Varghese Chandy, VP-Marketing & Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama, talks about the current state of the Kerala market, expectations from the Onam festival, challenges for the Print medium, growth plans for the publication and more….
Q] What is your assessment of the Kerala market of today? Who are the new category of advertisers coming into Print, and who remain the constant big advertisers? Which advertisers have moved away from Print? The Kerala market, as everywhere else in the country, has been stagnant of late. This is applicable not just for the Print medium, but for all other media too. In addition to demonetization, imposition of GST and macro-economic issues, the Kerala market had the additional problem of floods last year. I don’t think any advertisers have moved away from the Print medium; may be they would have apportioned their spends to various other platforms.
On the other hand, I would say there is a spurt of new advertisers from FMCG category in the Print medium. About new advertisers in Print, e-commerce is a relatively new category in Kerala Print media, though it won’t be a new category in the rest of the country. Since logistics issues have been sorted out for major players like Amazon, Flipkart, etc, they are coming in a big way to Kerala Print media.
Q] What is the target readership of MM? How do you define the typical MM reader? Malayala Manorama is a large newspaper which reaches about 32% of the Kerala population. Two out of three readers in Kerala read Malayala Manorama, which means our readership profile will assume the characteristics of the universe itself. If an advertiser wants to target customers in any particular segment, you will find Malayala Manorama having more than 60% reach in most of those categories. We cater to every segment in society.
Q] As per IRS Q1, Malayala Manorama has added more than 14.7 lakh readers since IRS 2017 and is among the Top 20 dailies on the basis of AIR. What are your hopes about the Q2 survey report? After the recent success in IRS, how does MM daily plan to keep the numbers increasing? We are hoping that the same trend will continue. We keep focusing on the younger readership through various activities and even the design of the newspaper itself is modified to attract younger readers.
Q] As per reports, the digital media in the country is expected to overtake film entertainment in 2019 and Print by 2021 to reach $5.1 billion in 2021. Do you think the Print media have to reinvent themselves? Every medium must re-invent itself. Print has faced several challenges in different periods of time. The growth of Television, Cable TV were challenges to Print and the challenges are still growing. The Print media survived all these challenges, and re-invented themselves.
As far as Malayala Manorama as a group is concerned, we have the advantage of being present on all media platforms. Therefore, we have the advantage of integrating our platforms to provide solutions to advertisers. This helps advertisers with reach. The different verticals help to find appropriate solutions for the problems of our clients.
Q] The festive season in the country is about to begin with Onam. Last year’s Onam was washed out by the Kerala floods. How are ad sales picking up post floods? What are your hopes around Onam 2019? We are putting all our hope on Onam because Onam was washed out last year due to heavy floods. Definitely, there will be resurgence of the market during Onam and it is the best time for revival too. We really hope that will happen.
Onam marks the festival season in the country; it is a time when every single advertiser focuses on Kerala. There is going to be revival of the market during Onam.
Q] In order to gain more readership, Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar has roped in Salman Khan as brand ambassador. Does a celebrity association help in gaining readership? I am not sure whether a Bollywood star as brand ambassador is going to increase your readership numbers. It can definitely add to the wow factor. For instance, we had featured Dulquer Salman in Malayala Manorama’s campaign. The tagline of the advertisement was ‘Puthiya Vayana, Puthiya Keralam’ (New Reading, New Kerala).
Brand ambassadors have their advantages and disadvantages. In case the celebrities get into any sort of trouble, it could affect the brand. Fortunately for us, I don’t think Dulquer will ever get into any problems as such, as he is a person with proven credentials.
I don’t think you can link readership increase to a person. It will help in engaging with a younger group. But you have to do much more after that. You also need to act at the grass root level. An advertisement or a brand ambassador helps in grabbing eyeballs of the readers. But you have to work to ensure that the attention attained is converted to numbers.
Q] What are the big challenges that you face today? Every category in the country is currently facing problems. The biggest challenge, according to me, is one posed by the macro-economic factors in the country and we are hoping that they will be sorted. Once that’s sorted, things will be smoother for all other platforms.
For Print per se, the migration of readers to online platforms is a challenge. We plan to overcome this challenge or increase the readership in the coming years by looking at ways and means to engage the readers. The biggest advantage of an online medium is interactivity and the engagement factor. We have plans to inculcate the reading habit in youngsters and we are rolling out such plans. We plan a lot of activities with schools and there are special sections in the newspaper for students. Those are all showing results and are probably one of the reasons why you haven’t found any significant loss in circulation or readership of Malayala Manorama.