New Glossies Around Town

Written by Anushree Chandran | Updated: Nov 20 2012, 09:06am hrs
Global magazine publishers are facing a grim reality. The freefall in advertising and circulation revenues and the continued onslaught by digital media has made the magazine business unviable and has impacted the bottom lines of these glossies. In India, however, magazine publishers seem unmoved by the plight of their global compatriots and choose to ride out the storm. Each year new titles are introduced. Which make way for the next generation of titles.

International publisher Conde'Nast brought in Architectural Digest earlier this year and is also looking to launch an Indian edition of its tech magazine Wired in India. ACK Media has just launched the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller (NGT), a travel magazine from National Geographic. The magazine is available across the country at a cover price of Rs120. Paprika Media, which publishes Time Out India, has also launched Time Out Explorer, targeted at the new age Indian attuned to global culture and lifestyle. Percept Group has launched DJ Mag in India while Cartoon Network has brought in Ben 10 magazine for kids.

Publishing group Malayala Manorama has launched Watch Time magazine while Maxposure Media Group is bringing in Parents India magazine which is the first licensed periodical from the group. Parents India is expected to be launched by December, after obtaining clearances from the ministry of information and broadcasting and Registrar of Newspapers of India. The Ananda Bazar Patrika Group, which publishes business weekly Businessworld may be looking to launch a luxury magazine in India, as per media buyers. A top editor said that the glossy was in the preliminary stages and it was too early to share plans on the same. No official response was available from ABP Group despite emails sent and phone calls made. i9 Media has launched a new magazine Rural Marketing, which has a cover price of R80, with a print run of 15,000 copies.

Interestingly, there are also digital avatars of magazines coming in which may find it easier to survive, considering that there are no increasing overheads due to rising newsprint costs. Media and entertainment company Notch Media has launched an interactive digital publication Notch which will showcase contemporary India. The digital magazine offers content related to fashion, design, art, food and travel and is available to subscribers on the web, iPad and Android tablets.

Falling readership

The Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2012 Q2 data, released by the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) on October 1, shows six of the top 10 English periodicals witnessing a decline in readership. The data was shared by media agencies who are subscribers to the survey. India Today saw a decline in average issue readership (AIR) from 1,613,000 to 1,554,000 readers. Other magazines that have seen a fall in readership in the latest round of the IRS include Readers Digest, Outlook, Pratiyogita Darpan, The Week and Wisdom. Readers Digest lost 34,000 readers which is quite a big number for a small publication. Outlook magazine's average issue readership went down from 4,92,000 readers last quarter to 4,83,000 readers this quarter. The scene is not much better for Hindi magazines where seven out of the top ten witnessed a decline. Saras Salil, Meri Saheli, Cricket Samrat, India Today, Grehlakshmi, Grih Shobha and Champak have seen decline in average issue readership, as per the latest round of the survey. As per a media and entertainment report brought out by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and KPMG, the print industry comprises around 82,000 registered newspapers for year 2011. The number of magazines exceeds 73,000 for the same year- as per industry estimates.

A media buying executive from a leading agency says that magazine publishers have been impacted greatly by the economic slowdown. The new launches defy logic. "One can't possibly fathom why there are these many launches," he said.

"A lot of them don't have a long-term plan in place. There are others who survive by running skeletal set-ups," said the media executive. According to him, most periodicals are launched on the back of flimsy models. "They launch and then disappear into oblivion."

Janardhan Pandey, associate vice president at DDB Mudra Max said that overall, the magazine sector was seeing negative growth, on account of a declining readership for general news magazines. Special interest /niche magazines were better off than most others. "These magazines talk to the well-informed, well-travelled Indian reader. If they run the business in a sustainable manner and keep costs at bay, I don't see why many of them shouldn't do well." he said.

Special interest titles

ACK Media says that there is enough leg room to grow in special interest categories such as travel which is why its decision to launch National Geographic Traveller was a well-thought one. Manas Mohan, publishing director at National Geographic Traveller India and chief operating officer at ACK Media said that only a handful of areas such as automobiles, films, and women's issues have been explored at all. "A lot of the genres are short on content and curation and we hope to contribute content to the new genres in the foreseen future, said Mohan. He points out that National Geographic Traveller India is one of the largest circulated travel magazines in the country.

"We have seen an ad growth of 40% month-on-month. Australia Tourism, Tata Motors, Swiss Tourism, Rolex are some of our advertisers in India. National Geographic Traveller attracts 8.8 million readers worldwide who are driven to explore the world. We decided to bring it to the Indian shores to offer our consumers a palette of destinations and inspiring narratives. The magazine is targeted at family holiday planners, primarily from SEC A and B groups in the metros and mini-metros," said Mohan.

A large section of National Geographic Traveller's current readers are in the high income curve, but the plan is to take the magazine's distribution deeper and to make high quality travel journalism available to the huge burgeoning middle class in the interiors. "A massive majority of our current readers are post-graduates, 35years-plus high earners. These are the readers who will also read across media paper, mobile or touch. We will be the front runners in this multi-media transition. The NGTI sampler flip book was available from the very first edition, and we will continue to expand our digital footprint," explains Mohan.

