The Corona pandemic, which has been ongoing since 2020, has had a major impact on society, politics and the economy. The publishing and newspaper industry has also been affected, suffering economic losses and facing technological challenges. On this occasion, we want to talk in more detail about the impact of COVID-19 on the publishing and newspaper industry in India and provide an insight into international developments. We therefore conducted an interview with our colleague Hemant Kumar, Country Manager at ppi Media in India, which provides an exclusive insight into the situation on site.
In recent months, not only Germany was affected by the pandemic and prolonged closures, but India also recorded numerous new infections and one of the highest incidence rates worldwide. What is the current assessment of the Corona situation in India?
As things stand today, the situation in India is under control. According to various statistics available in the media, 24,000 new cases were added the day before yesterday. In June, there were several 100,000 new cases. So the numbers are promising. The only dampening factor may be that we have a large population of 1.37 billion people and the vaccination rate cannot keep up. Currently, about 10% of the population is vaccinated. This is the only concern I have. Otherwise, I expect the numbers to continue to drop.
As mentioned earlier, the Corona pandemic not only had a strong impact on society, but also on the publishing and newspaper industry. Can you look back to 2020 in India, when the spread of the virus began?
First, I would like to give some background information that is unique to India, especially to the Indian newspaper and publishing industry, which does not exist anywhere else in the world. Newspapers are delivered to homes at 6 in the morning. It also costs less than 5 cents. Therefore, the Indian business model is to make money from advertisements. Because of these conditions, the pandemic had a huge impact on newspaper revenues starting in March 2020. Initially, there was a big rumor that the physical newspaper was spreading the disease. This led to people not buying any more and delivery in larger cities was stopped. Also, advertisements dropped by about 40% to 50%.
What is the current situation of our industry in India?
This year, the Corona situation worsened again in the period from February to June. We recorded very high numbers of cases and everything was shut down. Consequently, the pandemic again had a big impact on the economy. Now the numbers are encouraging again and the economy is recovering. In addition, the Indian festival season is starting now, which generates maximum advertising from August to December. Therefore, I expect the numbers to increase.
Having talked in general terms about the Corona pandemic in India and the impact on the publishing and newspaper industry, what are the current trends and issues that publishers and newspapers are focusing on now?
The print industry is very large in India and digital offerings account for only a small portion of total sales. For this reason, India was not yet ready for full automation and transition to digital. The task for business and advertising managers is to move into the digital world step by step, creating a balance between the print and digital sectors and opening the doors to digital technologies. If there is another emergency in the future, Indian newspapers can either be physical or digital. The idea is to have a database that can publish all types of media, either the traditional print medium or the digital form.
How will our industry develop in the future, can you make some initial assumptions?
The Indian industry is betting on the importance of digital. However, I believe that print will continue to predominate in the future. Print will continue to account for a large share of total sales and will continue to grow for another 10 to 20 years. This assumption can be attributed to the fact that the economic level of the population may not allow them to buy digital devices, for example a computer or a smartphone. To come back to the question: I see a positive future for print, and digital offerings will also continue to grow.
Do you have anything to add in conclusion?
Compared to other parts of the world, India is in a strong position in terms of newspapers. A few weeks ago, figures were released again, in this case for book publishing, and the number of printed books was still higher than
e-books. Accordingly, I expect the print sector to continue to grow for another decade or two.