Sunday, September 09, 2007

Interesting thoughts from the experts

The Ifra India 2007 Fifteenth Annual Conference, co-sponsored by The Indian Newspaper Society, saw a galaxy of speakers from India and abroad sharing their experiences at the Technical and Publishers’ forums on first two days.

At the end of the Day Two morning session of the Publishers Forum at Ifra India 2007, a panel of experts tackled questions about the future of Indian newspapers. The discussion was prefaced by a series of video interviews with young Indians concerning their views on newspapers compared to other news media.

With lively audience participation, the general conclusion was that India's publishers have some time yet before the digital wave already lapping at the country's shores starts to sweep over them the way it has already in Europe and the United States. Before that time, the panel and audience advised, publishers need to come up with solid strategies for online and particularly mobile media services.

The panel consisted of Kerry J. Northrup, Ifra publications director; Peter Leijten, senior editor of nrc.next in Holland; Peter Sands, director of training for the Press Association in the U.K.; I. Venkat, advertising director of Eenadu Group in India; D.D. Purkayastha, newly named CEO of the ABP Pvt Ltd publishing company in Calcutta; and Ashish Bagga, CEO of the India Today Group.

Earlier, Ashish Bagga, CEO of the India Today Group, presented his company as a case study for building a successful publishing brand in India. He traced the growth of the India Today Group from a single magazine in 1975 to India's most diversified media group today, with interests in magazines, newspaper, television, radio, internet, books and music. The group's portfolio includes 13 magazines, three radio stations, two TV channels, one newspaper, leading classical music label, book publishing and India's only book club. Through its subscribers, readers, viewers and listeners the group reaches out to more than 35 million individuals.

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO of brand-comm, a leading communications consultancy company in India, launched into a thoroughly enjoyable multimedia presentation illustrating how strong brands are developed. For the first session of the Publishers Forum right after lunch, Sridhar had the audience laughing at some of the funny and memorable commercials and advertisements he presented as examples of strong branding. With some notable exceptions, newspapers are not generally very good at branding -- not yet, according to Sridhar. But they are catching on. And his final point of the afternoon is that there will be just two types of companies in the future -- those that are quick and those that are dead.

B.S. Ramesh Kumar, senior planning director for the Bangalore-based Ogilvy & Mather, the first advertising agency in India, compared how his company developed the Titan watch brand with how media companies can develop their own product images in a changing marketplace. Among the lessons: At the heart of a great brand is a great product; don't avoid the extreme in staking out a position as different from your competition as black is from white; understand and adapt your product to the lifestyle decisions of your customers; and stay current.

At the Technical Forum, Purnendu Sen, technical director, The Times of India Group, made an excellent presentation. He spoke about the emotional bond a print manager should have with the workflow in a press. “The printer’s heart must be on the machine,” he stressed. Dwelling on new ideas in quality, Sen feelt the focus must be on people and change, and quality the mission of every newspaper.

Beatrix Beckmann, research engineer, Ifra, Germany, held the audience’s attention with her vision of industrialised printing. Stating that standards had improved in both the process and communication cycle, Beatrix said that reduction of waste is possible with increased automation. “I see the printing house as a service provider; I see media convergence and multi-channel distribution,” she added.

You can get to learn more about IfraExpo 2007 and the Ifra India Conference, Chennai, by logging on to the Ifra Web site, www.ifra.com.

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