September 5, 2014

Print Media is run by duds !

Print media may be shrinking in developed countries but not in India. Actually print media in India is growing at a healthy double digit CAGR while shrinking worldwide especially in the developed world. If you wonder why India is an anachronism as compared to the rest of the world, well the answer lies in the character & attitude of the citizens of India who comprise the country inhabited by many separate nations based on cultural & religious identities.

For example telecom markets in all the major countries are made up of disproportionately large share of post paid subscribers whereas in India it is dominated by pre-paid customers. Moreover India is the only country that has been ruled by ‘foreigners‘for the longest period in human history. Indians are unique people with very interesting characteristics but that I would discuss some other time. Let’s have a look at what ails Indian print media industry.

Print & electronic media in general exploded & grew exponentially in early 90s and the advertising revenues kept showing a healthy trend till 2007 when the global meltdown happened that resulted in shrinking of advtg budgets like scales on the back of a porcupine. But the signs of stagnation of advertising revenues could be noticed in early towards the beginning of the twenty-first century as innovations in marketing of advertising space almost died completely.

Traditionally the advertising was marketed by newspapers mainly through the advertising agencies and some publishing majors looked down upon any effort at marketing the newspapers to advertisers owing to vain journalistic pride. Although most publishers & editors took sides of vested interest groups involved in politics & commerce but the journalist kept pretense that they are the fourth pillar of democracy in India which they agree is one of the most corrupt country on the face of the earth. Well while journalists sashayed up & down the political corridors singing ‘we are the savior of democracy’ pop song the media houses partook huge gifts of prime real estate & government advertising etc from the government.

When the economy opened up for the first time by India’s most honest and scholarly Finance Minster till date, Dr Manmohan Singh, the selling became a good word & print media recruited large in-house sales teams to market their products to trade buyers & end customers. This was the period when the management professionals begin to call the shots in running of the media firms which were dominated by journalists with ideas like a long editorial piece.

This explosive growth in media fuelled the growth in other sectors of economy as the new breed of trained Sales Management professionals from the field of media management were lapped up by other services firm particularly the telecom. In my opinion media can play a critical role in economic progress of a developing market but governments are oblivious to its potential. This growth phase was marked by numerous innovations to serve a variety of media buyers & advertisers.

Unfortunately once the media houses cornered the benefits of growth the publishers refused to acknowledge the stellar contributions made by some great media managers and ejected the professionals who made the media revolution possible. Every media analyst in India knows the couple of great media managers who led the growth of media in India. Point is, since the beginning of twenty-first century media lost its appetite for innovations. I would be surprised if any media house can claim to have infused culture of innovation in its teams so as to delight the customers with greater return on advertising spend every time. Print media has huge opportunities to grow and benefit from deluge of digital online space.  But to make that happen, media houses have to hire train & nurture marketing & sales leaders capable of producing innovation like the rabbits from magician’s hat. If you any have doubt that there is no scope for innovations in media marketing try sit with me with lots of black coffee, you would love to pick the tab. 

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