It may well turn out to be the year of the print media. Besides new launches in the newspaper and magazine categories, expect 2007 to be known for mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and other alliances in this space. As far as new products are concerned, at least three English language dailies will hit the newsstands this year.
While HT Media Ltd is ready to launch its financial paper in Delhi and Mumbai, readers in the capital will be spoilt for choice with the arrival of two new compact dailies one each from the India Today group and the HT-ToI joint venture company.
Mumbai's 18-month old newspaper, DNA, is also eyeing Delhi and Bangalore though its promoters refuse to divulge the time frame for its launch in these cities. After entering Bangalore last year, Mumbai's afternoon daily Mid-Day will venture into other cities.
The vernacular print market is bustling with action, too. The Hindi press is particularly active, expanding its footprint through new editions and second newspaper brands.
Jaipur based Rajasthan Patrika has launched its second paper Daily News while Dainik Jagran has started i-Next to tap the youth market. A buoyant advertising market with a growth rate at between 19 and 25 per cent, depending on the region, is accelerating such expansion.
Little surprise, then, that India's biggest print company Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd is seeking ways and means to exploit the regional market boom through alliances with vernacular dailies. In the process, it's leading the way for mergers and acquisitions.
It bought out Vijay Times, Vijay Karnataka and Usha Kiran from Vijayanand Printers in Bangalore. In the south, the Sun group acquired a controlling stake in Tamil daily Dinakaran and eveninger Malai Murasu.
Six months ago, Writers & Publishers Ltd, which runs Dainik Bhaskar, acquired an evening daily in MP. Meanwhile, Jharkhand's largest circulated Hindi daily Prabhat Khabar is also on the block.
In the magazine space, the news is both good and bad. The bad news is that consecutive surveys have shown a decline in magazine readership. Outlook publisher Mahesh Peri calls it a 'temporary blip' and promises three new magazines this financial year.
These will be foreign titles just like Marie Claire that he launched last June. International fashion mag Vogue from the Conde Nast group is also expected soon. Media Transasia, India Today, Infomedia, Outlook and sundry other magazine publishers have several foreign titles in the pipeline.
Readership of such magazines may be small but they are drawing a growing number of luxury brand advertisers. The Louis Vuittons, Pepes, Tommy Hilfigers, Christian Diors and Guccis are all there.
"The MNC brands know these magazines in other markets and are comfortable advertising in them here," says Peri.
Clearly, the Rs 6,500 crore print media sector is hot. And the growth drivers look good. "Its overall share in the advertising pie is about 47-48 per cent and is likely to consolidate further," says a Kotak Securities analyst.
Local advertising is growing and major national players in categories such as real estate, education, retail, telecom and financial products are increasingly turning to print. Advertisers will continue to bet on print as the medium is less cluttered than television, feel experts.
The macro factors responsible for print's bright future include an economy that's doing well, a literacy rate that is improving and 360 million readers who still do not read any newspaper.
"There is a big opportunity there and it is more pronounced for the vernacular press as the majority of these people exist in those markets," says the analyst.
With FDI of up to 26 percent allowed in newspapers, and both strategic investors and private equity funds keen to pump in money, print will add a new page to its success story this year.