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Print readership falling in India?

October 29, 2007

The writing seems to be on the wall. Print readership is falling. Earlier this year I had written about how how the IRS (Indian Readership Survey) had picked up on this trend way back in their 2006 survey, and how worried the industry was. Unfortunately, the IRS Round 1 survey published this year in March has confirmed this downward trend. The Round 2 second survey published recently (IRS comes out with 2 readership surveys a year) shows that the declining figures are not a mere blip on the horizon.

True, this is in keeping with global trends (print readership declining/stagnating in developed world) but why should this be happening in India? I mean, our population is growing at a fast clip unlike in the developed countries and our literacy rates are continuously rising as well.

Are young Indians reading online newspapers? It was interesting to read that in the UK the online versions of leading national newspapers are thrice the rate of overall UK internet growth!

…the number of Britons visiting at least one of its Top 10 ranked national newspaper sites grew from 5.6 million in December 2006 to 7.4 million in August 2007 – a growth of roughly 30 per cent.

India will probably see similar trends in the future. And I am sure the trend is on already…and there is television news as well. All this will eat into print revenues. And clearly the young are driving this trend. The generation which grew up on print will not get unhooked. Prerna has written a post on this, about print being the most satisfying medium.

However the survey did throw up some positive findings. A few publications have done alright. Economic Times is one example. Here are some of the main findings: (all this data is Round 2 data and changes are as compared to Round 1).

  • ET is the only business publication that has not lost readers. ET’s has grown by 10% in Mumbai and 17 percent in Delhi.
  • Amongst the top ten dailes in India (all languages, including English), the majority (six out of ten) face a declining readership.
  • Out of the four that grew, three are Indian language publications and the fourth is Times of India. Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi) grew by 3 lakhs and the Rajasthan Patrika (Hindi) by almost 5 lakhs. The Times of India (English) gained only a little, just 0.69 per cent and ‘Ananda Bazar Patrika (Bengali) increased it’s readership by 5 percent.
  • The Times and also ABP made it to the top 10 list, which they wern’t in earlier.
  • Where Times gained, a Marathi newspaper lost out… Lokmat, which is still the largest read Marathi daily. But Lokmat is no more in the top 10 most read list.
  • Dainik Jagran is still the number one despite its readership having declined by over 6 lakhs.
  • The majority of southern language publications show declining readership, although Telugu dailies have shown only a 2 percent decline and Malyalam publications have not declined significantly, even though their readerships has remained stagnant.
  • Amongst all the south Indian language publications, Malyalam publications are doing the best.

What’s interesting is that the readership of English language publications seems to be growing, although slowly. Sure, almost all English language publications have declining readership but one has to take into account that an English daily which entered the market some years ago (DNA) is doing well and yet Times of India has grown. It does seem as if English dailies are slowly gaining readership and regional dailies are losing out. Does this mean that more Indians are turning away from their mother tongue?

Let’s take a look at the top ten list (present readership and decline/growth figures):

1. Dainik Jagran (Hindi) – readership of 1.65 crore (1 crore = 10 million). Decline by 3.5 per cent.
2. Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi)- readership of 1.28 crore. A growth of 2.4 per cent.
3. Malayala Manorama (Malyalam) – readership of 86.62 lakh (one lakh is one hundred thousand) A decline of almost 2 lakhs.
4. Hindustan Times (English) – readership of 85.51 lakh. A decline of 5.5 per cent.
5. Amar Ujala (Hindi) – readership of 80.75 lakh. A decline of 2.1 per cent.
6..Daily Thanthi (Tamil) – readership of 79.1 lakh. A decline of 5.2 per cent.
7. Rajasthan Patrika (Hindi) – readerships of 74.02 lakh. And increase of 6.5 per cent, highest increase amongst the top 10 dailies.
8. Eenadu (Telugu) – readership of 69.19 lakh. A decline 4.34 per cent.
9. Ananda Bazar Patrika (Bengali) – readership of 68.55 lakh. An increase of 4.84 per cent.
10. Times of India (English): readership of 68.28 lakh. An increase of 0.69 per cent.

