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"The real pressure is within"

 

N ASOKAN | New Delhi, February 17, 2012 15:07
Tags : The Hindu | aggressive ad campaign of The Hindu |
 

The aggressive ad campaign of The Hindu coincides with the change of leadership in the paper. The new editor, Siddharth Varadarajan spoke with N.Asokan about his newspaper’s agenda, after N Ram stepped down

 

The Hindu has a conservative tag. But with this aggressive ad campaign is it trying to go for a image make over?
I don’t agree with you that The Hindu is a conservative paper. It’s reporting has always been hard hitting. If you add up, going back to the Bofors days, the number of exposes and the controversies that The Hindu has written about is not less than any other paper. I don’t see the ad campaign that you are mentioning as a departure from The Hindu’s traditional image. It is a different matter we haven’t advertised in the past. We are now paying more attention to advertising... we want to enter new markets... we want to consolidate.. It is all a brand building exercise.
 
Why attack ToI?
You know the background. Last year the ToI had many ads attacking The Hindu directly and indirectly. Lot of readers wanted us to respond. For us, it was not important to respond from one paper to another. We wanted to make a statement about the kind of journalism that The Hindu believes in. There is a kind of journalism that has begun to enter the country that focuses on trivia, celebrities and downgrading the importance of news analysis. We want to take a stand on the journalism that we believe in as we respond to the ToI ads.
 
Will there be a change in content, to take on ToI?
We always believe in giving a mix of news – national, international, city, art, culture and business. This mix will continue. Whatever we publish has to be proportional and balanced. We cover art and entertainment, we cover movies, but we do it in a certain fashion; within a certain proportion. Take for example the incidence of Shahrukh Khan allegedly slapping someone. Many newspapers thought it is Page 1 news. But we put it on the back page. I don’t think the content of The Hindu is going to change. Of course we want to make the content more lively; more relevant. But as such, the basic formula of The Hindu is not going to change.
 
How much of a threat is there for The Hindu in terms of readership and ad revenues?
It is not a threat at all. It is always good to have a competitor. The Hindu, for many years, never had to compete with a serious player. But in Chennai I don’t think ToI is still a serious player. They are certainly a national brand, and have a presence everywhere. So their entry is a good thing. It forces everybody to be more alert; more competitive. Earlier, our colleagues looked at the Tamil newspapers and The New Indian Express to find out what stories had been covered. But now, one more paper has been added as a point of reference. As for circulation, advertising and readership, far from any pressure, there is growth on each account. It is there for everybody to see. The IRS survey shows our readership has grown far more than any other publication’s. Our readership in Tamil Nadu is more than that of the combined readership of all the other English dailies. The real pressure is from within. We want to ask ourselves what can be done to give a better paper to our reader. Can we do things differently? As an editor, what worries me really is five years from now, when people will migrate from print to computers and hand held devices, how do I fashion my offering for readers who are consuming newspapers through that medium? Those are the kind of questions that are engaging me right now...not what is the so called competition from any paper.
 
But still, ToI is a richer company than yours. Analysts say this can cause pressures for The Hindu.
ToI is a larger company. But they have been in Chennai for some years and have not really been effective. We opened in Delhi. We are growing fast there. We opened in Kolkatta; started printing in Mohali and Allahabad. Every newspaper looks to expand its geographical reach. 
 
Nowadays news is decided by advertisers also, apart from editorial. What are your views on this?
Because Indian newspapers are sold at very low prices, 90 per cent of the revenue comes from advertisers. You can’t say “No” to advertising. But we draw a clear line between advertising and news coverage. Unfortunately some papers do not take ads, but feature the information as news. This is what readers should worry about. In The Hindu, our advertising department knows what our editorial code is, and it is on our website for everyone to read.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017