How would you define TOI as a brand personality today?
Mainly, I think Times of India tries to be a positive minded and empowering brand. While on one hand, the generic purpose of newspapers is to alert readers about a lot of the things that they should be guarding against, most newspapers can’t avoid being in the news and the news happens to, more often than not, be negative in nature. We’d rather be with a solution rather than only with a problem. So while we highlight the delays in say the Commonwealth games, we’d sort of get experts and say what is the way out and what should be done. We can bemoan the quality of politics in the country. Rather than being trapped in that, we would also try and do a Lead India, which helps people try and look at ways outside, and try to get readers to come and join and be part of the public life rather than to crib from the sidelines. It’s a broad attitude.
Few newspapers can manage a pan-India appeal. How has TOI enabled that?
I think the basic tenets that Times of India stands for are true not only across all cultures in India but across the world actually. Because the idea of people seeking a positive minded friend every morning is basic to human nature. Also we are aware that readers like to know what’s happening in their own backyards. We were again among the first to introduce a very robust city section in our newspaper. For instance, the English reader across India has certain commonalities. There may be more in common amongst English readers across India then there may be in common with all readers in say Tamil Nadu. At one level, a lot of our reader interests are common. Interests in sports are somewhat similar, cricket dominates the lives and football is getting more popular, so you can afford to take the call to have a strong coverage of the World Cup in virtually every edition for us. You can take a call that things like technology, internet, health trends are likely to be of interest across the segments. At the same time, there are cultural nuances that differ. Calcutta for example, is a group with a highly eclectic set of interests. So we have kept an eclectic mix of contents in our Calcutta Times for example. We may have, on the other hand, a far more Bollywood-oriented mix in some other markets like Delhi for instance; as I don’t think it is as wide. It has to be more of Bollywood and parties and so on. Chennai is a city where even the English reader seems far more comfortable with his own traditions. Chennai takes its traditions very seriously and the newspaper there reflects that.
How do you cater to people across age groups?
As the younger reader has moved on to the Internet, most large newspapers are left with a progressively aging readership. To cater to the aging readership, by and large, they have become serious over time, assuming the person has a lot of time to read. Well before internet became a true threat, we were paranoid that unless you become the favourite paper of the young – the person reading the newspaper for the first time – you will get nowhere. So we defined our bulls-eye reader as being about 25-26 years of age. To that extent, we try and have a young point of view; we try to question dogma. You might have noticed the Times View that comes out on the front page, where we offer a view that is by and large liberal minded and young in its outlook.
What are the new initiatives that you are driving with the brand?
The brand looks at brand health, brand profitability, brand footprint – ways to expand the brand footprint, say for instance having a separate edition for Chennai, and then further on for Coimbatore, Madurai or anywhere else. We do the business justification, try to put together a business case and manage it. New initiatives like Crest, Speaking Tree, and a few others are coming up. They do not always come from the brand. They also come from the shareholders who are deeply engaged in the strategy for the company. It happens through discussions with Vineet Jain and Sameer Jain; sometimes we give an input that they respond positively to, it’s quite a symbiotic relationship.
As you cater to the young audience, how are you strategising for the internet?
Times of India tends to be a lot of print online. We have chosen to be relatively print-centric at this point in time because I think that print is doing better in this country, and where audiences move from print to online, it is not easy to monetize that; as newspapers of the world have discovered. They had no option but to almost fuel the online rush, else they would have been left out of both games, because print audiences are declining there. We do not want to hasten the migration from print to online. At the same time, we do not want to be caught napping. So we have an adequately good presence online, to ensure that we are not pushed out by the others. We still break most of our big stories in print unlike markets in Scandinavia etc. where most of the big stories are broken online. We are not there yet, and consciously so.
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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.
An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).
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