This morning a rep from Hindustan Times rang my doorbell. "Aapka ek saal ka subscription khatam ho raha hai... "
Yeah... so is there a new offer, I ask.
"Haan.. picchle saal aapne Rs 449 ka scheme liya tha. Aur humne sau rupaye refund kiya tha. Is saal 350 mein do saal ka subscription de rahe hain".
Wonderful. A newspaper for 50 paise a day. I will probably end up making more in these two years by selling the paper in raddi than HT makes from me. If you add in the cost of the reps visiting my house for renewal, and the delivery charge HT is paying the chap who brings in the paper they are pretty much giving away the paper FREE.
Anything, for readership. After DNA pipped them in the recent NRS survey they are obviously eager to hang on to their existing subscribers.
Of course, DNA is also in the same 'free' boat. On Sundays, the paper is impressively thick, with the regular stuff plus a kids supplement and a full-fledged Femina-type women's magazine. All this for two bucks but wait, in case you have subscribed then it's Rs 199 for the year. And in case you are an ICICI Bank card holder, like me, you might currently be getting it free in any case.
I guess all this is necessary when you are at war with the well entrenched Times of India. Which is making a little more money off the cover price of Rs 4 (with Mumbai Mirror worth Rs 2 'free' inside).
The Mirror has gone to town with its readership stats (8.8 lakhs), making it the 'second most widely read paper in the city'. Of course, it's also the second most widely unread paper in the city. While TOI's readership in Mumbai is pegged at 16.7 lakh readers, MM's is just about half that. Which means close to 50% don't open it at all! That's why there's a new offer where you can choose your free paper - if you don't fancy MM you can ask for the Maharashtra Times.
On the other hand, there is a trend where magazines are upping their prices. India Today - which I pick up once in a rare while and then wonder why?? - is now 20 bucks. A recent issue had a 'free' Nature's Basket granola bar. Mine happened to be nibbled upon... or dismembered by natural causes. Either way, I did not consume it and neither did I find much to consume in the magazine. Which I may add, had way tooo many layers of plastic even for my far-from-activist level of comfort.
The bottomline is - magazines are threatened by newspapers, newspapers by satellite TV, satellite TV by internet. And the internet by its ever changing self.
So everyone is encroaching into the other's territory. Newspapers are doing the lifestyle stuff magazines did; NDTV is looking more like MTV with its never ending KANK specials (a full half an hour was devoted to the making of 'Where's the Party'). And honestly, it was... perhaps the Abhishek effect... but rather watchable.
So we at JAM too have been affected. Everyone is going 'youth' - or at least youthful. I mean youth is hardly a 'niche' anymore, it is the market everyone is desperately angling for.
And that - coupled with the 'free mein lo' trend - is making life a little more difficult, or a little more challenging for people like me. Depends how you wanna look at it... More on this, in the days to come.
No one has the answers - except to sigh "ah, mobile!". If only we could all convert our content to caller tunes and charge 15 bucks to download it and 30 bucks a month to 'rent' the same.