Indians still love their morning newspaper, but advertisers would rather catch them online

The numbers are stalling.
The numbers are stalling.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

India is the world’s only large market where print publications are growing. Yet, advertisers have for long worried that, much like other major economies, a rapid shift to digital content will break print’s monopoly.

Indeed, advertisers in Asia’s third-largest economy are sprucing up spends on digital platforms, closing the gap between online and print media.

Digital advertising numbers are likely to go up by 30% in 2018 to Rs12,337 crore as Indians spend more time on mobile devices, according to media agency GroupM’s annual forecast released on Feb. 13.

Newspaper advertising, on the other hand, will grow at a sluggish 4% to touch Rs18,437 crore. And television, which has traditionally received the largest chunk of the ad pie, will grow by 13% in 2018.

The growth in digital ad spend, up 69% since 2016, has been much steeper than print’s. With surging smartphone sales and sliding data prices, consumers are expected to pivot further to mobile content. GroupM estimates that “video advertising on digital…to grow at 54% (in 2018), as bandwidth improves and data and mobility devices become more economical for the consumer.”

Despite the slide in print advertising, the latest round of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) showed a 40% jump in newspaper readership between 2014 and 2017, thanks to improved literacy rates and newspaper launches. In all, the industry has added a 110 million new readers since 2014. Local and regional language dailies in the hinterland benefited the most from this boom, the IRS suggested.

The readership growth “should certainly help advertising revenues,” Anita Nayyar, CEO for India and South Asia at Havas Media Group, told the Mint newspaper. “However, the catch is more in the medium of news consumption moving a lot from physical newspapers to e-news on your handset. But the print medium is here to stay for more years to come.”

Overall, the market is expected to see an improvement from last year with a 13% growth, GroupM said.

This will trickle in as “the benefits of GST (the goods and services tax)—higher productivity and lower cost of goods sold—become apparent.” This, combined with key economic reforms, are likely to facilitate a recovery in consumer demand and private investment. That, in turn, will boost ad spends.