01 October 2006

India assures a future for print journalism… in English

While the rest of the world is talking about the death of the printed newspaper (thanks to the Internet), India is on a new high. English-language newspapers in India are growing in circulation as well as in advertising revenues, and there’s talk of new publications coming up in the future. Already Mumbai has seen the launch of Hindustan Times, DNA and Mumbai Mirror, while Mumbai’s Mid-day has recently launched an edition in Bangalore.

But, there’s more. The International Herald Tribune started printing in India earlier this year. The Financial Times picked up a stake in Business Standard and plans to launch a South Asian edition next year. The Hindustan Times group, with branded content from the Wall Street Journal, is planning to launch a business title. Dainik Jagran (a Hindi newspaper group) is planning to print an international edition of the Independent (in English) sometime soon.

India’s regional language newspapers are growing too (even a 1% rise in India’s literacy level impacts newspaper readership), but it’s the English readership segment that the world is watching. What’s the reason for India’s success? The answer lies in India’s fast economic growth and the impact of globalisation – both contributing to a higher standard of living and a Westernised lifestyle. As an outcome, English language is used by more and more people these days, naturally increasing the demand for news in English.

Moreover, Indian newspapers are not threatened by online news and analysis as newspapers in the West are. With low penetration of the Internet – under 5% in India, compared to 69% in the US and 63% in the UK – Indian newspapers are enjoying a double benefit: Not only are they gathering new readers almost every day, they don’t have to compete with online advertising rivals as their Western counterparts do. On the contrary, for English-language newspapers, advertising revenues are soaring.

In the international market, this revenue looks small at the moment. But, with India’s huge population, it promises to grow to substantial levels… in a market which is rapidly shrinking internationally. In the world of print journalism, this looks like some sort of a magical turnaround. One hopes, India will keep her promise.

[Citation: The Guardian, 18 September 2006, ‘India is where the action is’ by Randeep Ramesh (requires user log in)]

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