Saturday, September 08, 2007

An Expo to remember

I have been associated with Ifra India and its activities the past few months, as consultant editor. Ifra (www.ifra.com) is the world’s leading association for newspaper and media publishing with 10 locations worldwide. Services – offered primarily to Ifra members – include trade exhibitions, international conferences, seminars and training events, as well as consulting and various publications. As the only international organisation of its kind, Ifra is the ideal platform for forging diverse contacts between publishing houses and supplier companies, and for decision-makers from the newspaper industry. Ifra, headquartered in Darmstadt, Germany, has more than 3,000 members in about 70 countries. The IfraExpo, the annual event of the newspaper industry, is the world’s most important trade exhibition for newspaper companies and their partners. Ifra publishes the monthly trade magazine, newspaper techniques, in five languages – English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.

Ifra India (www.ifra.com/india), headquartered in Chennai, started its operation in 2001 to bring Ifra services closer to members in the region, which includes countries in South Asia. Ifra India now has 49 members, comprising publications and suppliers. Most leading publications are Ifra members. The annual Ifra India Conference organised in September every year has become a meeting point of the Indian publishing industry.

Earlier this week, (Sep 4-6), Ifra india organised a major event - IfraExpo India 2007 showcased offerings from world’s top suppliers to the newspaper and media industry. Running concurrently with the Expo was the Ifra India 2007 conference that provided a platform for several senior editors and publishers to air their views on the fast-changing scenario in the newspaper and media business worldwide. Significantly, the three-day event, co-sponsored by the Indian Newspaper Society, was the first ever IfraExpo to be held outside Europe.

Reiner Mittelbach, Chief Executive Officer, Ifra, Germany, and Kjell Aamot, President & CEO, Schibsted, Norway, inaugurated IfraExpo 2007. Mittlebach made some interesting observations: “The circulation of paid newspapers in mature markets is declining, although India is one of the countries with significant growth in circulation. The circulation decline is over-compensated by free newspapers and there are significantly more free titles launched than paid for. The use of digital media is rising especially among the younger age group,” he said, adding, “Reader behaviour has changed and will continue to change. Consumption of news and information everywhere, at any time and through multiple devoices is the key. Newspapers still make their money with printed editions but in some countries revenue and profit from digital activities will become equal to those of print very soon.”

N. Murali, managing director, The Hindu, made some pertinent points as well: “The world’s attention is now turned to China and India as countries showing high GDP growth and having markets that are very large and growing. India’s media market has also emerged as one of the fastest growing and competitive media markets in the world. It is a vibrant market. The Indian print media has a long tradition of independence, credibility and pluralism mirroring the diversity of a large country of sub-continental proportions. It has shown a high degree of resilience.”

For the organisers, Ifra India, the event was a major boost. Magdoom Mohamed, the executive director, Antony, business development manager, Vidya, and Jagannathan toiled hard to ensure that things went well. For R.V. Rajan, Ifra India managing director, it was a dream come true. He has been associated with Ifra for more about 15 years and was instrumental in setting up its office in Chennai and laying down the foundations of what promises to be a major hub for Ifra activity in this part of the world.

Present at the Expo were some of the world’s leading suppliers to the newspaper publishing industry – Adobe, Agfa, Atex, Baldwin, Cerutti S.p.a., COMYAN GmbH, dpa (Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH), EidosMedia S.p.a., Ferag AG, Fuji Photo Film, Goss International, Kodak, MAN Roland, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Muller Martini, Nippon Color, QuadTech, Inc., Siemens Information Systems - PPI, TKS, Tolerans AB, and WoodWing Europe BV. Indian big names as well – 4Cplus, CADD Centre, J. Mahabeer & Co., Manugraph, Pressline India, Pressmart Media, Satyam Computer, TechNova Imaging Systems, The Printers House, and Universal Print Systems.

Added attractions included the demonstration by Dietmar Schantin of the Ifra Newsplex, the multimedia newsroom of the future, and an exhibition on the 400-year history of printing.

Thanks to Kerry Northrup, Ifra director of publications, I helped out with ‘multiblogging’ – reporting events as they happen on the Ifra Web site, complete with pictures and video.

For those of you interested in viewing the IfraExpo India 2007 & Conference multiblog, visit the Ifra Web site.

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