The Hindustan Times released an advertisement this week celebrating the growth of Indian newspapers in the last ten years. The advertisement, which is based on a report released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), India’s most respected non-profit body that audits newspaper sales, states that the sale of Indian newspapers jumped by 61% between 2006 and 2016.
In real terms, the percentage growth translates to an awesome 2.37 crore extra copies being sold every day. From 3.91 crores in 2006 the circulation of Indian newspapers has zoomed to 6.26 crores in 2016. Huge. Isn’t it.
Equally impressive has been the growth of publishing centres. The number of publishing centres, that is the points from where newspapers and magazines are published, has increased from 659 in 2006 to 910 in 2016. The footprint of the newspaper industry clearly has gone up; Indian newspapers are now published and distributed in areas that once were considered inaccessible.
Even more impressive is the fact that this growth is not limited to pockets. Instead, it is a pan India phenomenon. The highest growth of 7.83% was recorded by North Zone; South Zone was second with 4.95%, while West Zone and East Zone followed with 2.81% and 2.63% growth respectively.
# Regional languages power growth
Importantly, the growth has been powered by the regional languages, with Hindi publications recording the highest growth. They are followed by Telugu, Kannada and Tamil publications. Interestingly, the English publications too have recorded a 2.87% growth. This once again shows the reach and influence of English language publications. The new India wants to be part of the success story, and proficiency in English language is considered an important requirement.
Contrast this story with the rest of the world. According to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-Ifra), newspaper sales in UK dropped by 12% between 2015 and 2016; in the same year, Australia lost 6% copies; France and Germany lost 3% each; while US lost 2%.
So, what is it that makes Indian newspapers different? Why is it that they continue to buck the global trend?
# 7 reasons for increased sales of Indian newspapers
# 1. Benefits of improved technology: The revolutionary changes in printing technology have made it possible for Indian newspapers to set up scores of satellite printing centres. Newspaper pages generated in state capitals, metros and large towns are transmitted through satellites to small cities, where they are downloaded and printed. The cost of this operation is a fraction of the cost that was incurred till the nineties to set up a publication centre. These publication centres have helped publishers to take Indian newspapers to places that at one point of time were impossible to reach. The residents of these areas get latest news, not news that is two to three days old.
# 2. Increased literacy: The country has seen a quantum jump in literacy. With increased literacy, has come a hunger to know more and more. There are new aspirations in Tier II and Tier III cities. Even tehsils and villages are waking up to the opportunities in new India. Newspapers have become a primary source to satisfy this hunger.
# 3. Impact of booming economy: The opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990s unleashed a growth cycle that continues to become bigger and bigger. There is more money in the economy; the purchasing power has gone up, and so have the sales. The newspapers have become an important vehicle to connect industries with people living in small and distant places. The advertisers find value for their money when they advertise in newspapers. The increased revenue has helped Indian newspapers power their growth even more.
According to the latest KPMG India-FICCI report on Indian Media and Entertainment Industry for 2017, the advertisers invested 139.4 billion rupees in 2011 in the Indian newspapers. In 2016, this figure reached 201.3 billion rupees. This is once again in sharp contrast to the rest of the world, where the advertisement revenues are shrinking, and the newspapers are finding it increasingly hard to survive.
# 4. Rising Aspirations and Favourable Demographics: Today, two in three Indians are less than 35 years old. A large number of them have grown up in an India which is on the rise as an economic power. The aspiration levels are very high; and so are the opportunities. The two have combined to create an explosive cocktail of growth and development; the consumption levels are exploding in regional towns; and the Indian newspapers are direct beneficiaries of this.
# 5. Home delivery: One of the most underplayed reasons for the continuing growth story of Indian newspapers is home delivery. The newspapers are dropped at a reader’s doorstep. The reader does not have to go out of their homes to buy a newspaper as is the case in western countries.
# 6. Competitive pricing: The Indian newspapers are the most affordable in the world. The cover price, which ranges from Rs 3 to Rs 5, is not even enough to cover the product cost which is as high as Rs 20 to 28 per copy. So, how do Indian newspapers make money? Through advertisements. The reader is not burdened. It is one policy that continues to pay rich dividends.
# 7. Two-newspaper homes: A new trend is to buy two or more newspapers. Many families prefer to buy an English newspaper along with an Indian language newspaper. The hope is that the English language skills of the children will improve if they read an English newspaper every day. The newspapers too have taken an advantage of this need, and have launched schemes which enable readers to buy two newspapers at a low price.
(Read also: 5 reasons for Indian print media to smile in 2015)
# Top ten Indian newspapers by circulation
Hindi continues to dominate the newspaper market. There are five Hindi newspapers in the top ten. Dainik Jagaran, according to the July-December 2016 report, is at the top of the newspaper heap, with Dainik Bhaskar close behind. The other three Hindi newspapers in the top ten are Amar Ujala, Hindustan and Rajasthan Patrika.
The Times of India is the only English language publication in this elite group, and is among the three newspapers that sell more than 3 million copies every day. Two Malayalam Dailies (Malayalam Manorama and Matrubhumi}, one Telugu daily (Eenadu) and one Tamil daily (Daily Thanthi) are the other newspapers that make the top ten list.