Mumbai: Bihar is set to be the new battleground for Hindi language dailies with Dainik Bhaskar, the second largest publication in the country (with an average issue readership of 12.8 million, acording to the latest edition of the Indian Readership Survey) firming up its plans to enter the market.
Bhaskar is scouting for land for printing facilities in the state. Girish Agarwal, director, DB Corp. Ltd said the group plans to launch multiple editions of its Hindi newspaper in the state. “We see potential in the market because cover-price wise, it is extremely attractive,” he added, declining to share details.
Prabhat Khabar, run by the Usha Martin group of Kolkata, is launching two new editions in the state; currently the Hindi daily is printed out of Patna. K.K. Goenka, vice-president, Prabhat Khabar, said the paper already sells at least 75,000 copies in Bihar and the two new printing facilities at Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur will double this number. Dainik Jagran, published by Jagran Prakashan Ltd, runs three editions of the paper and may be adding one more, according to an executive at a rival newspaper. The group’s director, Shailesh Gupta, said the paper is working to consolidate its position in the state but declined to elaborate. Basant Rathore, general manager, brand development, Dainik Jagran, too, declined to comment on the plans.
In view of impending competition, Hindustan, the Hindi-language newspaper published by HT Media Ventures Ltd, has commissioned a new printing press in Patna that can print an all-colour, 24-page edition newspaper at the rate of 90,000 copies an hour.
Photo: Madhu Kapparath; Graphic: Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint
Hindustan is market leader in the state with a 75% readership share (or 4.33 million readers) and is also looking to set up printing facilities in Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur. Amit Chopra, business head, Hindustan, said: “We have strengthened our offering further with the introduction a daily youth supplement—Hindustan Yuva.” Once the printing facilities in Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur are operational, the newspaper’s circulation in Bihar would be around 900,000 copies, he said.
The impending fight for readers in Bihar doesn’t seem to faze Chopra. “Dainik Jagran is a huge national player and it entered this market (Bihar) 10 years ago. Still, we’ve managed to get and hold on to 75% readership share,” he said. (HT Media Ventures is a subsidiary of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint and Hindustan Times.)
The sudden interest of newspapers in Bihar is understandable. For starters, the state will go to the polls in October and elections is usually a good time for newspapers to push circulation. It also spells a spike in advertising revenues.
Anita Bose, general manager, Mediaedge:cia, of GroupM India Pvt. Ltd, who does not see Bihar as a major advertising market, says ad revenues could surge by at least 15-20% during elections.
“Elections yield best circulation results. It is the best entry time for a new player. Also paid news, no matter how vehemently one denies it, has become the order of day,” said A.S. Raghunath, print media consultant, who is currently a consultant to Prabhat Khabar and the Telugu daily Sakshi in Andhra Pradesh.
Raghunath’s reference is to a growing practice among some publications of carrying ads masquerading as news in an effort to fool readers and bypass Indian rules on electoral spending. Mint, Hindustan Times and Hindustan have clear rules on advertising and other paid-for content which is identified as such in the publications.
Bihar isn’t an unattractive market either. The state’s economy is growing at 11.03% compared with the national average of 8.49%, according to the latest data from the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). Chopra of Hindustan says of the Rs2,000 crore advertising revenue that the Hindi dailies generate, Bihar contributes around Rs150 crore. And readers in the state also appear to be willing to pay for their papers—a change from most other markets where advertising subsidises the cost of printing to a significant extent.
While Prabhat Khabar sells its daily at Rs3 on all weekdays, Dainik Jagran’s cover price ranges from Rs4 to Rs6 on different days of the week, and Hindustan is priced at Rs4.
Still, that could change with Dainik Bhaskar’s entry; the paper isn’t known for its quiet entry into markets and usually stirs things up with aggressive price positions.
Janardan Pandey, business director of Mudra Group’s media specialist agency Radar said: “It cannot be a luke-warm entry for Bhaskar. It would need to carpet-bomb this market, as Bihar is one market which has given Hindustan clout at an all-India level. Jagran is also an established player there. It would have to take share from the existing players in order to make a successful entry.”
According to data shared by Mediaedge:cia for the Bihar market, in the latest edition of the Indian Readership Survey Hindustan leads in the Bihar market with 4.3 million readers, Dainik Jagran follows with 2.3 million readers, and Aj comes in at a distant third with 2,84,000 readers.