One of the more unique things a small paper like The Pioneer has done was to spread out to smaller cities. The paper today has editions in places like Rand Bhuwaneshwar, not exactly places where you would expect larger papers to reach out to. Maybe a 'Dak' edition with a stringer or two, but as someone pointed out maybe my view of the media is very Delhi-Mumbai centric, and that is a fair point, so am I missing out the story of the rise of the smaller Indian paper? Not exactly. I know The Pioneer story well for reasons that are rather obvious, but I also do not believe that the vanguard of Indian journalism will come from smaller cities.
I have not missed the Jagran and Bhaskar story (though I should have mentioned it in the last post), in fact I have interacted with Girish Aggarwal of the Bhaskar Group quite a few times. Jagran and Bhaskar have done well for a very simple reason, which I believe was by sparking energy into a moribund segment, which included better salries for journalists and bringing in aggressive ad-sales teams into the language media. Both groups are also at the forefront of online language content, Jagran's website which is a tie-up with Yahoo is possibly one of the better Hindi portals out there, though I do like Josh18 also.
Back to the point I was making, whih is that I think smaller towns will drive the English print media in the next few years. Rather incremental growth for large established papers will not come from major cities, other than the Times' Chennai edition which launches next month, and the possibility that Hindustan Times might sort out internal politics long enough to launch a couple of editions in the south, most of the growth will come from the Bhuwaneshwar's and Guwahati's of the world. There are several reasons I think this will happen, the first of course is demographics, more young people who speak English coming from smaller towns. And the second is the rising income levels in smaller cities. Technically speaking, most 'small' Indian cities would be classified as large cities everywhere else in the world (bar China), and these cities are growing rapidly.
The unfortunate thing is that the English media scene will become far more homogenous. And that will be tragic. If the small English newspaper is to survive, and they should survive, because smaller newspapers are an essential part of the media landscape, they will have to spread out their reach beyond their home turf. Look at Kolkata's Telegraph for example, there was a time when that paper could have spread out of the city, instead it got locked in and as the Times of India closed in, not just in Kolkata, but now in the North-East as well with a Guwahati edition, the paper has gotten marginalised, but then again so has alsmot everything in the ABP Group. What is the betting, despite some rather silly 'Open Letter's' that the Times won't decimate local competition in Goa.
Anyway, don't you think that the Budget brouhaha has been a bit more 'sedate' this year! And to continue my argument that the inetrnet is a challenge the Indian media will have to face up to, check out this excerpt from Wired Ed-in-Chief Chris Anderson's new book.