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How the Times of India is pitching its print business versus digital and TV

The Times of India is increasing its print advertising rates by between 8-10%, the company said in a press note, citing investments in “machines” and “content, copies, distribution networks, technology etc.” The group publishes The Times of India, The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Ei Samay and Vijay Karnataka, and claims “a circulation reaching almost 8 million households every morning”.

What we found interesting in the press note, however, was how it is pitching its print businesses versus digital and TV. Here’s a quick break-down of the messaging in that note, and I think we should revisit this positioning, just for fun, a few years from now:

1. Print is a morning habit, digital is for the rest of the day: “The day begins with print and therefore what better way for brands to launch a new product or promotion, make a splash about a new variant or packaging, create interest in their brand proposition through high impact and then leaving the rest of the day for the consumer to do his/her own discovery on and off the internet.”

Our take: Frankly, this is unlikely to be true. Even for those who read both print and digital, it’s likely that their day typically begins with digital – you reach for your phone when your eyes open – and you then go and get that newspaper. Many of us don’t even subscribe to newspapers.

Also read: Advertising in India in 2017, in 18 Charts

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2. Ad blocking and cord-cutting gives print an advantage: “Our belief is that in this day of ad avoidance and doubt about digital delivery, it is our brands that provide the credibility & trust that brands seek in platforms they use to reach premium audiences”…”Premium audiences that our publications serve are notoriously active ad-avoiders across TV and digital, and we see cord cutting in premium households common now. The newspaper offers guaranteed visibility and therefore higher recall, which results in better ROI for the advertiser.”

Our take: Lest we forget, the Times of India group actually led the push against ad-blocking in June last year, probably just a month or so before their sales execs would have gone to pitch online Diwali advertising deals to advertisers. Isn’t it counter-productive for the same group to remind us of ad-avoiding? Apart from this, the group is also talking about cord-cutting, at a time where it has some of the leading news TV channels. It’s like the Times of India vs Times Internet vs Times Television.

Also read: How ad blockers actually workon Ad Blockers and the impact on Media

3. Fake News (Online): “In a world riddled with fake news today, more and more consumers are turning to newspapers to confirm their news. Only if its printed-on paper can it be trusted. Brands are leveraging the credibility of the medium to instil trust in their products.”

Our take: That is questionable, and the irony is that this is coming at a time when the Times of India was, on twitter, criticised for a front-page fake news story (read this and this), and there’s a petition asking for it to put an apology on its front page. Frankly, journalists and publications make mistakes with verification, and yes, there is an issue of Fake News in all media. What makes a publication credible and trustworthy is its ability to correct these mistakes, and inform readers in a manner that is based on the premise that readers deserve to know the truth, even if we made a mistake. Apart from that, it’s important for publications to repeatedly debunk fake information elsewhere. Publications across media can do this – We did with this story a couple of days ago, and no one has followed through – and so the medium really doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. Just because something is printed doesn’t make it more credible. (Ps: do read our coverage of the Fake News issue)

4. Reach: “…print still delivers in this country where newspapers deliver over 250 million premium readers each day, and this is not restricted to just large cities. Growing aspirations in tier-I and tier-II cities are resulting in growth of English readership.”

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Our Take: It’s interesting to see print position itself as a premium medium versus the Internet or TV, and I’m wondering if this is an indication that it probably can’t compete anymore with the Internet on both reach and time spent, or that it won’t be, beyond a point. In any case, the Times of India group is probably the best positioned among media companies to leverage the Internet, so it really doesn’t have as much of a challenge with a transition. Where it does need to worry, though, is yields, and the fact that Google and Facebook capture a majority of the ad-spend online.

5. Five senses: “The newspaper offers immense innovation opportunities to advertisers and is the only medium that can cater to all five senses.”

Our take: I don’t know about you but I’ve never eaten, heard or sniffed a newspaper.


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