‘Huge untapped market’ for India’s upbeat newspaper industry

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India’s vibrant newspaper market made a fitting backdrop for the upbeat messages to delegates at the three-day WAN-Ifra India 2011 conference, which closed in Chennai tonight.

That positive attitude is epitomised by Jacob Mathew, the first Indian publisher to be appointed president of WAN-Ifra: “The power of print has been growing in spite of popular belief,” he says.

“In India, there is a huge untapped market, with a 75 per cent literacy rate matched by a print outreach of only 20 per cent.”

He says that in an industry invested with the resilience of 400 years, the belief that it is in a crisis is misleading.

But Mathew emphasised the need to provide content tailor-made for readers, and called for more unity among newspaper houses to protect their content from being accessed freely.

WAN-Ifra chief executive Christoph Riess also pointed to the strength of the region, with Asia referred to as the powerhouse of the world’s newspaper industry and India as the country recording a high 40 per cent rise in its circulation levels in the past five years. “Two in every three newspaper copies sold the world over were in Asia,” he says. “Yet, the continent accounted for only a quarter of the newspaper revenues generated globally.”

An analysis of market share in Asia showed that the greater proportion of the advertising spend in India and Malaysia was in print, while in Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan, most of the money went into TV.

He said greater advertising revenue could be achieved by newspapers becoming local and hyperlocal, echoing a message from Jacob Mathew that print advertising in India had grown 15 per cent in three years alongside a five per cent increase in circulation.

Some 600 delegates registered for the three-day conference at Chennai Trade Centre, with 60 exhibitors in the related trade expo.

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