Print Growth – How Ad Relevant Are These Numbers?


I read with interest the Audit Bureau Of Circulation’ report a few days back which talked about the growth of print and how contrary to popular belief, is on the rise.. To top this the much awaited IRS which is likely to reflect growth consequent to the increase in numbers sold.

But then, this is the audited circulation for publications and circulation swings happen each time one member publication has their certificate held back or vice versa. No, I am not rubbishing the ABC or their documented audits at all and my point here is about the growth of print, or the lack of it…

Where is this growth coming from? The 4,8 % CAGR ( growth of print ) that is talked about? Is this ad-relevant circulation and is this growth going to make a significant upward difference to response for advertisers ? If the answer is yes, then it heralds good times for publishers and advertisers alike, though in unequal measure.

For the publisher, growth in ad relevant circulation roughly translates to an opportunity to increase advertising rates and gain acceptance too, as the clients would derive increased response from potential customers. However, on the other hand, circulation growth which is not from ad relevant markets would mean an increased load on profitability for the publisher. This is often the case and several regional publishers have faced the brunt of this, in their eternal aim to pick up greater numbers at any cost.

Often its the leader in a given market who is faced with a challenger who garners significant numbers. This is soon followed by a dog eat dog market campaign that sees reader schemes, vendor offers and more, all eventually leading to burning larger holes in the profitability. Often these offers and schemes are also examined closely by the ABC and others who then disallow those copies. Yet another faux pas of falling prey to the challengers aim to destabilise the leader.

One of the most significant strategies adopted by successful organisations across the world is centred around ‘getting your competition to bleed’ and this is often the most successful in the long term.

It is thus important to hold your horses, rein in those emotions and combat competition more sensibly rather than get into a daily fist fight. For those of you who may not be familiar with street fights and the like, fist fights only lead to broken bones and rarely reach any defined conclusion.
Over zealous circulation executives tend to often forget what it costs to add copies and how large insignificant audiences can be to the bottom lines of a company. I don’t blame them, as companies define KRA’s only on numbers in these departments.

To be honest, I don’t blame their HR departments either. They have rarely any clue on the mechanics of the print industry and their knowledge of the industry is peripheral often leading to typically “ by the book HR practice” being applied seamlessly across departments.

Media is a funny business and print is funnier than the rest. This calls for expertise that is gathered over sensible thinking and core industry experience.

Hence, before our fraternity starts rejoicing at the resurrection of print in India, I think it’s critical that we drill down deep enough to analyse how much of all this propounded growth is worth its salt…

I sincerely hope it is sensible and relevant circulation. And If it is, I would be most happy what with most of my career having been spent in print.

Jaisurya Das

Jaisurya Das

The industry affectionately calls him a Marketing Maverick; Known to be brutally candid with his writing as much as everything else, Jd is a much respected media and brand commentator whose prolific writing sees no boundaries.

Jd also consults in Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing, both of which are integral to his brand interventions.
Jaisurya Das

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