We are in transition. We, as in, the media business.

Globally, the word transition has seen much play by all sorts of media companies to explain what they are up to. Or what they are going to do next. The problem with transition though is that in its garb, everything flies. And sometimes it becomes difficult to distinguish, which is which. Like, where is the value getting created or destroyed? An often used analogy for this is changing engines mid-flight.

A case in point in the Indian media business is HT Media, publisher of the third largest English news daily Hindustan Times by circulation. The company is listed on the stock exchange, one of the very few who are.

For more than two years now, HT Media has been trying to transition, from print to a digital newsroom. It hasn’t been easy. “And that is why we want to shield [investors] from the vagaries,” Piyush Gupta, group CFO of HT Media explained to analysts in October 2017. Specifically, the reason why the company is looking to spin off many of its digital businesses into a new listed entity. “We have seen that in spite of our best effort in the first year, we were not able to turn in a profit in HT Digital Streams.”

The symptoms manifested in February last year when the company shuttered four editions and three bureaus across the country as it began to undertake drastic cost-cutting measures. It was reported that over 150 journalists were forced to resign from the company, but the real numbers are unclear. In Q2FY18, the company posted a net profit of Rs 66 crore ($9.92 million), up 113% year-on-year (YoY), despite declining advertising revenue.

One would expect that the net profit would taper off in the following quarter. But the company posted a net profit of Rs 124 crore ($18.64 million) in the following quarter, even as ad revenues continued to decline. For context, the company posted advertising revenues of Rs 451.6 crore ($67.88 million) in Q3FY18. It had posted ad revenue of Rs 452 crore ($67.94 million) back in Q3FY14. That’s four years apart. Zero change.

Turns out, even though HT Media was done with cost optimisation, it wasn’t done without restructuring its business. In the last three months, the company has made significant gains by selling off land parcels and merging and demerging its digital businesses.

*All figures in Rs crore Source: Quarterly resutls

In Q3, Gupta said that the media company sold land parcels which resulted in a one-time profit of Rs 31 crore ($4.66 million). HT Campus, a digital database of colleges which also provides preparation test papers, was merged into the parent company.

AUTHOR

Shashidhar KJ

Shashidhar has been a journalist for over six years and has worked with The Times of India, The Financial Express and MediaNama, his last assignment. He is a fine bloke, and by that, I mean unusually quiet. Over the years, Shashidhar has written on several subjects. Banking, startups and technology, media, and also financial technology. He started his career on the desk at the old lady of Boribunder. At The Ken, Shashidhar works out of Mumbai and writes on telecom and financial technology. What he really wants to talk about though is his vinyl collection.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.