses are turning B2C to reach out to their customers with our magazines. This is a slow but a significant change.

How much does digital (from the two magazines) contribute to the revenues currently?

Digital is my great white hope. Digital media will fuel the revenues once print advertising plateaus out. Currently, the digital platform of NGM adds 20 per cent of revenues to the kitty while NGTI’s (digital) revenue is lower at eight per cent.

Doesn't digital often see a replication of the print innovations?

Right now, yes. But I hope, as we march ahead, this trend will change and we will innovate specifically for the digital medium. Clearly, the engagement model has to work. A lot of eyeballs are going into digital. So, we have to continuously feed the digital space.

Isn't digital space, with blogs and other websites, emerging as a competition to your print product?

We are getting a lot more people into the ecosystem by making them read online. The blogs and other sites are adding to it since they also tend to talk about stories or links that lead to our magazines and articles in it.

What are the targets for ACK Media from National Geographic, and Traveller, from FY 2013-‘14? And how do you plan to achieve those targets?

We have a target to grow at 25 per cent over last year financial year. Investments in terms of effort, innovation and money will help NGM and NGTI to achieve the targets.

We have to work very hard to keep our magazines leaders in the respective categories. Clearly, a lot of time and effort are going in that direction. In terms of brand and ecosystem, the pressure is clearly to engage the customer through all possible media, where television comes as a partner.

Magazines are facing a tough time currently. Your take.

Magazines are not going to die. Magazines that cater to evolved audiences will survive. Yes, certain genres are feeling the pressure. I think we, as a group, will up the ante for the magazines in the industry by presenting high-quality magazines.


Campaign India

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