“When you change your house, you take everything from the old place to the new. But are you really looking at the capabilities of the new house? Are you thinking, how do I capitalise on it?”

That’s the analogy a top executive at a leading English newspaper in India uses to explain what most legacy media have missed while going online.

“You still think of print, and publish it in digital. That’s not transformation. That’s transition.” Tasked with the burden of transforming one of India’s oldest newspapers, the executive requested anonymity like many others in this story, who’d rather not be seen discussing these matters in public.

But the time for transition is up, thanks to the lingering effects of a raging pandemic. Print dried up. Circulation was strangled. Newsprint prices—which amount to over 50% of print costs— more than doubled more than doubled Exchange4media Rising newsprint cost mounts trouble for Covid-hit newspapers Read more . 10-15% of readers said goodbye said goodbye Exchange4media 10-15% readers would have vacated the print space: HT Media's CFO Piyush Gupt Read more to newspapers forever. Major Indian newspapers reportedly reportedly Adgully COVID-19 impact: EBITDA margin of print media to shrink 10% yoy in FY21 - Ind-Ra Read more  saw a steep revenue decline of 67% during the early months of lockdowns, with advertising sales dropping 76%. The Ken spoke to executives from top dailies including The Hindu, Times of India (TOI), Hindustan Times (HT), and The Indian Express (IE).

Annual revenue of top English dailies (2019-20)

  • The Hindu (since 1878) Rs 858.89 crore
  • Hindustan Times (since 1924) Rs 1790 crore
  • Times of India (since 1838) Rs 9733.45 crore (includes revenue from other media properties)

Even as total ad spends are expected to pick up expected to pick up Livemint Advertising in India to touch pre-pandemic levels by 2022: Report Advertising in India to touch pre-pandemic levels by 2022: Report Read more going forward, print advertising is expected to continue declining in 2022 as more ad dollars shift to the digital medium.

AUTHOR

Munsif Vengattil

Munsif keeps a tab on what Big Tech has been up to in India and all things OTT. He was with Reuters previously, where he wrote investigative pieces on Facebook’s content moderation operations and WhatsApp’s troubles in the run-up to India’s national elections. If you want to talk to Munsif about journalism, tech policy or his love for seekh kebabs, write to him at his first name @the-ken.com.

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