A majority of knowledge that I have gained over years of existence, is because of people I have met on the move.

After my journey from Pune to New Delhi with some interesting people in a train, it was yet another hour of journey left to my home via metro. This time, I met a guy with a fancy frame of glasses with unusual hair; very first look was that of a rock star of early 80s – now a mature family man, coming home after work by the last metro from New Delhi railway station. The first few sentences of his were an evidence of him being a journalist; pleasant and soothing voice with lucid words garnished over a sophisticated look.

He introduced himself as a Managing Editor of Indian Express; Mr Raj Kamal Jha. And then, it isn’t hard to visualize the scene where a marketer happens to meet a media man!

Ignorant of journalism, I was unaware of the personality and took him as he looked on face. He was unruffled and cool. He shared all the questions that he had in his mind and tried to answer some of mine! To my surprise, Google told me about him in detail and found him to be a renowned author of various books.

With news spreading faster over twitter, then on television which becomes a frequent discussion topic among friends only to see the same news coming in the newspaper next day; why would anyone pic up one in the morning? Hence became our topic of discussion. And what is Indian Express taking it as!

Recommended reading or try googling, “are newspapers dying?”!

With web (social media/blogs/microblogs) becoming denser each day, is adding to the intricacies of print means of media. Just as I used to think when I was young, “why do we pay for the entire bulky newspaper, when I am only interested in the sports section”; today I see people subscribing to their favorite section of newspaper through email, feeds, twitter, facebook and so on. I used to take out those 4 pages and enjoy reading them in the loo; today I see people enjoying their favorite sections on their palm tops whenever they get time.

So it wasn’t only Indian Express under question, but a matter of survival of Newspapers and Magazines.

I don’t like being on the business’ side and never would I like to be.

As a customer if I analyze the situation, it hits me as a solution to a majority of problems. With newspapers selling less and eventually selling no copies at all is great news. We will get free content on web, customized feeds and our favorite news with no unrelated advertisements. No newspapers means less trees being cut down each day; environment friendly. It’s a great thing to do.

I don’t like being on the business’ side and never would I like to be. This keeps me thinking!

I am happy to see, at first, that newspapers are taking this problem seriously; next, they are also taking steps to change with time and thinking of reaching audiences with digital medium and giving them options to customize and read only what they want. Newspapers observing their readers shifting on web slowly, they made their websites and made the news available online. Well, no big deal, or is it?

We often keep ourselves busy fighting the symptoms; figuring out the right problem is the issue here.

Making newspaper sell more and get more readership?; Act as a catalyst and make the “Atoms-to-Bits” transition a slow process, so as to survive for a longer period?; How to depend on your loyal customers for a longer time?

Or is it reaching out to the readers as a credible source of news and information?

The moment we freeze on the medium of reaching out to the readers, Newspapers would definitely be out of business in a couple of decades. There is no question about it and a business using such huge amount of paper (environment unfriendly) is vulnerable from 360 degrees, let alone customers not preferring the medium. Let’s, for a moment, stop visualizing a newspaper as something that one can touch, feel and hold.

Again, no prizes for guessing, we will see newsPAPERS now changing into newsPORTALS (or whatever); I hope people from print media would accept it easily than laymen. The objective should be to make the transition smooth and easy for the generations (of different beliefs) in existence.

Where is the problem then?

Change

I see it as a problem of resistance to change. Readers will eventually change with time, some will accept as it comes and for some it will be a challenge; however change has to happen and eventually will be loved by all.

Businesses, fixed structures and systems, find it difficult to change. A million year old way of doing a business cannot be changed over a couple of year’s time. Functionally, there is not much of change; news would still be provided to the readers but operationally, it would differ in terms of reaching them.

With people getting used to free content online, will they be willing to pay?

Again, to reiterate, the operational part would differ. Since the way of consumption (of news/content) will change, so will change the way of payment.

Sometimes, I wonder, why do people pay for newspaper copies, when it is not a major source of income anyways. Therefore, people are not going to pay for e-newspapers! And why should they? Since the price paid by readers goes into the distribution structure and delivering of the newspapers; with no such structure, why does one need to pay! There will no cost incurred in distributing and hence no price paid. Machines printing the newspapers will be redundant, salaries, and so on. We can visualize a huge savings in cost of making a newspaper copy and getting it delivered to readers’ place. Stop making the manufacturing and logistics efficient, just remove it. There is no need of doing a process more efficiently which should not be done at first place!

The major source of revenue still remains the same, but more accountable. Interestingly, (e)newspapers advertising can be more specific in terms of OTS (opportunities to see). It can be customized to the reader’s interest. High segmentation is possible. Who else can teach awesome segmentation on web, than Facebook! (It has always reached me with the right product/service I have ever needed). With this, expect more ads per ads hence more revenues than in print.

Electronic newspapers come with a lot of challenges as well. One, for example, can be easy switching between brands. With no long term subscription, people will shift. And shifting from a webpage to another is simpler than subscribing for a new newspaper. That’s altogether a different issue that can be worked upon.

To conclude, each newspaper has its advantages and competencies to leverage while shifting from print to web. The positioning and Brand image that companies have developed over years, is going to play a major role in determining their worth online. Another leverage point is loyal readers. For newspapers distributed to niche market today will have to work on the trade off between Dilution and Diffusion.

Satyam is a Consultant with Infosys Ltd. and editor / founder of marketinomics.com. When he is not talking about Digital Marketing or dreaming of CRM strategies, he can be found on a treadmill. He enjoys travelling, reading and listening to music! Catch up with him on twitter at @xatyam

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