Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Re: [prpoint] Why this kolaveri de? - The Hindu vs TOI Ad war


Dear Mr Srinivasan,

you have given us a very good analysis of the English newspaper environment in Tamil Nadu. I am sure you will permit me to use your writeup and the videos for one of my classes on this subject. You have put it together like a teacher.

The first thought that comes to my mind after reading your write up is that, maybe the induction of people from the TOI could have lead to latest unconventional decisions at The Hindu. This is a risk one runs when you break from tradition and experiment. we have to wait and watch what unfolds. I am sure you will update us on this.

best wishes,

Prof Uma Bhushan PhD
Reader, Business Communication Area
K J Somaiya Institute of Mangement Studies & Research
Vidyavihar, Mumbai 400 077
(M) 09821766781

--- On Mon, 2/6/12, Prime Point Srinivasan <prpoint@gmail.com> wrote:

From: Prime Point Srinivasan <prpoint@gmail.com>
Subject: [prpoint] Why this kolaveri de? - The Hindu vs TOI Ad war
To: "Prpoint Group" <prpoint@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Monday, February 6, 2012, 11:12 PM


hi all

On behalf of prpoint group, I congratulate  Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, the new Editor and Mr Arun Anand, the new CEO of The Hindu and wish them all success in their new role.  

The Hindu, one of the leading english newspapers is always a household name in Southern India, particularly in Tamilnadu.  A soft, culture bound, non-aggressive newspaper, has suddenly gone into 'kolaveri mood', by releasing lot of advertisements against TOI in Tamilnadu, as a counter to their earlier ad.   Now TOI is also releasing ad towards 'counter to counter'.  Before going into what prompted them to do so, we will see how The Hindu has created milestones in the history of Indian journalism.

Profile of The Hindu

Presently, The Hindu is the second largest circulated english newspaper in India and third in the readership.  Started in 1838 as a weekly journal with 80 copies, has now grown to 1.5 million circulation across India.

Though, it is a family run newspaper, the Editors used to be from their own families. They train their family members in the hard core journalism in International institutions.  Generally, their editors are not seen, but they are felt.  Mr G Kasturi, who was the Editor of The HIndu for nearly 25 years and Mr N Ravi, who succeeded Mr Kasturi as Editor till last year are considered as 'legends' in the journalism field.   They were never seen in public platforms or TV shows.

The Hindu,  otherwise also called 'Mount Road Maha Vishnu' is perceived by their readers as  neutral unbiased newspaper.   Till date, there is no visible complaint against The Hindu for mixing  editorial  with advertisement.  The readers of The Hindu consider this as the main 'core strength'.

Adopting modernity when needed

Even though The Hndu is perceived  as a conservative newspaper, they never hesitated to adopt modern technologies to provide the best value addition to their readers.  They are the first to set several milestones in the history of Indian journalism.    Way back in 1940, they were the first newspaper to introduce colour printing.  

In 1960s, they owned an air craft to distribute the papers.  Also they introduced facsimile system for the first time in India,  to print simultaneously the pages at different centres through  remote imaging techniques.

In the 1980s, they were the first to introduce computerised photo composing, satellite facsimile transmission, 

In 1987, the Bofors scandal published by the Hindu rocked the entire country.

India got the internet facility in 1995.  In the same year, they were the first newspaper in India to publish the news in internet.

Post N Ram scenario

In 2003, when Mr N Ram took over as the Editor in Chief,  the readers felt some changes.  The Hindu was accused of leaft leaning, anti-hindusim, inserting views in the news, pro-china stand, pro-srilanka stand, etc.  Though such things had some impact on the political news, it did not affect the business and general news.  Unlike the past Editors, N Ram was seen often in the media and TV shows and public platforms.  

Only during Mr N Ram's period as Editor in Chief, The Hindu improved its international image.  They started publishing exclusives on 'wiki leaks' drawing the attention of international community.  Mr N Ram was invited by President Obama to attend the swearing-in ceremony.  

