Bangalore: Faced with a slowdown in the advertising market and rising cost of newsprint, some magazine publishers are discontinuing supplements earlier distributed free of cost with the main product, while a few new entrants in the space have deferred their launches.
The India Today Group discontinued three English supplements, Pink (a health supplement), Auto and Spice Solo (a lifestyle supplement) last month. These were being distributed with the English edition of India Today.
This week, the group scrapped two supplements distributed with its Bengali edition, Manashi (targeted at women) and Uttoron (an education and career supplement).
Feeling the pinch: A magazine stand in New Delhi. Magazines account for 13% of the Rs14,900 crore print advertising pie, says a report. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“The investment situation is not conducive to continue with such brand extensions. You can’t keep losing money under such circumstances where there is a liquidity crunch and newsprint costs have gone up,” said Malcolm D. Mistry, publishing director of India Today Group.
Mistry said the supplements could be revived if the conditions in the market improve.
Outlook Publishing India Pvt. Ltd, which publishes Outlook, Outlook Money, Outlook Business and Outlook Traveller, has discontinued its supplements City Limits (a city magazine) and Envy (a lifestyle magazine), which used to be distributed with Outlook.
“This is a trying time for the entire media industry, not just magazines. The problem is not a drop in circulation but in advertising revenue... It is difficult to publish supplements if you can’t recover costs,” said Maheshwar Peri, publisher, Outlook Publishing India.
The latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS) figures indicate a fall in magazine readership, a finding that is contested by magazine publishers.
IRS, a bi-annual survey conducted by the Media Research Users Council (MRUC), said India Today’s average issue readership (or number of people who read the weekly magazine in the week preceding the survey) fell from 6.3 million to 5.6 million, and Outlook’s from 3.2 million to 2.6 million.
Magazines account for a 13% share of the Rs14,900 crore print advertising pie, according to The Indian Entertainment and Media Industry Report 2008, by industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
While both Peri and Mistry said there have been no lay-offs so far, the former said he has sent out an email to the editors in Outlook group asking for a list of excess members in each team.
“Once we have a list, we can think of re-utilizing these employees in a more efficient manner,” said Peri.
Mistry said people who had been working on the discontinued supplements would be accommodated in the group’s other publications.
Some publishers have deferred launches of magazines, originally scheduled for 2008 to 2009.
Talk, an English magazine that is being published by RPG Enterprises was supposed to hit the stands in September but will now do so only in 2009.
“We are launching in January and planning to bring out the dummy issue in three weeks’ time. The cause of our delay to launch is different because we were scouting for suitable office space,” said Sandipan Deb, editor of Talk.
The launch of Forbes in India by the Television Eighteen Group has also been deferred till March, said a person familiar with the development and did not want to be named. The Indian version of Forbes was supposed to have hit the stands in November, this person added.
When contacted, Indrajit Gupta, editor of the magazine, said he couldn’t comment on the issue.
“Six months back, it was growth for growth’s sake for publications. Now the focus is on profitable growth as we see companies compelled to take hard decisions due to the liquidity crunch,” said Farokh Balsara, national sector leader, media and entertainment practice, at audit and consulting firm Ernst and Young.