Print is Booming (In India)

FOB-Print Is Booming (In India)In India, the world's largest democracy, media might be expected to have a big voice - and it does. This already boisterous voice is growing louder as the economy rises, a middle-class population emerges, literacy rates improve, and more urban dwellers discover and enjoy Internet and mobile communications - in addition to magazines, newspapers and television.

India is one of the few nations in the world where print takes in the largest share of advertising budgets, currently at 50 percent of total spending, according to the Lintas Media Guide. Despite print's dominant market share, the International Federation of the Periodical Press is projecting that magazine advertising will still grow rapidly, by 20 percent in 2008 to $302 million. All sorts of Indian versions of popular U.S. magazines have launched this year, from Condé Nast, Hearst and Hachette, many through licensing agreements with local publishers and with content unique to Indian readers.

India's plentiful newspapers, led by the English language daily The Times of India, are just as vibrant. Remember, Gandhi first rallied people as editor of the newspaper Indian Opinion. Daily readership of newspapers in India tops out at 204 million. Professor Robin Jeffrey, author of India's Newspaper Revolution, highlights a print boom in this subcontinent country and predicts a 500 percent growth in circulation of Indian dailies. Further documentation comes from the World Association of Newspapers and its report on world press trends. This report places India second in the world for daily newspaper circulation - at 88.9 million - nearly twice as large as the U.S. market (52 million).

At the same time that the Indian press continues to multiply, a digital media universe co-exists. Most of the large publishers in India are experimenting with or have fully embraced digital content to offer readers a digital-content option, notes Dan Schwartz, chairman of digital magazine delivery service Qmags.

With the second-largest population on the globe, naturally India is home to large and growing bases of Internet and mobile communications users. While Internet penetration only weighs in at 3.7 percent, the number of users reached 42 million in 2007.

More than 10,000 cybercafés have popped up and are the primary way that people regularly access the Internet. Interestingly, women are leading India's Internet rush and they operate many of these Internet cafés and kiosks.

The digital divide that separates rich from poor, urban from rural dweller, is and will continue to be one of the themes of Indian media. Even so, media is increasingly reaching the rural masses in a country where the economy is largely agricultural and is linked closely with the cycles of the yearly monsoon season.

With personal computers too expensive for most individuals to own, mobile phones are filling the gap for now. In 2007, the number of mobile subscribers climbed to 150 million, up from 10 million in 2002, according to telecom research outfit BuddeComm.

At the same time, the TV market is not being left behind. Lintas predicts that the number of TV channels in India will soon reach the 500 mark and the country will lay claim to being the largest pay TV market in Asia by 2015. Though it's not the one-way channels of communication, but interactive content, that is coming into vogue among India's enlightened and increasingly affluent consumers.

In time, the free society of India and its vast opinionated populace will see the emergence of an increasingly "noisy and unbiased media," says Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna.
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