OPEN APP
Home / Industry / Media /  Hyderabad turns newspaper battleground

Hyderabad turns newspaper battleground

The smaller print shows that the advertiser resorting to such eyeball-grabbing advertising, ‘Deccan Chronicle’, means to say Figure Out and Figures Unfold, but the intensity and hostility suggested by the abbreviations aren’t entirely surprising in a war between newspapers over dominance in the Hyderabad market between ‘Deccan’ and ‘ TOI’.  (The smaller print shows that the advertiser resorting to such eyeball-grabbing advertising, ‘Deccan Chronicle’, means to say Figure Out and Figures Unfold, but the intensity and hostility suggested by the abbreviations aren’t entirely surprising in a war between newspapers over dominance in the Hyderabad market between ‘Deccan’ and ‘ TOI’. )Premium
The smaller print shows that the advertiser resorting to such eyeball-grabbing advertising, ‘Deccan Chronicle’, means to say Figure Out and Figures Unfold, but the intensity and hostility suggested by the abbreviations aren’t entirely surprising in a war between newspapers over dominance in the Hyderabad market between ‘Deccan’ and ‘ TOI’.
(The smaller print shows that the advertiser resorting to such eyeball-grabbing advertising, ‘Deccan Chronicle’, means to say Figure Out and Figures Unfold, but the intensity and hostility suggested by the abbreviations aren’t entirely surprising in a war between newspapers over dominance in the Hyderabad market between ‘Deccan’ and ‘ TOI’. )

‘Deccan Chronicle’, ‘Times of India’ both make claims of being the city’s No. 1 English newspaper

Hyderabad: FO screams one ad; FU shouts another.

The smaller print shows that the advertiser resorting to such eyeball-grabbing advertising, Deccan Chronicle (DC), actually means to say Figure Out and Figures Unfold, but the intensity and hostility suggested by the abbreviations aren’t entirely surprising in a war between newspapers over dominance in the Hyderabad market between that newspaper and The Times of India (TOI).

The Times of India, owned by Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd released an ad on 4 July, citing circulation numbers audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, and claimed that it was the city’s largest English newspaper.

It followed up with the same ad on billboards.

Deccan Chronicle, owned by the troubled Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd, responded with the FO and FU ads that cited readership numbers calculated by the Indian Readership Survey to show that it was the city’s largest English newspaper.

Not to be outdone, The Hindu, owned by Kasturi and Sons Ltd ran an ad on 12 July asking readers interested in debates over far more important issues to read it.

At stake are a market worth 70-80 crore (in advertising alone), and the accompanying bragging rights.

Interestingly, both newspapers making numerical claims are right. Deccan Chronicle isn’t audited by ABC and The Times of India has a circulation of 253,749. And the Indian Readership survey puts Deccan Chronicle’s readership in Hyderabad at 493,000 as compared to The Times of India’s 142,000 and The Hindu’s 112,000.

An advertising executive said Deccan Chronicle withdrew from ABC because it reduced its print run following a debt-crisis. Deccan Chronicle Holdings is fighting a string of cases related to its financial troubles and is also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Being audited with 20-30% lower circulation “would have given the game away" added this person who did not wish to be identified. Bennett, Coleman, he added, was waiting “for the day Deccan Chronicle does not submit Audit Bureau of Circulations figures".

In the six months ended 31 March, Deccan Chronicle’s newsprint cost fell to 99.6 crore. In the year ago period, the company consumed newsprint worth 241.8 crore. The difference indicates a significant reduction in print runs.

The company’s earnings have also deteriorated. For the year ended 31 March, Deccan Chronicle’s revenue fell 45% to 496.95 crore from 905.24 crore in the previous year. The company reported a loss of 254.13 crore in the last fiscal compared to a profit 60.4 crore in the year earlier. Executives at the two newspapers advocated the benefits of their chosen metrics for size.

Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers “are what we tell them while Indian Readership Survey numbers are based on a survey." said Srinath Naidu, head of marketing at Deccan Chronicle Holdings over phone.

