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In the Times of The Hindu


N ASOKAN | New Delhi, February 17, 2012 16:51
Tags : The Times of India in open war with The Hindu | Stuck with news that puts you to sleep |

Finally, The knife is out. India’s leading newspaper The Times of India is in an open war with The Hindu, which is also called Mahavishnu of Mount Road (The Hindu’s office is located onMount Road, the name of which has now been changed to Anna Salai Road). Ever sinceThe Times of India (ToI) entered Chennai in 2008, the media world is abuzz. Both the dailies have been taking digs at each other through tongue in cheek TV commercials and carefully designed print advertisements.
It first started last year, with ToI releasing ads that said, “Stuck with news that puts you to sleep? Wake up with The Times of India.”
The Hindu decided to hit back with its own advertisement. In their ad, various readers are asked apparently simple general knowledge questions alluding to the fields of politics and general interests. The respondents claim ignorance of the answers. The same respondents are then asked typical Page 3 questions, (“Is Aishwarya’s baby a girl or a boy?’’, “What is Hrithik Roshan’s pet name?”...). All the respondents answer correctly. Then these respondents are asked the name of the newspaper that they read. Although the answer is muted, the allusion – which one can make out through the lip movements – is to the giant competitor. “Stay ahead of the times” is the punch given at the end of the ad.
The print ads are structured similarly, with lines like ‘Space for Business leaders, not for cheerleaders’; ‘Also has pages 1,2,4,5,6,7,...’; ‘Because government malfunctions matter more than wardrobe malfunctions’, and ‘More Wayne, Less Coleen’ placed suggestively. The same punch-line of “Stay ahead of the times” is being touted in each one of them
This serial ad campaign, designed byO&M, reportedly cost The Hindu a king’s ransom. “Last year the ToI had put out several adsattacking The Hindu directly and indirectly. A lot of readers wanted us to respond. For us, it was not important to respond from one paper to another. We wanted to take a stand in the journalism that we believe in,” explains Siddharth Vadaradarajan, Editor, The Hindu (full interview on the next page).
According to the latest Indian readership Survey (IRS 2011 Q3), ToI stands at 74.67 lakh, while The Hindu has a readership of 21.69 lakh. But in the south, The Hindu is ahead of ToI in terms of readership.
Apart from Chennai, ToI has also made inroads into Kerala in February this year, with four editions – Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut and upcountry Kochi. It was launched with a tie up with the Malayalam daily, Mathrubhumi. 
There’s a marketing strategy too: Those who subscribe to both Mathrubhumi and ToI can save Rs 50 per month. In Kerala, ToI did not enter into a price war with The Hindu, as it did in Chennai. And just before ToI’s launch in Kerala, The Hindu started its Calicut edition on January 29 with its own printing facility.
In Chennai, ToI was launched in 2008, at a cover price of Re1, clearly trying to undercut The Hindu. But The Hindu did not pick up the bait. As it happened, now the ToI remains at Rs 2.50 while The Hindu remains at Rs 3.
‘’The ad campaign was actually started by ToI. In the old days The Hindu would have ignored it. But the modern day Hindu has had to rise to the challenge.” says A S Panneer Selvam, Chennai-based senior journalist and media analyst. Clearly, though The Hindu may hit out at the ToI, the ads prove that it does recognise the behemoth importance of its competitor. Interestingly, it has even started covering Kollywood extensively through a separate weekly supplement.
Siddharth Varadarajan says: “Though the basic formula of The Hindu is not going to change, we are also looking to be more lively and relevant.”
In a way, the consumers of news in Chennai have benefitted because of the price war. They have been getting the leading national newspaper at a cheaper price, along with attractive gifts like travel bags, flasks etc. They also have a variety in terms of news coverage, with both newspapers now arriving at their doorsteps.
More interestingly, after the rebuttal ads of The Hindu, the ToI came out with a print ad saying: ‘We congratulate the competition for finally waking up to The Times of India’. 
The ad also mentioned that The Hindu’s new editor and new CEO have cut their teeth on The Times of India. It says: “Four years ago, Chennai woke up to The Times of India. Finally our competition has, too. We have enjoyed their new campaign, reacting to our success in Chennai. We now look forward to them emulating our approach to connecting with readers, led by a new editor and CEO who’ve cut their teeth on The Times of India. We wish them good morning and good luck.”
One thing is sure. From now on, Chennai’s media scenario is not going to be the same again. And the reader is certainly going to have a variety; not just in newspaper variety, but so too in media advertisements.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017