There were several interesting talks and presentations at the IFRA India 2008 Conference. For example, Steve Yelvington, senior strategist, Morris Digitalworks, U.S.A., spoke about the Bluffton Today experiment of using a new publishing model combining print and the Internet and how it had resulted in Bluffton, “the oldest village in the United States”, coming together as a community. Bluffton Today launched a new, free, home-delivered newspaper with a Web site built entirely around blogging and photo-sharing. “You cannot blame the Internet for the slide in newspapers. Most newspapers missed the opportunity the Internet provided. A Web site should not be just an online newspaper. We used print and Web for their respective strengths. The whole structure of the Internet is conversational. It is a network, which has led to the rise of participative media,” he says.
Speaking about its model of attracting new audiences and how it is preparing for change, Tomasz Jozefacki, head of Internet Division, Agora, Poland, says that half of Agora’s revenues continue to come from newspapers in a very competitive market. Agora’s strategy, he points out, is content creation and distribution, expansion in the fastest growing segments,and taking advantage of the digital opportunity. “The Internet has been the primary tool (for Agora) in reaching new audiences. We are learning how to use it and to leverage it as a distribution platform. The growth is from community and social network platforms,” Jozefacki says.
There was an outstanding panel discussion chaired by Tariq Ansari, managing director, Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. at the concluding session on Day 1 of the two-day CEO-Publishers Conclave. The panelists included K. U. Rao, CEO, Diligent Media Corporation; Ravi Dhariwal, CEO-Publishing, The Times of India Group; and Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media Ltd. To a comment from Bhaskar Das, executive president, The Times of India Group, that the post-1990 generation is not interested in newspapers and that more newspapers will ruin the environment at a time when people are environment-conscious, Dhariwal responds by saying that there is still something magical about newspapers, it comes in a package that is attractive. “Although the readership will decline, it will not die down,” he stresses.
Referring to a special edition The Times of India is producing for students – about 500,000 copies – Ravi Dhariwal, CEO-Publishing, The Times of India Group, says that students like to read the paper. The newspaper has to be customised to suit the present generation, he feels. “The alternatives available to the post-1990 generation is much more (than of his generation). Editors realise that they need to draw the younger crowd. The ageing population is a cushion. The newspaper will still remain relevant. We do not, however, need to change the circulation-growth strategy,” he says.