At its root, the word ‘magazine’ refers to a collection or storage location. In the case of written publication, it is a collection of written articles. This simple etymology of the word ‘magazine’, as elucidated by Wikipedia, is represented by a sprawling worldwide industry of 31,435 businesses employing almost a half a million people and worth about USD 62 billion (yes, you read it right) worldwide.
As per the Indian Readership Survey (IRS Q1 2019), the total readership of all newspapers in India was at 42.5 crores while that of magazines was at 8.7 crores readers. Over one in every five readers who read the dailies, are clearly reading a magazine.
If you thought that magazines are passé, then you are mistaken.
Engagement Par Excellence
Magazines, whether in print or digital form, still offer some of the most engaging content for its audiences. In fact, even newspapers provide weekly ‘magazine supplements’ that offer highest engagement with its readers, often at a higher cover price.
Magazines in India, and I should give a especial call out to regional language magazines, have managed to come slowly but surely, to stand on their own and keep their cover price enough to take care of production and distribution costs and still contribute to their fixed overheads.
During the 2020 pandemic, magazines suffered as much as newspapers did, when fake news of the novel coronavirus spreading through paper, made its rounds on the social media. Like many of our counterparts around the world, we at Vikatan have used the pandemic to become lean, mean and ever more relevant to our readers.
Like most magazines, we are managing to get back to their pre-Covid-19 sales numbers. This is courtesy the readers who choose to stay well informed with brands that they trust. Yet, the larger fallout continues, with brands, advertisers and marketing professionals remaining conservative in allocating their spends to the media, in the continuing Covid-19 era. Our overdependence on certain verticals such as retail, which was one of the most affected sectors during the pandemic, has not helped our cause either.
Reader Revenue at the Core
This left the industry high and dry, and with only one option left staring at its face. Come 2021, and as an industry, we needed to take a pledge. A pledge to stay continuously relevant and engaged with our readers and audiences, so much so that we need to make our reader revenues our only revenue to sustain in business.
Those aware of the current dynamics of the print media sector in India, will think this sounds more like either Mission Impossible or like utopia, depending on which side of the fence they sit on. We, at Vikatan, are working hard nonetheless to make this dream a reality.
Advertisement as Content
Do not misread our intention – we would never say ‘no’ to advertising revenue. Much to the contrary in fact, we believe that we can be far more objective about serving the advertiser, and perhaps the advertiser would be even more convinced about our reader engagement, when we know that we can sustain even without advertising support.
The adage that people read magazines as much for advertising as they do for content will become even more relevant now when the marketer chooses their preferred engagement with magazine readers.
Magazines as a Solutions Partner
For a few years now, magazines have doubled up their media-agnostic reach with offerings on print, digital, video and events to provide 360-degree solutions to marketers. We have also become their (native) content creators, creative agencies, social media partners, data insight drivers and programmatic solution providers. The year 2021 will perhaps see magazines serve clients as end-to-end content and media partners rather than just space and time sellers.
Double in 2021
Our editorial and circulation teams are all geared up for the challenge. While we were satisfied to sell a majority of our copies beyond news-stands in the pre-Covid era (we have thankfully got back newsstand sales by the close of 2020), we are now obsessed with subscriber revenues. During the peak of the pandemic, our online subscriptions took off, both on mobile web as well as on app, both through individual subscriptions and corporate deals. That has given us new hope.
We are looking to serve our readers through subscriptions, whether online or offline, in case of the latter, a majority through home-delivery or through courier in 2021. We aim to double our reader revenues in this way in 2021 as compared to 2020.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.