Yesterday, JAM Magazine, a 15 year old print publication focused on the youth announced that it is suspending its print operations, to focus on online, events and youth research; it is moving out of its office, and looking to cut costs and staff. JAM currently has a perfunctory portal, a student internship portal, and forums. We spoke with JAM founder Rashmi Bansal on what the company now plans to do, and the circumstances that led to this move:
Bansal said that the subscription business model hardly gets any money, and the advertising pie is now spread between many publications, and online. JAM was self funded, worked on annual advertising contracts, with subscription hardly getting any money. “When you’re the single player in the category, people don’t take you seriously. People don’t even make print ads specifically targeting the youth. It’s a fad to be on Facebook right now, and they’re happy with 400 users.” The annual contracts were getting difficult to renew, with advertisers now looking at shorter, three month contracts. Bansal believes that prints days are numbered, and (magazine) publishers are taking advertising at any rate.
She does believe that JAM needs to do a better web property, hence the plans to restructure. “We have the DNA of a print mag right now, and that needs to change. When people are focused on the web, it’s a different mindset. We’ve never had any issues with getting content – we get lots of contributions. We want to be a user generated, editorially directed site, where people will be able to send their articles. JAM has always been a space for creative expression, and we have a huge pipeline of content,” she says.
So will JAM take on social networks? “There really isn’t a portal for the Indian youth. There were many 10 years ago, but they have folded up. We want to look at articles, and videos; people want their work to be recognized, and that doesn’t always happen on social networks. It’s a link-led world, and if they’re involved, they’ll propagate it. When JAM started, it spread word-of-mouth: we had 300 people wearing a t-shirt, and it will have to be a virtual equivalent of that.”
Bansal says that the job/internship portal JobOKPlease is running on its own steam, but its monetization didn’t quite work out. JAM plans to move to a new office, and there aren’t a lot of people being laid off, because there aren’t many anyway. “We have to changeour style of functioning, lower costs. The cost of running media is running very high now, and most media businesses are subsidising one with the other, for example, print with events. We have a foundation and a core; it’s not starting from zero.”
Bansal wouldn’t comment on the plans for JAM in the online space, in terms of monetization, but said that she doesn’t want the business to be advertising-led. So it will monetization be primarily via events and research?