Home / News / India /  Print remains most credible source of information, shows survey

New Delhi: In spite of the proliferation and buzz around digital media and the high-pitched debates on news television, print continues to be seen as the most important source of information for 66% of Indian readers. This is one of the findings from the CVOTER Media Consumption Survey 2020 that says audiences attach higher credibility to stories published in print media. Flocking to what is reliable, familiar and safe during crises, in line with human behaviour, 63% of the respondents said that reading newspapers has become more important in times of covid-19.

The survey that analyses why audiences might perceive television as superficial, print as credible and digital as an extension of these traditional media, is based on a sample size of 5,000-plus respondents across India, covering all the districts in every state, representing the demographic profile according to the latest census figures. CVOTER, or Centre for Voting Opinion and Trends in Election Research, is an Indian international polling agency headquartered in Delhi.

In the study, more than 71% of the respondents said that they have a preferred section of the newspaper that they read first. The mainstay of print media, however, continues to be the coverage of news and current affairs, with 75% of the respondents preferring newspapers for a holistic coverage of the same. Focus of electronic media, on the other hand, has shifted towards reality television mixed with sensationalism, CVOTER editor Manu Sharma said. While this is a good strategy for boosting viewership, it does significant damage to the credibility of the medium. In fact, 73% of Indians agreed that loud debates on news channels do not offer much information.

The survey added that readers seek information on sports in newspapers even though the category is apt for TV owing to live matches and running commentary. For instance, even after watching a match live on a sports channel, 52% of respondents said they still liked to read about it in the newspaper.

The enduring nature of the printed word despite stiff competition from the electronic media has important implications for advertising too. Currently, print media advertising is close to 30,600 crore a year, as per KPMG estimates. 65% of respondents in the representative sample agreed that information in print advertisements was more useful to them.

To be sure, as newspapers launch their digital editions on the internet, consumers said they have been reading their papers online. Clearly with internet user base of 719 million in 2019 as per data by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and smartphone users estimated at 500 million as per market research firm techARC, newspapers have been quick to ramp up digital editions. Nearly 62% of the respondents said they read the newspaper on their phones rather than the physical copy. Also, 74% of readers of print news share a news story that they find important over their phones.

With news TV getting embroiled in controversies regarding manipulated viewership numbers and toxic content, newspapers are likely to gain. “Print has its own strengths, especially with the credibility attached to it in this era of fake news. But it is also time print adapts to the digital onslaught and learns to reinvent itself," said Ashish Bhasin, CEO-APAC and chairman-India at Dentsu Aegis Network. India is poised to see 200-300 million literates emerge over the next five years, especially from rural areas, and tier-II and tier-III towns.

“There will be a demand for local news and print can have a good future if it works along with digital and learns to innovate," Bhasin said. Anita Nayyar, advertising veteran and head of customer strategy and relationships at ZEE5 India, added that comeback of print post the covid-19 setback has been faster in the regional market as compared to the top metros and English print.

Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, a Mumbai-based marketing and communication agency, said "local" was the biggest strength of print which was frittered away over time and it’s time to go back to the basics.

“Print needs to pivot. It needs to go 'phygital' which will make it more instantaneous. Also, the orientation needs to get more analytical, from reporting news to smart journalism that has a point of view, conviction, and depth; basically plug all the vulnerabilities of television," Goyal added.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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