ABP and TOI are the new kids on the block. They were missing in the top ten list in Round 1. And unfortunately, Mathrubhumi (Malyalam) and Lokmat (Marathi), which were at eighth and 10th positions in the last round are no longer in the top ten.

There are four Hindi newspapers in the top ten list, 2 English, one each of Tamil, Telugu and Malyalam and Bengali. As Hindi is spoken by the maximum number of Indians, it is natural that newspapers in this language dominate the top ten list. What this list also reveals is that Tamil, Telugu, Malyalam and Bengali have a very strong presence in the country.

But is Marathi slipping? Are less people speaking and reading Marathi? I do not have access to the complete IRS report and do not know whether the other Marathi newspapers have a declining readership. But the trend does seem to be that language newspapers on the whole are losing out. The other Marathi newspapers besides Lokmat which are widely read are Daily Sakal, Punya Nagri, Pudhari and Loksatta with readerships of 126 lakh, 99 lakh, 63 lakh and 46 lakh respectively.

If one Malyalam publication (Matrubhumi) has dropped out of the top ten it could well be because Kerala has low birth rates. Inspite of the small population it is creditable that Malayalam publications are doing so well overall, better than publications of other south indian languages. Not very surprising as Kerala inspite of it’s small population has 100 percent literacy.

Related Reading: In defense of the Indian Media
Indian print media in trouble
About fake stings and fraudulent journalism

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Shefaly permalink
    October 29, 2007 11:43 am

    Nita: A considerable role in shaping media consumption preferences is played by “content”. In my experience of some of the still-top-selling papers, their quality has remained consistent, even improved over the years (e.g. Dainik Bhaskar) , while the newspapers such as TOI – most recently I saw the Delhi and the Bangalore editions – is now so poor that it beggars belief they are broadsheets. They read like tabloids, the editorial and comment quality is awful, and with most pages taken by advertisements, there is no point in reading them.

    Competing media – such as the web, TV, radio – do have a part to play as well, which you mention. I would postulate that driven by poor content in mainstream broadsheets, more and more English speaking Indians are reading IHT and other broader-coverage international newspapers available for free online.

    Thanks.

  2. October 29, 2007 12:39 pm

    you are right Shefaly. these so called dailies have turned tabloids and in fact that is the subject of my post tomorrow!

  3. October 29, 2007 1:30 pm

    I think that there is one more reason…… the sheer numbers of regional, and language channels.

    But, if you look further there would be other reasons –
    a) English language channels and the ability of English language users (viewers & readers) to access the net. English Newspapers in India are niche in terms of readership…… not mass

    b) the proliferation of local (town & class b cities) newspapers in local languages which is eating into the readership of regional giants like Dainik Bhaskar &
    Patrika…..with 24 hour national hindi channels giving the viewers news about the nation and sorroundings, there is a space for city or town level news….. and those numbers are fragmented and may not show up in the top lists.

    c) in the last 5 years all the regional language channels – ETV, Zee, Sun – have been carrying news on the hour……and in the last year each of these language groups have received a language news channel, Zee Marathi news and Star Maaza…….

    d) As far as the English language press is concerned – there is another factor — competition. Although the readership is niche – advertising rates are high. And, in the last few years we have all seen new entrants into the market. DNA & HT in Mumbai. Deccan Herald in Chennai.

    On the point made by the earlier comentator – quality of content, I think that the evidence shows otherwise. IN fact it is the tabloidishness of news media that is increasing both viewership & circulation. Those who carry serious news find their ratings slip. The ‘serious’ news media – be it Indian Express, or Hindu or Tehelka or NDTV 24*7 – find their audiences stable at best, declining at worst….

