Special interest magazines are a sunrise sector for Indian media

Four top magazine publishers speak to Campaign India about the key trends in Indian magazine industry

Sep 14, 2011 02:35:00 PM | Article | Ramu Ramanathan


Tarun Rai, Chief executive officer, Worldwide Media

New magazine launches continue. A year after the very high profile launch of Lonely Planet magazine, Conde Nast decided to launch Traveller, though with only 6 issues in a year. Fortune launched too. We launched BBC Knowledge aimed at teenagers. BBC Knowledge is reaching out to over 2500 schools through the Times of India’s NIE program. The good news is that new spaces beyond the women and fashion genre are being explored.

Some publishers decided to take cover prices up. Some auto magazines have gone beyond the convenient 100/- price point. Worldwide Media has been very aggressive on cover price increases but have not increased them in the last year. Our circulation numbers are growing and we are planning to hold prices for a while.

Worldwide Media went into unchartered waters with the launch of Femina Hindi two years ago. It was a model wherein we used largely the Femina English content and delivered the same production values as the English edition. It has been a huge success. Last year we launched Femina Tamil on the same principle as also Filmfare Hindi. Regional language versions seems to be catching on with Overdrive launching their Hindi edition.

IRS figures did throw up some positive surprises for a change. Some magazines showed a substantial increase in numbers. Top Gear showed an increase through three consecutive quarters with the last quarter showing a growth of 20%. Hello had a stupendous 60% growth in the last quarter!!

Opportunities and challenges include: the life-style and special interest space is growing fast with more brands launching and expanding their operations.

Regional languages provide an opportunity to take English magazine content to a larger number of readers. It is, however, not a simple decision. At Worldwide Media, we took two years to test waters with Femina Hindi before we launched Femina Tamil.

Mobile devices provide another opportunity to take the magazine content to a larger number of people. A lot of magazines have made strong moves in this area and the results should start trickling in.

Retail infrastructure continues to be a challenge. News stands are limited and post/courier unreliable.

Ad expenditure share continues to be around 3% for magazines. Magazines deserve much more attention from advertisers and media planners.

Future of magazines includes life style and special interest magazines which are a sunrise sector of Indian media. The growth is strong. Worldwide Media is only in this space and we have had a very strong performance in the financial year ending March 2011 and the first half of this year has delivered an equally strong performance.

Mobile devices like tablets and mobiles bode well for magazines. These add a new revenue opportunity. While this is still a nascent area and robust revenue models still need to be worked out, it is a pointer to a bright future direction for magazines. It opens up hitherto unreachable younger audiences.


Rajnish Rawat, Chief operating officer, Paprika Media 

Improved economic conditions in 2010 have played a major role in a rebound in consumer spend and advertising spend, though magazine publishing industry registered a growth of 3.1%. While the growth estimates for the magazines look modest, some titles and publishers have experienced double-digit growth. Some have lagged behind.

Time Out clients have been trusting us to come up with new and innovative ideas for their brands. Our teams work collaboratively with brands keeping in mind brand’s marketing objective as well as the sensibility of the Time Out readers. For example we did an innovation for Gatorade in which a dummy bottle of Gatorade opens up in 5 bottles talking about different sports schedules. This is a perfect example of integration. Since the brand could communicate the fact that it is world's number one sports drink and the discerning Time Out reader got the sports calendar. We came created a Smirnoff nightlife exchange program booklet in which we listed 50 best night clubs in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru. Similarly we created a guide of 50 great places to eat and drink in three cities along with Citibank.

Time Out has created some very interesting campaigns in one year like Volkswagen, Skoda, Swatch, CK, Diesel, Lee Cooper, Celio, Hide Sign, Canali, Dell, Vodafone, Aircel, Loop.

The magazine industry is projected to show a growth of 4.8-5% over the next five years. However, niche magazines seem to be doing quite well and can be expected to push ahead. Like the rest of the world, in India the industry will have to contend with rising demand for the digital experience. And more and more publishers will be providing magazine content on digital format. The digital experience goes beyond providing just good content and includes providing it on the device of choice as well as on demand.




Ashish Bagga, Chief executive officer, Living Media

According to me the key trends in the past year include several new niche magazine launches and an increase in cover price of mass consumer magazines.

The innovations major brands have deployed in magazines - apart from the regular, have been client activations and 360 degree engagements including digital.

The opportunities in magazine that have come up in the past year have seen the emergence of strong niche/special interest communities that are being served by appropriate content targeted at a selective set of advertisers.

At Living Media we produced important campaigns with Harpers Bazaar and Robb Report very successfully.

The future of magazines in India is very bright, given that we are still an underpenetrated, under saturated medium, especially for language publishing. Also the digital opportunity will be huge in the years to come.


Indrajit Gupta, editor, Forbes India

After a little more than two years since the launch of the Indian edition of the Forbes magazine, I can now say that many of the fears expressed before our launch have proven to be unfounded. Our market entry proves the point that if you put premium content at the heart of the business—and support it with a distinctive marketing mix, it is possible to create new, uncontested spaces even in a cluttered, seemingly fatigued market. So what did we did do differently? Here are just a few pointers:

We followed the dictum: as a late entrant, we couldn’t be everything to everyone. We defined our audience clearly.

First and foremost, we listened closely to our lead users (sophisticated, discerning readers who had outgrown existing business magazine titles) on how their lives had changed and with it, their media habits too.

We completely junked the narrow, compartmentalized way in which current titles looked at their content mix. We’ve chosen an integrated approach—in the way senior business leaders would look at business issues.

Business is no longer local. We made sure our work had a global perspective, but seen through an Indian prism.

We evolved a unique story telling approach—with real characters, protagonists and a plot that readers would find engaging. Almost like a person sitting on a bar stool telling you a story. That helped us deal with the fatigue that readers experienced every time they picked up a business magazine. And what's more, we own that signature style.