Newspaper industry troubles and book problems

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Dibyajyoti Sarma examines how the publishing industry is fighting a brave fight to stay relevant despite insurmountable odds.

The morning context (a research and media company), published an article on the Grand Old Lady of Borbunder on March 2. It read: “Samir and Vineet Jain of the Times Group have decided to part ways”. If the news is true, it means a split at one of India’s oldest and biggest media houses. According to market estimates, the size of the media giant is Rs 10,000 crore with profits in the range of Rs 500 crore. The clash between the Jain brothers is rooted in disagreements over how BCCL/Times Group should be run and where accountability ends.

When PrintWeek spoke to a senior Times of India official, he said the split will have a huge impact on the newspaper industry, which has suffered a huge blow over the past two years.

The Indian newspaper industry indeed faced an unprecedented crisis when the country entered lockdown in March 2020. Circulation dropped drastically, as did advertising revenue. The FICCI EY Indian M&E Industry Report 2021 showed that print advertising revenue increased from Rs 206 billion in 2019 to Rs 122 billion in 2020.

According to a report by ratings agency Crisil, released in July 2021, print media industry revenue for the financial year 2020 was Rs 31,000 crore, split 70:30 between advertising and subscriptions . It declined by 40% during the pandemic and is expected to reach Rs 24,000-25,000 crore in FY22.

Things improved significantly in the third quarter of FY22, especially in advertising revenue. According to a report by TAM Media Research, the print industry has already recovered 82% of pre-Covid levels and saw an 18% drop in advertising volumes in 2021, compared to 2019.

Sudhir Agarwal, Managing Director of DB Corp, said: “We are seeing renewed strength in advertising revenue, with new categories starting to look to print for their advertising spend, coupled with some traditional categories like real estate, education, the jewels that rebounded. to pre-Covid levels.

Print versus digital

Budget estimates for 2022-2023 indicate that the government will spend Rs 104,278 crore over the next 12 months on education. That’s the good news. The less news from a print point of view is that a large part of the budget will be invested in the digital university, the development of eContent for schools and a program of educational television channels (from 12 to 200 channels) . The book publishing industry and the printing industry have so far failed to react to this pro-digital dynamic.

However, education experts and teachers say “this over-reliance on digital learning is misplaced and there is a huge learning loss.” The Annual School Education Report (ASER) talks about the huge gap between public and private school students embracing digital means and how this gap has grown over the past two years.

Two things the print industry is interested in are: According to the ASER report, even though smartphone availability has increased from 36.5% in 2018 to 67.6% in 2021, more children in private schools had smartphones at home (79%) compared to public school. children (63.7%).

The ASER report highlighted that there had been a 40% increase in the number of school children taking private lessons during the pandemic. The virtual learning method proved to be inadequate.

The report was conducted in rural areas of 581 districts in 25 states and three union territories between September and October. A total of 76,706 households, 7,299 schools in 17,184 villages were covered by the survey.

Lido Learning led by Ronnie Screwvala is making the news. For digital education bhakts, the shutdown of the edtech startup should be a wake-up call. Hundreds of employees in Bengaluru and Noida, as well as suppliers have complained of not receiving salaries for almost two months as well as delayed payments on professional networking platforms and social media. Moreover, it has left tutors, parents and students on the sidelines.

Founded in 2019, Lido Learning offers small group online tutoring for K-12 students. It offers classes in math, science, coding, and English. A spokesperson said the money will “fuel its expansion plans in India and expand its global footprint.” There has been a huge amount of talk about Lido entering the US and Canada with its flagship coding program using the “pair-learning” methodology. This methodology guarantees two students per teacher “to facilitate faster learning, deeper interactions and real-time problem solving”.

Plans were also in place for a launch in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia in early 2022, in addition to its existing operations in the Middle East, the US and the Canada. This is how Lido Learning raised approximately $27.3 million from investors such as Alibaba-backed BACE Ventures, Picus Capital and nine unicorns as well as entrepreneurs like Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Mukesh Bansal, Anupam Mittal and Ananth Narayanan .

One of the curious things about new forms of education system is the short-circuiting of the process. That is why when responsibility stops, value disappears and the whole system collapses.

Troubled books?

Meanwhile, 60-70 Marathi book publishers and four bookstores have shuttered in Maharashtra. The reason: the slowdown in the book market due to the closure of schools during the pandemic. When PrintWeek conducted a survey in 2015-2016, the state of Maharashtra boasted of 12,000 libraries and 1.5 million schools. These constitute a captive audience for printed books. The Rs 90 crore book publishing business was reduced to Rs 7 crore during the Covid months. One editor, who spoke to PrintWeek, said: “In addition to Covid, there is the shift in book buying due to e-books and the social media boom. Additionally, publishers in Maharashtra have been hit by the threat of piracy.

Rajiv Barve, who heads the Akhil Bharatiya Prakashak Sangh, said: “We have filed complaints with the police and other authorities about this threat. But so far there has been no progress.

In the previous issue of PrintWeek, Ananth Padmanabhan of HarperCollins India, said, “There are probably more than 5,000 bookstores selling educational books (which make up 85-90% of the publishing industry in India) between school, university, medical and stationery stores that also sell some children’s activity books. But India needs bookstores – between chains and independents – to sell trade and general books. By way of comparison, the UK has around 1,000 bookshops for a population of 68-69 million. Imagine our country, all major airports, all major train stations, major cities and satellite towns. And in our metropolitan cities too, there really aren’t enough bookstores to meet readers’ needs.

The reality is depressing. A recent report from Maharashtra examines the network of 12,489 public libraries in the western state. But due to government apathy, most of these public libraries are in disrepair. As a result, more than 21,613 employees did not receive their salaries on time; In addition, book purchase budgets have been reduced. In Nagpur zilla, out of the 234 libraries, about 25 centers have closed in the past five years. Imagine if this happens in one of the most progressive states in the country where the essence of Mahatma Phule’s educational philosophy was “education is a human right”.

But it’s not all bloody history. For example, this month renowned Hindi publisher Rajkamal Prakashan Samuh celebrated its 75th anniversary. And, it looks to the next generation to carry the legacy forward. At an event to celebrate the day of the foundation, Ashok Maheshwari, MD, Rajkamal Prakashan said, “We will strive to make our books available in multiple local languages. In addition, we will speed up our processes to make available the best of Hindi works as part of our contribution to satisfying the curiosity and needs of young people; in the quest for knowledge. We further aim to make the most of ever-changing modern technology to maximize our reach to potential readers.

PostScript

All is not lost for books. A good example of this was seen when readers pushed community efforts to buy, store and read books published by Westland, after its parent company, Amazon, announced the closure of the publishing house on 1 February 2022. There was an unprecedented show of support for authors whose books were about to be pulped. As individual readers jostled for their favorite titles, various independent bookstores also announced that they had stocked up on Westland titles before they disappeared from the market. There is still hope for the printed book.





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