    My own gut feel on this is that the universe as a whole has expanded – more newspaper readers and more news channel watchers — but given the numbers who deliver news — audiences themselves are fragmented.

  4. October 29, 2007 1:38 pm

    Print readership is definitely falling globally and India is no exception. Growth in population in any country is no definite reason that print readership should increase, Today, there are many options to catch the same snippet of news on other forms of media, such as, TV, Internet etc. Plus, there are so many news channels in every single language.

    I’m not sure if my comment is directly relevant to your post because I don’t read Indian newspapers anymore, but it might provide some insights from the other part of the world. I subscribe to Wall Street Journal and the New York Times in addition to two other weekly business magazines and find it to be a big waste of paper because we’re given subscription numbers which can be used to create an online account. This is a good reason for the decline in print readership. It’s more convenient for me to use my online account to read parts of the newspaper/magazine online either from the comfort of my home or work place. It would be quite inconvenient for me to carry my newspapers and magazines every single day with me. Plus, I believe in the reduction of paper waste.

    That said, there are many folks who love to read only in the traditional form, that is, in paper.

  5. October 29, 2007 1:58 pm

    Harini, thanks for your detailed analysis. Yes the point you mentioned about the race for readership and the consequent tabloid journalism is very relevant and I was going to mention it tomorrow in my post!! In fact I had very briefly alluded to this in a post on the defense of the Indian Media. I had also discussed other reasons for the tabloid type journalism in mainstream newspapers.
    And I think your gutfeel is about right. There is going to more fragmentation now and as Ruhi mentioned people’s habits are changing.

    Ruhi, your comment is definitely relevant! I am always eager for more insights into my post. The point you mentioned about the physical discomfort of lugging around papers was one which had not struck me. Ofcourse, this is very important to anyone who reads a wide variety of newspapers and mags! I guess a time will come when the only time one will subscribe to a print edition is to have something to read in the toilet!😉

  6. October 29, 2007 2:51 pm

    And the typical impact… A Newspaper agency would try to cut the cost & spend less on journalism. They would switch to more interesting news like: uncovering political corruption or corporate fraud.. attract youngsters by puting more lifestyle or entertainment or celebrity news.

  7. xntricpundits permalink
    October 29, 2007 4:20 pm

    #Eenadu- A decline 4.34 per cent#
    1]This decline can be attributed to better news packaging by rival newspapers in recent years (Andhrajyothi and Vaartha)
    2]The availability of all these newspapers online
    3]24 hrs Telugu news channels-Tv9,Tv5,Ntv,Teja News etc, dishing out round the clock news:latest,breaking news and entertainment news(forget the content) .One stop solution available at push of remote button.

    #Does this mean that more Indians are turning away from their mother tongue?#
    With the IT boom and globalization(English language gaining prominence) this is inevitable albeit a disturbing trend.
    # dailies have turned tabloids#
    Attention span of a reader in this age information overload is one of the main reasons here, in order to keep the interest of reader going, newspapers have no other course to take except to follow the trend (with a few exceptions).

    #given the numbers who deliver news — audiences themselves are fragmented#
    If tabloidishness is a problem plaguing the print media, similar is the case with online newspapers too. With the advent of web2.0 technology-RSS feeds fragmenting the news, RSS readers to devour the feeds-Guess how many of us really are reading the news to the end.

  8. October 29, 2007 6:35 pm

    Bharath, yes sensationalism is the order of the day!

    xntricpundits, thanks for the info about tamil papers. And yes ofcourse there is not too much of a difference between the online version of a paper and it’s print version.

