Why the Age-old Newspaper Reading Habit can Never Die
Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation report indicates a steady growth rate of Indian newspaper industry at 14% to 15% CAGR year-on-year as far as readership is concerned
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Newspapers have been in India for over a century now. India saw its first newspaper in the form of the Bengal Gazette way back in 1780. Published by James Augustus Hicky, it was positioned as an epitome of unadulterated journalism featuring articles around free speech and questioning the imperialistic ways of the British East India Company that had colonized India.
When Newspaper was Primary Mode of Message Broadcast
Over time and after scores of other newspapers, the humble medium grew to epic proportions to become the primary mode of message broadcast to the nation for many years. However with technological advancement, new avenues of broadcast took shape such as Radio, Television, Cinema, Magazines and more recently the all-pervasive Internet.
As an Intrinsic Part of a Person's Life
Despite these advances around it, the newspaper continued to grow in popularity and readership over the decades. It has today become an intrinsic part of every average person's life.
Meet Mr Sharma for whom the day will not begin without his morning dose of his favourite newspaper. He patiently waits each morning for the Newspaper-Walla to arrive at his doorstep before he settles down to sip his morning coffee and soak in world happenings. Santosh carries one under his arms as he makes his way to the local train station. He cannot survive a train ride without keeping his nose buried in the black and white print.
Mrs Lohya has made it a practice to take in the news along with her cup of evening chai each day, sitting on her veranda after she has finished all chores for the day. Even Megha who is 18 feels she must read the newspaper everyday on the breakfast table to keep up to date on developments.
Over One Lakh Newspapers and Periodicals
The newspaper by itself comes in different formats and categories. India being a diverse country has over one lakh newspapers/periodicals today that are registered from different parts of the country. There is then added diversity in the form of the various languages spanning the length and breadth of the nation. The variety of newspapers range across General Dailies, Business Dailies, Periodicals, Weeklies, Eveningers, etc. Going by the variety represented here, they cater to varying needs and preferences of news consumption.
Can the Newspaper Habit Fizzle Out?
There are many who argue that the newspaper will die a natural death over time, as an outcome of digital devices that are increasingly invading our lives. This is considered the era of multi-screen media, where people are engaged with a variety of devices all through the day ranging from mobiles to tablets to laptops to televisions, etc.
But data collated from MOSPI (Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation) suggests otherwise. Their reports indicate a steady growth rate of 14% to 15% CAGR year-on-year as far as readership goes in a country like India. This is reminiscent of the increase in literacy rates, which have grown from 40% in 1980 to over 70% in India in 2015, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics.
There are several reasons why a newspaper can never die.
- Authenticity of News
Newspapers have large armies of journalists behind them to generate the news reports. This ensures veracity of news collated as opposed to a lot of speculation and fake news propagating the internet from unverified sources. The newspaper depending on its reputation can be held accountable for its authenticity.
- It has Grown to Become a Ritual
Newspapers are a must-have for most people at some part of the day and helps them fulfil an otherwise missing void in their routine. While a mobile or a laptop may be considered work since it is used for business, a newspaper is very leisurely and recreational and hence cannot be replaced.
- Easier on the Eye
Handling a newspaper is comfortable for all kinds of eyesight levels and the average reader settles into a particular newspaper depending on a preferred font type, style of writing, size, etc.
- Periodicity of Arrival Each Morning
People get used to the news arriving each morning which tends to get into a healthy regimen or cycle each day. There is a belief in many parts of the world that this daily routine is considered fresh news since it follows a cyclical pattern.
- Internet Penetration is Low
In most parts of the world internet penetration is still low providing massive potential for newspapers to continue its growth. Particularly in a country like India, this is a very pertinent factor contributing to newspaper growth.
- Technology is Yet to Catch Up in Most Parts of the World
Technology adoption is another phenomena that is typically restricted to the metro cities. Familiarity and usage of various devices will take a while to catch up in many parts of the country.
- Vast Number of Vernacular Languages
India is a melting pot of culture and by extension boasts of a large number of regional languages. There is an estimated 1652 languages today in India while around 150 of them have a sizable population representing them. Imagine even having to publish newspapers to cater to the top 25 languages and the magnitude and the potential it presents in a country of 1.3 Billion.
- A Newspaper can be Recycled
The humble newspaper can be recycled and therefore contributes to the environment and sustainability.
- Multipurpose Use of the Newspaper
Adding to sustainability, the newspaper has multiple applications. It is used to wrap items in all kinds of retail shops ranging from confectionary to fish, it is used to keep away the dust by covering things, it is used as a mat in Indian households, used to clean glass and mirrors, etc.:)
- Newspapers Today Represent a Structured Industry
More importantly the newspaper industry has grown to represent a structured industry spanning multiple roles and responsibilities. From the newspaper boy who delivers it at your doorstep, to the vendors on the streets, the kirana stores selling them, the journalists, the publishers, the printers, the transporters and many more. Most newspapers even have Unions to represent the rights of its employees.
The vast reach and versatility of a newspaper is clearly established in this article. Despite the ravages of time I personally do not think the newspaper will ever die out as it has grown to become an intrinsic part of our day to day lives and routines. Going forward the newspaper might see more vertical segregation in the form of business dailies, local dailies, general dailies and tabloids, etc, but growth is inevitable.