Tarun Rai, chief executive of Worldwide Media which publishes titles such as Grazia and Top Gear mantained that while growth in certain genres of magazines may be slow, new special interest magazines around travel and lifestyle were the new sunrise sector. "When we launched BBC Good Food, we knew we were going into unchartered territory. But the trends we saw encouraged us. Indians were beginning to experiment more with cuisines. Ingredients were more accessible and many new restaurants serving international fare were opening up. There was a new buzz around the food sector. At the end of a year I am happy to report that the decision was a very good one." Rai adds that BBC Good Food now has its own kitchen and studio where they triple-test more than 90 recipes that they carry in each issue and also use it to hold master classes with celebrated chefs.

Rai points out that with new brands being launched every day, most were looking towards magazines to deliver targeted audiences in an appropriate environment. "Digital editions of magazines are doing well and they are opening up new, younger, reader segments. The next step is going to be the development of a large number of digital apps around magazine brands. Creating events and other on-ground properties around magazines will be important. You can expect to see tremendous activity and buzz around magazines in these spaces in the coming year."

Low readership figures projected by the IRS were a problem, maintains Rai. He says that they too have had issues with the magazine currency Indian Readership Survey (IRS) which they are trying to sort out. "We believe that the sample size to capture magazine readership is unrepresentative and therefore just not reflective of the true picture. In some cases, the IRS figures quoted are even lower than the magazines print run. That said, the slow economy is having some effect on all media. Because of our diversified portfolio and the fact that our magazines are in the special interest and lifestyle space, the ad revenue growth continues to strong," he said.

CondeNast, that publishes titles such as Vogue, GQ, CondeNast Traveller, says that given that India was going through a transformation in architecture, art and interior design, this was the perfect opportunity to bring Architectural Digest to India with an aim to capture the spirit of this design renaissance.

"There has been an increasing demand for special interest magazines in India as a result of changing consumer affluence and interest. This demand has been further fuelled by the countrys changing economics and increase in spending power of the Indian consumer. The affluent Indian is demanding better living and wants to indulge in the best and is willing to invest significant amounts of money on their homes. Many luxury and lifestyle brands have reached out to this exclusive audience and find Architectural Digest the perfect platform," said Oona Dhabhar, marketing director, CondeNast India.

Architectural Digest which launched earlier this year has a total print order of 20,000 copies. It is distributed to 18 towns pan-India and available in 3000-plus outlets. Some of the non-core advertisers are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tods, Hermes, BMW, Chopard, Rolex, Vacheron, Hublot while the core advertisers are Ddcor, Charcoal Project, Pure Fabrics, Atmosphere (domestic) and Minotti, B&B, Ipe Cavalli ( international). Conde'Nast adds that it will launch Wired in India by 2014.

A promotional tool

Some of these launches promote existing brands and, in time, could turn out to be a viable revenue stream. An example is DJ Mag in India, launched by the Percept Group. British magazine DJMag is widely considered by fans, DJs and critics worldwide as the bible for electronic dance music, said Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept. "SunburnAsias biggest dance music festival, with its ever-growing popularity, has opened to the world a whole new community of talent and fans this side of the globe. And soon DJ Mag realised the potential of being in a market where it was most relevant. It, therefore, joined hands with Percept because it believed we understood the passion and the phenomenon called dance music."

Singh said that electronic music which is relatively new in India is largely a preserve of the young, globalised, rich and the well-heeled, living in the big cities. "These are predominantly young, trendy, fashion-conscious, tech-savvy men and women who drive expensive cars, stay in tony hotels and are global travellers. DJ Mag is targeted at this audience, a dream demographic from any advertiser perspective, he said. The magazine will be priced at R100, available at all news-stands, pan-India, with a print run of 25,000 copies each issue. DJ Mag will be published quarterly, with four issues in the first year. The editorial mix is a healthy 70% international content and 30% Indian content, he added. He said that DJ Mag is known around the world for its annual top 100 DJ Rankings, which is the final word on the global DJ pecking order. Very soon, Percept in association with DJ will also be launching the first ever DJ Ranking in India.

Again, Cartoon Network's Ben 10 magazine is another attempt in the channel's merchandising and licensing activities. Gaurav Brar, director at Cartoon Network Enterprises- South Asia, Turner Networks, said that the magazine promotes the character Ben10 and will be available in retail stores such as Landmark, Crossword, Big Bazaar, Wal-Mart and various other bookstores in India. As per him, Ben 10 is the number one licensed property in India and has far exceeded the popularity of toon characters of other networks such as Nickelodeon and Disney. "The magazine gives kids the opportunity to interact more with their favourite toon character," he said. While there is an initial print run of 15,000 copies, the number will be increase with time, he says. Cartoon Network will also launch a comics range (largely on Ben10) comprising six titles, with an initial print run of 10,000 copies each.