  9. October 29, 2007 6:46 pm

    This was new word to me so I looked into Thesaurus and here is one of the result I got!

    sensationalism – the journalistic use of subject matter that appeals to vulgar tastes; “the tabloids relied on sensationalism to maintain their circulation”

  10. October 29, 2007 6:57 pm

    I personally do not read newpapers. reason:- u’ll get yesterday’s or day before yesterday’s news today…. RSS news feeds, Google alerts, blogs .etc. give you instant news.. moreover online newspapers/magazines archive help you search an old news article easily…
    atlast but not the least.. save trees, print as pdf…

  11. October 29, 2007 9:36 pm

    Rupesh:

    “..save trees, print as pdf…”

    Surely you meant, ‘do not print at all, read online’🙂

  12. October 29, 2007 11:33 pm

    Nita:

    Speaking of toilet, I absolutely need to tell you that all those mags end up near my toilet seat.😉

  13. October 30, 2007 1:43 am

    overall ur analysis is good
    everyone goes online for news adding to it, the proliferation of news channels
    times is pure raddi paper – i didnt mean the content (sometimes/most times it is raddi too as pointed out) but if u take a months paper to the raddiwala u will get more money than what u actually pay for subscribing to the damn thing
    et is bundled and packaged with times for free as an option instead of mirror plus u can get et at rs 99 a yr .plus the stock mkts are booming -little wonder the viewer ship is up

  14. October 30, 2007 4:03 am

    Prax, thanks. I had no idea that ET had a scheme in which you could get Times for free! No wonder the rising figures! People cannot resist such schemes. And as newspapers’ main revenue comes from advertising (which is again dependent on readership figures) I guess giving a newspaper free makes sense to them commercially. but it also gives a twist to the whole thing…not all people are choosing either ET or Times because of the content.

  15. October 30, 2007 2:54 pm

    tis the other way around take the times and read the tiny little caption below the header midday mirror or et bundled free is what it says

  16. November 20, 2007 12:06 pm

    >>>>

    This decline can be attributed to better news packaging by rival newspapers in recent years (Andhrajyothi and Vaartha)

    <<<<

    even AJ and vaartha had a decline! FYI

  17. Ram permalink
    November 30, 2007 10:22 am

    Hi Nita,
    Going by the comment you posted in reply to xntricpundits, I think that you are not aware of difference between Telugu and Tamil. When he had quoted about EENADU,VAARTTHA and ANDHRA JYOTHY, at least you should have thought that he is talking about Telugu. ANDHRA (JYOTHY) means TELUGU, not TAMIL.

  18. November 30, 2007 10:24 am

    @Ram:

    I am sorry about the mistake. Thanks for pointing it out. I am not familiar with Telugu or with Tamil. I should have made that extra effort not to make a mistake.

  19. Madhavi permalink
    December 11, 2007 11:15 pm

    Hello Nita Maam,
    I am just here to extend my heartfelt Thanks to you. Let me explain my reason to give out to u thanks.Well Iam a student of Communicative english presently in the final year & as a course study in our curriculum we are supposed make a project on any socio economic issue & Ive chosen the topic DECLINE OF NEWSPAPERS AS ‘NEWS’PAPERS,and needless to say Iam greatly benefitted.The facts,stats or the analysis of data presented & interpreted has given me so many key points & helped me in framing my project much better..Thank you..
    By the way can I put down one small request forth u,would appreciate if u could send me your email id so that I can contact you & just incase I find some doubts coming up in my project could clarify or could just get your opinion on this very topic.
    Will be looking forward to you mail Nita Maam.And my email id is madhavi.chary86 (at) gmail (dot) com

  20. December 11, 2007 11:21 pm

    @Madhavi:

    Thanks and glad to be of help.🙂
    My email id is give on the sidebar on the right of this blog. It is written in red. You are welcome to write to me with your queries.

  21. Madhavi permalink
    December 11, 2007 11:43 pm

    Hello maam…
    thanks once again wil email u as soon as possible

  22. vivek mittal permalink
    June 11, 2008 2:32 pm

    I read few days back that TOI is the largest circulated English daily in the world….while in this post HT is placed better than TOI………..probably figures are changed considerably in last 7-8 months since this post was published

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