Rahul Kansal, executive president at Bennett, Coleman, said advertisers take both ABC and readership numbers into account. “As you must be aware, Indian Readership Survey is being revamped because there were some doubts in authenticity of the last IRS figures," he said over phone. Kansal also defended his company’s ad.

“We have not done anything at all to attack them. We are a well marketed brand, he said, adding that in a competitive market, it is natural for rivals to aggressively position themselves. Advertisers, however, do place more emphasis on readership than circulation. “Readership matters more than circulation. ABC is an old practice restricted to numbers. IRS has more insights for the planner in terms of age and gender," said Venkat Jagdish, managing director of OTS Advertising Agency Pvt. Ltd. But newspapers, and not just the two fighting it out in Hyderabad, are happy to use whatever numbers work for them. Even in readership, some cite Total Readership and others, Average Issue Readership. But there are issues with IRS as well and the organization behind it, the Media Research Users Council, recently changed both methodology and agency.

Deccan Chronicle Holdings’ stock has fallen by about 89% on BSE ever since its woes came to light with the resignation of its former managing director N. Krishnan in July last year. The National Stock Exchange has suspended trading in the company’s stock in January because the company hadn’t announced its earnings.

The Times of India has tried to leverage this crisis to its advantage, said an analyst.

“It is quite obvious that being a competitor, Times of India has taken advantage of the situation and become more aggressive not just on editorial front but circulation and marketing as well," said Satish Kantheti, head of the equity research division at Hyderabad-based broker Zen Securities Ltd.

Kansal denied this.

He said the coverage of the crisis at Deccan in Times group publications was solely based on “editorial merit".

The Times of India launched its Hyderabad edition in September 2000, but Deccan Chronicle managed to hold its own, said a newspaper executive.

“Chronicle still gets large chunk of retail and classifieds—a measure of the advertising success of a newspaper," said I. Venkat, a director at Andhra Pradesh’s largest selling Telugu daily, Eenadu.

He added that even movie ads had not moved away from Deccan Chronicle.

A third of Deccan Chronicle’s revenues come from classifieds, according to Koka Sathyanarayana, business director of media planning and buying agency, BPN.

Meanwhile, The Hindu has sought to take higher ground. “We are different—this is the simple message we want to drive home," said an executive at Kasturi and Sons who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We want to have a qualitative debate.."

It looks like Deccan’s woes may not end anytime soon.

On 8 July, CBI booked a case against Deccan promoters, chairman T. Venkattram Reddy, vice-chairman and managing director T. Vinayak Ravi Reddy and vice-chairman P.K. Iyer, and the company’s auditor C.B. Mouli & Associates for cheating and criminal conspiracy. Deccan Chronicle had 4,017.11 crore debt on its books as on 31 March. The Andhra Pradesh High Court recently ordered the Hyderabad police to submit a status report on a complaint filed by Karvy Stock Broking last year. The complaint, which said Deccan Chronicle’s promoters forged documents to misrepresent the total number of shares they held to raise loans, marked the beginning of Deccan Chronicle’s troubles. On 11 July, the court also stayed a Company Law Board order which restrained lenders from continuing with legal proceedings against Deccan Chronicle Holdings. The company has been taken to court by banks and finance companies including IFCI Ltd, Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd, Axis Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd, Yes Bank Ltd, Tata Capital Ltd, PVP Capital Ltd, National Pension System Trust, and Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Co.

It has also been sued by Hong Kong-based newsprint supplier Adonis Ltd and Chennai-based print trader Photon Infotech Pvt. Ltd over non-repayment of dues.

While Deccan Chronicle is a formidable brand in Hyderabad, the actions of its promoters could well spell doom for the company, Zen’s Kanethi said.

HT Media Ltd, publisher of Mint and Hindustan Times, competes with products of Bennett Coleman, Kasturi & Sons, and Deccan Chronicle Holdings in different markets.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Close
×
Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout