Expected soon, Indian editions of Time, Newsweek and more

September 21st, 2008 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANS) Things never looked so good for the booming Indian news bazaar. The government’s green signal to publication of Indian editions of foreign magazines has sparked enthusiasm among publishing majors, marketing managers and media experts.They say the decision - which will entail 26 percent FDI and editorial control in Indian hands - will mean more foreign titles in an Indian avatar, more advertising, more competition, more choice.

Above all, readers hungry for quality news have emerged as winners in this important move that could be a prelude to a much bigger opening of the protected Indian print market.

Now readers starved of quality foreign news, who had to surf the Internet for access, can expect to get magazines like Time, Newsweek, The Economist or BusinessWeek at half the price in the not-too-distant future.

“It’s good for promoters, it’s good for advertisers and it’s good for everybody,” Ashish Bagga, CEO of Living Media India Ltd, which publishes India Today and has an arrangement for marketing Time magazine in India, told IANS.

Bagga said: “The market is going to expand. There will be more brands and more titles. It’s good for the magazine industry.”

S. Nihal Singh, a well-known columnist and former editor of The Statesman, said it was the logical conclusion of greater exposure to the Internet. “People can easily access these magazines on the internet. It’s realistic to remove restrictions.”

The cabinet’s Sep 18 decision is widely seen as an ambitious move that could prove a prelude to further removing curbs on foreign investment in the print media, including newspapers and magazines.

The decision enables Indian publishers to strike deals with foreign publishers of magazines and roll out cheaper Indian editions with up to 100 percent foreign content, and to sell advertising space in India.

It gives an edge to newsmagazines over newspapers which are also not allowed more than 20 percent foreign content.

Singh predicts greater competition and commercialisation of the media in the days to come.

“The print media has already become heavily commercialised. This decision will further intensify this trend,” he said.

“It will also lead to upgradation of content and hopefully better journalism and stories written in more readable English,” he said.

Sevanti Ninan, a media critic and author of “Headlines from the Heartland”, is, however, slightly circumspect.

Ninan agrees that the move will make the magazine market, which has been confined to a handful of titles in the news and current affairs category, more competitive and reduce the prices of these titles for readers.

But she is not sure how this will appeal to foreign publishers who are already selling a larger number of copies in India. Some 30,000 copies of Time are sold in India, according to Bagga. Newsweek sells 35,000 copies.

Maheshwar Peri, publisher of Outlook magazine, which markets and distributes Newsweek, has recommended raising the FDI to 49 percent.

Much before the cabinet’s decision, some media houses had already entered into arrangements with big-ticket foreign brands. The move will benefit them enormously.

For instance, the Anand Bazaar Patrika Group had joined hands with Time Inc for an Indian edition of Fortune magazine. TV 18 India Ltd (TV18) plans to team up with Forbes Media, the publishers of Forbes magazine, to publish a business magazine later this year.

“Despite rising inflation and a slowing gross domestic product, India remains one of the world’s bright spots for magazine publishing,” wrote the New York Times recently.

Magazine advertising in India is expected to grow by 20 percent to $302 million in 2008, it quoted the International Federation of the Periodical Press as saying, leading to a virtual explosion of Western and specialist magazines on the Indian newsstands in the past year.

Vogue, Rolling Stone, Hello, People, Housekeeping and Marie Clare have Indian editions while Conde Nast, the renowned travel magazine, has set up a fully staffed Indian office to write and print its fully owned titles.

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