Halt of printing due to lockdown has revenue implications, but print players hope new financial year will bring new advertising budgets
With ‘janta curfew’ in the country on March 22, newspaper distribution in Mumbai and surrounding areas was suspended citing safety concerns of delivery vendors in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Even as newspapers were printed in other parts of the country, vendors were not picking up the papers as delivery boys were barred in housing society premises over safety issues. Publishers have been saying that newspapers are safe and not carriers of the virus. In fact, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued a directive to all States and Union Territories to ensure operational continuity of Print and electronic media in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak and newspapers are set to resume printing and regular circulation from April 1.
Meanwhile, newspapers and tabloids ranging from Mid-Day to the Indian Express are aggressively sending out links to their e-paper or issue PDFs.
Newspapers are safe
Raj Jain, CEO, Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited told IMPACT, “Rumours circulating on social media has raised concerns in minds of our delivery partners as they are out in the open delivering the product during the city lockdown. Newspapers are absolutely safe, and we are working with our delivery partners to ensure sanitization protocols are implemented and followed during delivery. Safety of the staff of our delivery partners is also of utmost importance to us. New protocols of safety have been established, and staff is being trained to implement them to deliver a safe product to our readers. This is the reason why there has been no distribution in a couple of cities, and it may be a little erratic for another few days. Newspaper is an essential service in India, like daily groceries, milk, bread, etc. Therefore, our journalists and our printing press will continue to be operational on all the days, and we will continue our mission to get the latest news and authentic information to our readers.”
Mumbai’s newspaper vendors’ union, the Brihanmumbai Vruttapatra Vikreta Sangh (BVVS) agreed with newspaper houses that distribution of newspapers in Mumbai and suburban areas will start from April 1. The signed understanding also reportedly states that the publishers will not only provide sanitisers and masks to the vendors but will also bear the expense of treatment if any of the delivery persons gets infected with coronavirus.
All major publications have been ramping up their hygiene in printing and distribution and communicating the same to readers. “Our newspaper printing and distribution is running smoothly in all our markets. Further, we have been sanitising our newspaper through auto sanitization system. We are also distributing latex gloves, masks and sanitizers to the hawkers for the welfare and well-being of all our readers,” says Kaacon Sethi, Chief Corporate Marketing Officer, Dainik Bhaskar Group.
In the current situation, newspapers need to stand up to their role of being a mouthpiece of safety, health and hygiene. All major publications have been issuing such content on safety and hygiene along with maintaining safety protocols of their processes and staff members.
“Our sales team is constantly in touch with advertisers through video and audio conferencing facilities available to them at work; we are ensuring regular follow-ups by our sales team of our clients’ well-being and safety - any assistance needed by them is treated with utmost interest and safeguarding the clients’ requirements,” says M V Shreyams Kumar, Joint Managing Director, Mathrubhumi.
“We are facing slow growth in the business but the existing campaigns of the clients are still ongoing and we are certain large business houses will come up with many more campaigns once the situation is under control. The market will certainly experience growth as the new financial year will begin with new advertising budgets to roll in the market,” adds Kumar.
Magazines not printing
All major magazines have halted their print issues for the time being and are uploading their e-copies over the Internet. Sportstar, the fortnightly sports magazine published by The Hindu Group, has put on hold its Print issue for the first time in nearly 43 years. Outlook has decided to suspend the immediate issue of the magazines. “But we continue to publish the PDF edition of each of our titles as per the schedule dates. Physical distribution is impossible in the current context therefore the tough decision to drop the issues. FY 20-21 will be a very tough year. Media organisations will take tough calls. We will take more informed decisions in the next few weeks,” Indranil Roy, CEO, Outlook Group says.