After some internal problems within the family, Mr N Ram, Mr N Ravi and others quit their respective positions  and continued in the Board.  The Board  decided to bring in outside talents.  They brought in Mr Siddharth Varadarajan, an eminent journalist  as Editor.  Mr Arun Anand, a brand expert has joined as CEO. Both the new Editor and the CEO had their long innings in TOI group  earlier.  

Now let me come to the subject.

Entry of Times of India to Chennai

Everybody used to wonder earlier till 2008, why Times of India had not come to Chennai and The Hindu had not gone to Mumbai.  This was a million dollar question in the minds of everybody.  Whenever, such questions were raised to the Managements of both the newspapers, they used to smile and go.  

Suddenly in April 2008, Times of India started their publication in Chennai.  At that time, everybody, including the Management of The Hindu feared, that it may cause damage into the circulation of The Hindu.  Times of India offered the paper at Rs.299-/ per annum.  Till date, the same rate continues.   This also made The Hindu to reduce the price. The Hindu is now sold at Rs.100/-  to Rs.110/- per month.  (approximately Rs.1300/- per annum as compared to Rs.299/- of TOI). 

At the time of entry of TOI, Hindu had a circulation of 3.85 lakhs in Chennai.  (as per ABC figure).  Now at the end of 2011, Hindu has shown a circulation of 4.22 lakhs at Chennai, in spite of their high cost.  Times of India is not subscribed to ABC Audit at Chennai.  However, Times of India claims their circulation at Chennai as 2.00 lakhs.  Times of India claims that they are catering to youth segment.

The Hindu and Times of India - Core strength

Times of India and The Hindu have their own core competencies.   Times of India is more dominant in Northern India, while The Hindu is dominant in South India.  

Times of India is considered as the World's largest circulated daily.  Even in India, they are the largest circulated and also largest read newspaper.  The Hindu is considered as one of the best newspapers in the world, on various parameters like quality of paper, printing, layout, classification of contents, etc.  

Times of India - visual advertisement

A couple of months back, Times of India, started an advertisement campaign in all Tamil channels, ridiculing a newspaper that resembled The Hindu.  The visual ad running for nearly one minute,  showcase a newspaper, that resembles The Hindu as a newspaper that is dull and makes one to sleep.  It ends with a caption "Are you stuck with news that puts you to sleep?".  Final slide shows, "Wake up to Times of India".  Please watch this advertisement.

When this advertisement was released, many people raised their eye brows.    

The Hindu's counter advertisement

Suddenly the new team of The Hindu, packed with professional people woke up.  They started releasing several visual advertisments.  They are still running.  In the advertisements, one anchor would ask general knowledge questions to several youth, like who is the Vice President of India, who will succeed Ratan Tata, etc.  Everybody will give stupid answers.  When they are asked some film related questions like Whether Aishywarya Rai's baby is a boy or girl, every one would answer correctly. The 60 sec. advt. ends with the tagline "stay ahead of the times" and a newspaper The Hindu is shown.  Please see this advt.

Besides, The Hindu started carrying lot of advertisements in their paper.  Some of the samples can be seen here.

Now both the videos have been shared in facebook and other social media and have generated an interesting debate.

When TOI described The Hindu as a dull newspaper, The Hindu countered TOI as Page 3 newspaper.  

Times of India's counter advt. to counter The Hindu.

Now for the past three or four days, TOI has started releasing an interesting advt. in their editions.  Pl see the ad copy.

In this advt., TOI hoped that The Hindu would emulate the approach of Times of India under the leadership of   the new Editor and CEO, who have cut their teeth in TOI earlier. 

Is the Hindu going to react to this advt?  We have to wait and see.

How youth react? - a quick study

I interacted with some youngsters.  These advertisements have captured the attention of the youngsters. There is a mixed reaction.

