From now onwards, a large section of the media in India could well be perceived to be a little less independent or, for that matter trustworthy.
- Pranjoy Guha Thakurta, 14 June 2014, EPW
As far as advertising revenue goes, magazines face a bleak future in India.
Chart below depicts the steep fall in advertising revenue of magazines in India over a decade.
Chart – 1
Looking at this scenario, it is natural that magazines will explore new ways to earn revenue.
In 2007, speaking at the Indian Magazine Congress, Suresh Selvaraj, vice-president, Outlook Group, and associate publisher, ‘Marie Claire’, spoke of green bucks – the revenue models for magazines and how these have evolved.
“Essentially, there are four of these,” he began. These included the Circulation Revenue Model (the so-called ‘ad free’ magazines, which make up for that with high cover prices), the Ad Revenue Model (particularly profitable for B2B publications – essentially ad driven and content free of cost), the Content Selling Model (paid for content) and the Treaty Model (trading off unsold ad inventory and even editorial space for shares of fledgling companies, and thereby, increasing the valuation of the concerned company). “The last two models have been successfully adopted by The Times of India,” Selvaraj observed.
The options defined in 2007 as sources of revenue are true even now for magazines.
But “The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) a left-leaning weekly Indian magazine published from Mumbai by the Sameeksha Trust, a charitable trust” has a way of generating revenue which is not mentioned in the Suresh Selvaraj’s list.
In spite of being Left leaning, EPW openly carries advertisements of foreign banks. Maybe, Marx never prohibited accepting advertisements from foreign banks. Wonder what Pranjoy Guha Thakurta will say about this practice of EPW.
As I observed in IndiaFacts, last year,there were 39 Banks who advertised their “Independent Auditor’s Report”, in Economic and Political Weekly.This year however, there are only 29 Banks who have advertised. Of these, only two are Indian Banks namely, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank.
Details of the advertisement given by banks to EPW in 2014 and 2015 are given in the Table 1:
|Sl No||2014 Issues||No of Advertisers||2015 Issues||No of Advertisers|
|1||7 June’||1||30 May’||1|
|2||14 June’||2||6 June’||1|
|3||*28 June to 5 July (15+12)||27||13 June’||1|
|4||12 July’||3||20 June’||2|
|5||19 July’||3||*27 June to 4 July (12+8)||20|
|6||26 July’||2||11 July’||2|
|7||2 August’||1||18 July’||2|
|* Double Issues||Table 1|
So when number of advertisers has decreased from 39 to 29, why am I calling it Acche Din for EPW in the title of this piece?
Well because EPW lost loss-making advertisers and productivity per advertiser increased.
In 2015, EPW lost 11 advertisers compared to 2014. However, it gained one, Doha Bank, which advertised 35 pages.
In 2015, out of 11 banks, eight advertised with another publication with the same dimension as that of EPW as can be seen in Chart – 2 above.
And out of these eight, Mashreq Bank increased the number of pages of advertisement and United Overseas Bank had the same number of pages as last year. Rest of the banks reduced the number of pages of advertisement, compared to 2014.
These eight banks had together advertised in 290 pages in 2014, which has reduced to 223 pages—a reduction of 67 pages—this year. This means,on an average, a reduction from 36.225 pages of advertisement per bank in 2014 to 27.85 pages of advertisement per bank in 2015.
At the same time, 28 Banks advertised both in 2014 and 2015 with EPW.
In 2014, they consumed 1149 pages and 1254 pages in 2015—an increase of 105 pages of advertisement from the same banks. This means an average increase from 41 pages of advertisement per bank in 2014 to 44.78 pages of advertisement per bank in 2015.
Chart – 3 shows details of this Bank-wise increase:
Chart – 3
Compared to 2014, in 2015, A B Bank and Bank of America have maintained the same number of pages of advertisement;UBS AG was the only one to reduce the number of pages advertised. Rest of the 25 banks increased the number of pages advertised.
The combined total number of pages of advertisement by all the banks in 2015 is 1289.Other mainstream secular publications like India Today, Outlook, The Week etc. can’t even dream of publishing so many pages of advertisement in just a space of only eight issues.
What’s also notable is the fact that these advertisements by banks are separate from the regular advertisement in EPW.
The Economic and Political Weekly website (http://www.epw.in/node/19) pegs advertisement rates as: Full Page Black & White rate at Rs 30,000 per page. And so, even if we hypothetically assume that the advertiser obtained a discount of 50 per cent, then the total advertisement revenue earned by EPW will amount to staggering figure of Rs. 1,93,35,000/- .
Another surprising fact is that in an age of transparency, it is not possible to find the circulation or readership figures of EPW. And this for a magazine that itself publishes tons of data in every issue on various topics.
Till last year, Wikipedia had following details on circulation of EPW: “As of 2010, EPW has around 12,000 print and 1000 online subscriptions of which 5000 are institutions. In 2014, it is estimated that these numbers have increased to 13,000 print and 5,000 online subscribers.” But now even this information is not available on Wikipedia.
But ‘Press in India 2013-14’, an annual report of The Registrar of Newspapers for India (http://rni.nic.in/pin1314.pdf) states that EPW’s claimed circulationas only 11,373.
Still, there appears to be arush from banks to advertise in EPW. This is evident from the issue of 27 June to 4 July. In the end of the issue, EPW gives a list of banks which have advertised in its pages. In the 27 June to 4 July issue, EPW had to print it twice, on page no 386 (Picture-I) and page no 434 (Picture-II).
This must have happened perhaps because the advertisements arrived after the closure of the issue and EPW had to accommodate them.
If this is not “Acche Din” then what else is?
This year it was very difficult to get hold of the issues of EPW, which published the advertisement of Banks, especially the double issue of 27 June to 4 July running in hundreds of pages.
I am not sure whether only I had difficulty in getting access to these issues or even others faced the same trouble. Though, cost wise, it makes perfect sense to not circulate such a voluminous issue en masse at the same cover price, and I am talking business here….not ethics.