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Newspapers Are Dead! Long Live Newspapers!

In 5 years, U.S. newspapers declined 47%. India expects 17% growth in the next 5.

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Who remembers the days when “PR” meant getting newspaper ink all over your hands and using scissors and rubber cement to produce clip reports? That scene is still alive and well to a large extent in India.

For example, here is an excerpt from a typical media report:

(Credit to anyone who correctly identifies the Edelman client referred to in these clips)

It was surprising to me the first time I saw hard-copy scans of newspapers as a media report here. Back in New York, we would only scan clips in very special circumstances. When I ask my teams why we share scans of the hard copies of articles rather than just links to the online articles, I get blank stares or even vehement opposition. I have often heard the refrain here in Mumbai that “the client only cares about print coverage.”

Edelman has widely discussed communication within the transmedia clover:

However, often it feels more like this in India:

The traditional/print media channel often overwhelms the other four channels represented in the leafs: hybrid media (online outlets), social media, owned media (company websites, apps, etc.).

Among the reasons why this happens in India include: sales, the internet, recycling and literacy.

I’ll explain.

Sales

Here’s one reason why newspapers are so important for our clients in India:

(Sources: BBC and World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers)

India is the world’s largest consumer of newspapers. According to the World Association of Newspapers, more than 107 million daily newspapers were circulated in India in 2009. That’s one in every five daily newspapers in the world being published in India. With Indian print media accounting for 45 percent of total ad spend, it’s clear that print media is widely read and impactful.

The Internet

Another reason print newspapers still reign in India is this:

(source)

Internet and broadband penetration in India are below two percent. This is compared to countries like the U.S., where broadband penetration is over 90 percent (which, by others measures is quite low). Low internet penetration and slow growth of access in India means less digital competition to printed papers. On top of that and maybe because of it, only 35 percent of Indian internet users ever visit newspaper websites. That’s compared to 67 percent in the U.S. (source)

Recycling

Pricing, distribution and recycling further support a healthy newspaper industry in India unlike anywhere else in the world. As Ken Auletta of the New Yorker recently put it:

“Indian papers are cheap, costing between five and ten cents daily. There are few newsstands in India—only five per cent of papers are sold over the counter—and home delivery is free, paid for by the publishers. The actual price of each paper is even lower, because of what Indians call raddi, their recycling program. Subscribers save their newspapers, which are picked up by raddiwallahs each month; the customer receives about ten cents per pound, and the raddiwallahs sell the bundles back to the paper companies to be recycled.”

This low-cost, low overhead model further contributes to the popularity of paper.

Literacy

Indian literacy rate grew from 12 percent at the end of British rule in 1947 to 74 percent in 2011. The rise in the number of people able to read, and their relative lack of access to online sources of news naturally leads to high levels of newspaper readership.

This could also explain the rise of non-English publications. In fact, of India’s top ten daily newspapers, only one is in English.

(source)

All these aspects of the Indian media landscape impact how we develop PR campaigns and how we pitch the media. Press releases more often than not must be translated. Local angles increase potential reach greatly, but may have less relevance and impact.

Are there any lessons U.S. media could learn from the Indian model? How long before we see India’s numbers drop like they have in the U.S.?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

(Subtitle source: Pew and Motilal Oswald; Feature image source: mrdarius)

Darius Razgaitis is a Fellow for Edelman in Mumbai, from New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @mrdarius.

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