On a quick discussion, I observe that around 30 to 40 percent of the youngsters in the age group of less than 35 may be preferring The Hindu and the reasons given by them is for improvement in their career and knowledge.  One  HR Manager told me that they used to get lot of responses from the applicants within few hours, when they advertise in The Hindu.  

But majority of the youngsters prefer TOI.  The reason given by them is that TOI is highly fascinating and cheap. Some of them even said they felt proud in carrying TOI openly in their hands.

On the other hand, majority of the seniors, beyond the age group of 35 and 40, still prefer The Hindu.  They perceive that The Hindu carries more credible and useful information for their career growth and profession. 

Main challenge faced by  The Hindu

Though, The Hindu has not lost its circulation and readership, even after the arrival of TOI, their advt. revenue seems to be not growing effectively, as per some media report.  In spite of the high cost of the paper, The Hindu is still dominant.  

Now The Hindu's main challenge is to attract youth segment to their fold.  That is why, they have released the counter advt. focussing on youth.  Some of the people have expressed genuine  fear that in the name of developing youth brand, the Hindu should not dilute their core competency.  If they dilute the core competency, then, they may lose both segments of seniors and juniors.  

Many of the readers, who read The Hindu and TOI daily feel that both should maintain their identity and individuality independently.  If the new team of The Hindu, trained earlier by TOI, tries to emulate the TOI model, treating the 133 year old traditional image of The Hindu as 'useless and outdated', then they may lose their traditional readers and may not attract new generation readers.  

If a reader wants  TOI type of approach, then  he will straight go to TOI.  He may not prefer The Hindu, who may like to emulate TOI model. Ideally, the converse is also true.  

Is the Hindu trying to re-brand its image?

Some of the readers think that The Hindu is trying to re-brand its traditional image.  For this, they quote the following as an example of the confusion in The Hindu to re-brand their image.

1.  Last year, a week before the arrest of Spectrum Raja, The Hindu carried a big interview justifying his action.  For this purpose, The Hindu got advertisement from the Telecom Department.  

2.  On 1st Jan 2012, Front page of the Delhi Edition of The Hindu carried a full page advt. of a sycophant Congress leader saluting Sonia Gandhi.   This attracted lot of criticism, as The Hindu never releases full page advt. in the front page like this. 

3.  The front page stories of The Hindu focus on national or international importance.  Recently, they carried 'Kolaveri' song as a lead story in the front page.  The over enthusiasm by bringing Page 3 item, as a lead front page story in The Hindu was a great surprise to the readers. 

4.  Recently,  Nakeeran, a tamil magazine wrote an indecent story with objectionable content against the CM Jayalalitha as a cover story.  When the police registered a case against the magazine, all the papers carried a news item stating  that Nakeeran published  'objectionable' an article resulting in the police registering case.   The Hindu carried the entire 'objectionable' story in their front page verbatim as a lead story, duly translating into English.  Now, The HIndu is also facing legal problem along with Nakeeran. Probably, this was the first time, an indecent and objectionable content was published as a lead story in The Hindu's 133 year old history.  On seeing this article, even I could not believe my own eyes.  It was a great shock for all the readers. 

Road ahead

These indicate that The Hindu is confused over the image, they want to build.  If their advertisement is not growing, then they have to examine the real reasons.  All of a sudden, they seem to think that the 'value and ethics based'  image built over a century may not work in modern days.  Many traditional readers feel that the confusion may be due to The Hindu  team presuming  their 'strengths' as their 'weakness'. 

The general view that the new 'professional team', which has now taken over should encash on their own current strengths and attract more youth and advertisement than resorting to fascinating short term marketing strategies.  

Is The Hindu going to convert their 'readers' into 'market'?

So far, The Hindu readers have been supporting the paper, in spite of their pricing.  Now the new 'professional team' should not convert the 'readers' into 'market'.  

On behalf of prpoint group, I wish the new Editor and CEO of The Hindu a great success.

Prime Point

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