According to a colleague who has read some internal audit reports of the newly launched Bombay papers, the remarkable thing is how the Times, despite the amount many bloggers profess to hate it, has managed to hold on to its readership numbers. The Times still has a net-paid up subscriber number in excess of 400,000 copies in the Greater Mumbai area. In contrast, and the term that we will use here is net paid-up subscriber numbers (which will not count the tens of thousands of free copies that are given to prominent personalities, ad agencies et al) of both the newly launched Bombay broadsheets is under 100,000 and here DNA shades HT by some ten-odd thousand copies. Both papers reach a substantial amount of homes thanks to free copies, but still Times, which many expected to curl-up and die has instead held on to readership and advertising.
I must admit, during la affaire Salem, the coverage of the Times has been 'blanketing' and the depth of their cricket coverage surprises me. And of course, there is the Mumbai Mirror. Now, I would be the first to admit that the Mirror is a vapid newspaper, but there are two aspects to the paper which are interesting. It is the first mainstream daily which actually has a regular 'blogs' area, which though small is regular - The irony of the situation where a Timesgroup newspaper treats blogs as a mode of information distribution seriously is a bit astounding - but still.
The other reason I love the Mirror is that it makes for perfect potty-reading. Don't get me wrong here - potty reading doesn't mean the paper is like the stuff you output on the pot. Rather, as Aristotle said good art (theatre) has to purge emotions from the observer or viewer, I would extend that to imply that the newspaper/book/magazine that one reads during their daily bout of bodily purging is an important paper. The other reason the Mirror is convinent on the pot is that its format is so nice. And unlike the Mid-Day it doesn't have a bad habit of falling apart with a myriad of sections. And then there are those mind-blowingly honest Subhash K Jha columns. How the man manages to produce such brilliant Bollywood columns sitting in Patna, day after day and continues to be a person who the entire film fraternity from the Big Bad B to Dainty Miss Ash (who even sings Happy Birthday to him) takes so bloody seriously is amazing!
Now, in addition I still feel that the Business coverage in the Times is brilliant - better than the other two papers (better than HT's by eons, DNA's coverage is complete though mind-numbingly dull) and the Enetrtainment coverage is still solid (DNA does have good Entertainment coverage though, HT's coverage is very mediocre, but then the Mirror plus Times beats the competition hollow).
All those amazing salaries that we heard about when HT and DNA entered the market. Well, it seems that only the Times has managed to make its big-money salaries pay off. And for that you have to take your hat off to Jojo. Of course, I do tip my hat to HT for pulling off the most ludicrously overpriced IPO in an era of ludicrously overpriced IPO's. HT Media which listed at Rs 550 currently trades at Rs 350 or thereabouts. You gotta love them for that! Of course, I'm also led to believe that DNA is suffering a plagarism problem that is matched only the Pinkest Paper.
Do I still think that the Times is a vapid and sometimes amazingly stupid paper? Yes, I do. But you see, I'm not your average reader. The average reader does not subscribe to one hundred feeds on Bloglines or some other Feedburner, maybe your average reader never even surfs the internet daily. The average reader of a Bombay newspaper stays in either Ghatkopar or Borivali, and he doesn't write long, rambling posts on the state of society everyday. And somehow, I guess the average reader still thinks that the Times is great value for money, and it seems that it might even become better value for money because there are rumours abounding that the old lady might be chopping her rates down even further.
It is still early days, and I won't go out on a limb and predict the doom or demise of any paper, but the pundits (many of them on the blogosphere) who predicted the doom of ToI have been proved wrong. Somehow, that really doesn't surprise me!