The last broadsheet was delivered to me on 21st March 2020, a day prior to Janta Curfew was declared by the Prime Minister of India. The subscription was stopped to avoid spread of corona virus but the digital copy continued to get published online, and PDF versions were circulated for free on whats app. I had the mobile application of the same media house installed which I accessed on not more than two occasions in this period.
Today, a thinner and a lighter copy of the paper arrived and I enjoyed reading it with a cup of tea with cookies.
Typically, most Indian households resell the old papers to scrap dealers once copies gets accumulated. I sold them for six rupees per kg in February is what I roughly remember. The scrap dealers buy the old copies from the subscribers and re-sell it to the printing house at a higher rate. This way the paper gets recycled and money is recovered.
Usually, ‘The Times Of India’ main edition averages 28-30 pages while the supplementary copy ‘Bombay Times’ averages 12-14 pages. In the morning, I noticed the paper has shrunk to 12 pages and merged. Flipping sheets and I couldn’t spot a single commercial advertisement, except for one in-house campaign #MASKINDIA.
Advertising revenue is a big source of income for a media company. However, once circulation stopped, marketing spends on print media came down to zero. Sales plummeted across sectors, and as a consequence print division got severely impacted with no ad bookings. When I spoke to few industry professionals in my circle, they did mention about receiving pay-cuts and leaves without pay. These are hard times for the print industry.
My morning ritual includes reading a newspaper for about 15-20 minutes. It’s a habit developed over the years. I remember my dad spending good enough time with the paper reading almost every story subsequently discussing political developments with his friends. Am talking about pre-internet era. In those days a newspaper had a lot of value, people looked for Business proposals, Jobs, browsed Matrimonial sections, Lease & Rental services, Movie releases, TV listing, Art and Theater schedule and planned accordingly.
Bollywood had a huge impact on our lives and Sundays included watching a movie. A paper use to be the prime source of information to decide which movie to watch, read reviews, star cast, cinema halls, ticket prices and screen timings to plan a visit.
Browsing the Sports section was the most exciting part as it carried photos of iconic cricketers, scorecards and event itinerary of multiple sports. Using a scissor we use to cut photos of our favorite stars, created a collection and some of which were pasted on our cricket bats. It was kind of a competition amongst children having the highest collection of pictures of Sports and Bollywood personalities.
On a day when the vendor missed delivering the paper to our house, Dad would would visit the nearby stall and buy it. Gradually, as technology entered our lives, those stalls vanished. And now days, apps have become common with instant access to e-paper categorized by genre – business, politics, finance, education, entertainment and so on.
Digital media is growing at a faster rate year on year, grabbing higher advertising revenue share. As more people become tech-savvy, increase in mobile penetration and cheap data plans, the consumption of content is also shifting online.
Despite unfavorable factors, holding a fresh copy of a crisp news paper delivered on a bicycle still gives a distinguished feeling. And I don’t mind if it features advertisements.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai