Print is back in business: Key message from IPS 2022

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Neha Gupta and Aultrin Vijay share the highlights from 30th edition of WAN-Ifra annual printers conference.

WAN-IFRA is back with the 30th edition of its annual printers conference, Indian Printers Summit (IPS) 2022. The theme of this year’s IPS was ‘Back to business – Print for the future’. The conference was held in New Delhi on September 14 and 15.

After a string of online events and conferences, this year’s Indian Printers Summit saw more than 215 media executives from around 50 organisations in attendance.

Day 1 highlights…

Day 1 keynote speech by Mohit Jain, Board member and Executive Director at Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd. (Times Group), President of The Indian Newspaper Society and a WAN-IFRA Board Member, on ‘What holds good for the future of print in the digital world’ saw spirited discussion on the future of the printed product and how to leverage the credibility of print for the years to come.

Quoting the Neuroscience Research Canada Post 2015, Jain said, “We may not be at pre-covid levels of advertising revenue, but we’re up for the challenge. The cognitive power in print is much more powerful than digital. Content in print connects with the brain more effectively and requires 21 percent less cognitive effort to process information.”

Jain continued to list the primary challenges plaguing the print industry that included supply chain disruptions, news avoidance, digital influx, the threat to freedom of speech and the struggle to retain talent.

The next speaker of the day was Partha Sinha, President – Response, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., who talked about the strategic repositioning of print in the post-COVID reality. Should publishers choose efficiency, effectiveness, or both? The choice is not very clear. “In context of the pandemic, many marketers have been forced to adjust their expectations of return on investment (RoI),” said Sinha. “In some cases, brands in severely challenged categories have been put under pressure to chase short-term RoI just to survive the next couple of months.”

Sinha concluded that the secret to growing a brand is to build “market-based assets” and these come in two flavours – maximised distribution (physical availability) and clear and distinctive branding using sensory cues that are easy to remember.

The last session of the day was a roundtable on the “Revival of Print and the ensuing business opportunities.” The panellists comprised Varghese Chandy, Vice President, Marketing & Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama and Harrish M Bhatia, President – Ad Sales, DB Corp. The session was moderated by Suresh Balakrishna, Chief Revenue Officer, The Hindu.

“Covid-19 has created several opportunities. Before the pandemic, we thought print media and ad revenue was going down. The pandemic was a boon for all of us. It helped reinstate people’s trust in print media,” said Bhatia.

“DB Corp’s circulation is about 93 percent right now. Content is king and nobody can touch print media for the next 10 years,” he continued.

Chandy said that Malayala Manorama reached the value and volume of their 2019 figures, for the quarter starting July, this year.

Earlier in the event, K N Shanth Kumar, Director of The Printers Mysore Ltd., and Board Member of WAN-IFRA welcomed the gathering. He urged the publishers to adapt to new realities, find niches and make changes. Dr. Adrian Haack, Director of Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), New Delhi gave the opening address of the conference and said journalism has become fast-paced and it is important for traditional media to maintain its position as the trusted source of news.

Day 1 of the summit was also packed with networking and in-person meetings with product and solution providers to discuss business and the latest developments in the print industry. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from print media experts and interact with suppliers who reviewed their upcoming products and services during the event.

Day 2 highlights…

Day 2 of the conference saw discussions around management of the supply chain, optimising resources, digital printing of newspapers, among other topics. Early during the event, Paula Smith, Sales Director, Copap Inc and Satish Chandra Mishra, Director, Jagran Prakashan Ltd, shared insights on the global newsprint supply trends and spoke about the newsprint challenges and the way forward for the industry.

Smith said that the global newsprint supply declined dramatically in the past few years due to the secular decline in demand, accelerated by Covid-19 in some areas. However, on a positive note, Smith divulged that India will remain a key newsprint market and a leading importer, considering the decline in demand in other markets, including China.

The session was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Snehasis C Roy, Director – Technical, Bennett Coleman Co Ltd. The discussion touched upon the different ways in which publishers and suppliers could manage their resources. The panellists comprised Bernhard Schmiedeberg, Senior VP – Sales, EAE QIPC, UtsabChoudhuri, Sr Vice President, Head Technology, DIC India, and D Gnanavadivel, Director, Sri Srivathsa Paper Mills Pvt Ltd.

One of the key points highlighted by Gnanavadivel was to minimise the import of newsprint. “India is going to be the second largest economy very soon, so you must support the Indian industry… Rather than importing newsprint, procure it from Indian mills, which are capable of producing high quality newsprint.”

During the session, Schmiedeberg said that printing, globally, was going down and suppliers were jumping out of the business. However, “we want to be the last standing in this industry”.

Meanwhile, Choudhuri highlighted the three issues plaguing the ink industry – raw material availability, price and substrate variations. He told the viewers that DIC was working on inks that have lower see-through, as paper GSM is being reduced to counter the paper price hikes.

The next speaker of the day was Amit Khurana, COO-Newspaper Group, TechNova, who was pretty upbeat about the print industry. He advocated for implementing customisation and personalisation in newspapers. Khurana said other sectors such as packaging printing have been able to reap benefits off customised printing, thanks to digital presses.

“Print has grown 4X in the last 40 years. Print is here not only to survive, but thrive,” said Khurana to the cheering audience in the Crystal Ballroom at Radisson Blu New Delhi Airport.

The day concluded with a panel discussion on “Successful innovations and new ways of operating in print publishing”. The panellists included John Cusack, Business Development Manager, Baldwin, Saptangshu Chaudhuri, Deputy General Manager, ABP Pvt Ltd, and Puneet Razdan, General Manager, Hindustan Times.

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