Can new daily newspapers crack Delhi’s saturated print market?

Experts say the launch of ‘DNA’, and later ‘National Herald’, in Delhi’s saturated print media market can fragment revenue, but not unsettle the existing players

‘DNA’, or ‘Daily News & Analysis’, which was launched on 11 October, enters a crowded Delhi market dominated by ‘Hindustan Times’ and ‘The Times of India’. Photo: DNA e-paper
‘DNA’, or ‘Daily News & Analysis’, which was launched on 11 October, enters a crowded Delhi market dominated by ‘Hindustan Times’ and ‘The Times of India’. Photo: DNA e-paper

DNA, or Daily News & Analysis, the English newspaper owned by Zee Media Corp. Ltd, a Zee Group company, launched in the capital on 11 October with an impressive promise. “We won’t compromise on the quality and integrity of journalism. You won’t find a story where we have sold our soul to make money and sold it to you as news,” wrote the editor-in-chief of the newspaper on the front page of the first issue of the 32-page paper priced at Rs10.

He further promised that the spanking new newspaper will change the rules of the game.

DNA’s launch in Delhi is likely to be followed by that of another English daily, National Herald, which the Congress has said it will revive soon. In fact, Motilal Vora, the All India Congress Committee treasurer announced the appointment of Neelabh Mishra as the editor of National Herald at the end of August. Mishra will oversee both the English daily and the Hindi paper, Navjivan, that is in the offing.

The long-defunct National Herald, involved in a controversy and a court case over alleged misappropriation of assets, will be revived after eight years. The paper will be published by the Congress-owned The Associated Journals Ltd that was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937.

Whether DNA will change the rules of the game remains to be seen as it enters a crowded Delhi market dominated by two entrenched brands—Hindustan Times and The Times of India. DNA’s pricing suggests that it isn’t looking for numbers. Hindustan Times is published by HT Media Ltd, which also publishes Mint.

Interestingly, DNA’s Delhi debut has taken the media fraternity, including top media buyers at advertising agencies, by surprise. Some ascribe a political hue to DNA’s launch in the capital; Zee Group’s promoter Subhash Chandra has close links with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha as an independent candidate with BJP support. In 2014, he had sought a BJP ticket from Hisar in Haryana for the Vidhan Sabha which eventually went to Kamal Gupta.

Four years ago, DNA had mulled a Delhi launch but shelved the plan. The timing of the paper’s launch now has set tongues wagging, considering the BJP is in power at the centre.

Still, much of this is speculation.

What is real is the state of the print market; senior media buyers at the country’s top agencies are worried about the overall growth rates in print media.

Print in India, according to GroupM’s annual forecast, is reported to be growing at 6% a year in terms of revenue. In fact, English print is seeing even lower rates of growth. “They are in low single digits—not more than 3-4%,” says C.V.L. Srinivas, chief executive (South Asia) at GroupM.

Srinivas says the metros, especially Delhi, are very large markets for print and they continue to be big. “But growth is not happening in these markets. Firstly, it is a quite an effort to dislodge the existing established players—Hindustan Times and The Times of India. Secondly, if at all, the ad revenue will only get further fragmented in view of the new launch.”

Neelkamal Sharma, chief operating officer (buying) at Madison Media, agrees with Srinivas. DNA will find it difficult to crack the Delhi market as the “competition is very strong and well settled”. “Given that it is coming from a large group, there could be some impact, but not significant,” he says.

Harsha Joshi, executive vice-president (group trading) at Dentsu Aegis Network does not see either National Herald or DNA creating much of a dent in Delhi. “There will be readership as both newspapers have a political angle, but in terms of advertising, there won’t be a shake-up,” she says, adding that people are moving from print to TV and digital.

The market for English print is saturated, adds Joshi. Sharma agrees that the market is saturated in the metros, and that English newspapers may have better prospects in mini-metros and Tier II towns.

Interestingly, Delhi is a bigger print media market than Mumbai. Of the total Rs5,100 crore spent on advertising in newspapers in Delhi and Mumbai, 60% goes to print brands in the national capital. The English print market in Delhi is estimated at Rs1,700 crore.

The future of newspapers, perhaps, lies in expanding online, says GroupM’s Srinivas. Newspapers should clearly look at transitioning from print to digital. Most newspapers have strong, credible brands, he says. “The challenge is how to leverage this credibility across platforms. Besides, as the younger audience is moving to digital, measurement systems to measure online audiences are also being put in place,” he adds.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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