Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Media War : Naidunia v/s Dainik Bhaskar

Recently, I witnessed a launch function of a new business daily in Indore. The English business newspaper DNAMoney is a publication of the Dainik Bhaskar group. Dainik Bhaskar started from Indore approximately two decades ago and today they enjoy the largest circulation in India for their flagship publication Dainik Bhaskar - a hindi daily newspaper which claims to have a readership which more than that of the times of India.

It is interesting to see the way the media scene is hotting up in MP - specially in Indore. Indore alone must be home to at least a score of news papers - a few eveningers - some of them with impressive circualtions and readership. However the two big name reamins Nai Dunia and Dainik Bhaskar. The ND & DB story is a case study in management.

Naidunia is a paper with a rich history & it still remains (in the minds of people) as a scholarly paper with its comparatively puerile approach to langaugae (hindi), only moderate instincts to sensationalise and one must add, a very high quality of printing.

While Dainik Bhaskar has remained a more bol-chal ki bhasha wala (layman language) paper. So it uses english words written in Hindi with absolutely no compunction. Naidunia used to mock at this style of journalism (although now ND follows this style as well). This helped DB reach out to larger base of people reading it. So here it is - market driven v/s academic orientation. In the free economy that India is now - Dainik Bhaskar - who most admit - is not necessarily a better paper grew leaps & bound because it was a better marketer, quite like the Times of India.

The Dainik Bhaskar group has to its credit some great innovations that made it widely read. The amount of localisation of news it has done is amazing. It currently prints 14 editions of Dainik Bhaskar (3 in MP, 2 in Chattisgarh, 7 in Rajasthan, one each in Chandigarh & Haryana) - not to talk of a local page in almost every small town like Mandasaur, Neemuch, Ujjain, Jabalpur etc. etc. Ofcourse it has a National version of paper that circulates in the metro cities & towns. Add to this Divya Bhaskar - The Gujarati version of the paper circulated in Gujarat which has four editions. This is what makes this group bigger - & fastest growing. Its very similar to what a mc-donalds does to its menu in every region - cater to the taste of people their. Naidunia on the other hand did whatever regionalisation driven by market compulsions - when DB seemed to have edged it out in competition. So now you have the Gwalior edition of Naidunia which seemed to have done rather well.

Talk to anybody in the business of media & they will confirm that managing your distribution channels is the key. Make it available everywhere - & fast. DB started doing that right from the start. DB started selling at every nook & corner of the city, at bus stands, in trains using hawkers and not necessarily just on the book shops. It was pushed with invitation pricing in many areas to get a quick foothold. The group went out of its way to keep their distributors happy. Hawkers in Indore recall the days when Naidunia was the only paper that sold. They had to line up to beg, borrow, steal to get their needed number of copies.

Managing Advertising Revenues
DB recognised this very early. It aggressively pursued advertisers. Even today if their is an ad that appears in Naidunia - which does not have a presence in Dainik Bhaskar - one is sure to get a call from a Dainik Bhaskar executive asking why they chose ND over them. Ofcourse he will sell furtively the reach and response one is expected to get from Dainik Bhaskar. He will then ask when will he get the same ad. This alacrity with which they pursue their advertisers has kept them very high in the minds of advertisers - you can love them or hate them but cannot ignore them.

More importantly - Dainik Bhaskar maintained sound relationship with the most important link - the advertising agencies. One of my senior frinds in the business of advertising at Indore comments "serves Naidunia right" recalling how in the days of monopoly they were treated by the Naidunia management indifferently. "You will be invited once a year to a gathering of all advertising agencies where Abhayji (the chief editor and owner of Naidunia) will deliver a lecture & you will be served Samosa with Wafers and tea. No interaction at all"

The royal treatment received by advertising agencies at the hands of Dainik Bhaskar thus ensured that they became the preferred target for referrals by the agencies.

Events Marketing
Dainik Bhaskar also started the trend of creating marketing events regularly to bring about brand excitement among readers. They followed twin model of conducting some major events of their own and then in most cases offering major media partnership to event managment companies and conducting the event under their flag.

Innovations abound here : heavy discounting schemes, great prizes schemes, events - like bollywood stars shows (Madhuri/sharukh), career fairs etc. etc.

Why Naidunia then
You might be wondering if everything above is true why is Naidunia still its competitor. Well may reasons - first Newspaper unlike other products takes long to build into the psyche of the reader and also they change their tastes gradually. For long Dainik Bhaskar remained a news paper with good circulation because of the marketing aggression but not good resership. Readers are the people Dainik Bhaskar targeted the last. It is only now focussing on better content and highly readable material and print. These were always the seeling prepositions of Naidunia.

The same can be said of Naidunia - they have started to learn management from their competitors & now focuses more than ever before on direct marketing and every other thing that got DB the celebrated success. It also took Naidunia lot of time and market share to give up on its attitude of being the suerior paper.

Random Thought
Marketing warfare has turned the media into business and hence journalism is lost its core value as profession. Newspapers (& channels) have today become a Fast Moving Consumer Good. One remembers a widely circulated thought that chairman of Bennet & Coleman gave about The Times of India - we are not a great newspaper - we are just great marketers.

Competition for a change seems to have left the consumer with average products.