TOI Crest shuts down: when TV can sell to niche audiences why can't print?

Circulation shrank, the cover price stayed static and the advertisers went away, first in a trickle and then in a flood.<br /><br />

Anant Rangaswami July 16, 2013 12:45:04 IST
TOI Crest shuts down: when TV can sell to niche audiences why can't print?

I read on twitter that this weekend will see the last edition of The Times of India Crest edition, after a short life of less than 4 years (it launched in September 2009).

The signs were there. Advertising has been hard to come by, and the low cover price makes the yield from circulation low.

When the paper first launched, I reviewed it at Campaign India.

"I certainly expected better design. This is hardly a designed paper, it's almost anachronistic in the approach. Long, 2000 word pieces are fine - and perhaps wanted and required, but today's readers certainly want more relief to break the tedium and monotony. More highlights, more graphics would have been welcome," I had written immediate after launch .

In the early days of Crest, there was fantastic value for money at the Rs 6 cover price.

TOI Crest shuts down when TV can sell to niche audiences why cant print

Screen grab from TOI website

"There's enough to read in the 40-page issue. Enough of the unusual, stories that make me go, "Hey, I didn't know that."

"Cases in point include the cover story on Indian farmers and agriculturists out to conquer the world with the backing of the government and the revamping of text books.But the navigation is unwieldy. That's not surprising when it's day one of the paper. I have no clue what the next page will hold. That's still OK, it's day one. But there are some expectations caused by years of newspaper reading. Sports bang in the middle of the paper? It jars," I had said.

As the paper shrank to the 20 page range, the value for money proposition became less attractive, the design and navigation stayed more or less the same. Basically, there was none of the course correction over the past four years.

Circulation shrank, the cover price stayed static and the advertisers went away, first in a trickle and then in a flood.

It was almost as if the paper had a death wish, as I picked it up every Saturday morning and counted the ads and tweeted out warnings. It reached a stage where others on twitter waited for my Saturday morning update.

When the news broke yesterday, this was one of the tweets tagging me:

Karthik Srinivasan ?@beastoftraal

CC: @AnantRangaswami, Crest's most loyal advertising tracker TOI Crest shuts down when TV can sell to niche audiences why cant print RT @veenavenugopal: TOI is shutting Crest down!

What does the closure of Crest mean? Does this mean that long-form journalism is not what India's readers want, and, consequently, not what advertisers want?

I think it's the failure (in newspapers) of successfully selling niche audiences. TV seems to have managed with ease, with commercial successes such as History18, National Geographic and Discovery there for all the world to see. The same is true of magazines, with Forbes, Vogue and Caravan as examples.

What is it with newspapers? They seem unable to sell the quality of audiences and the involvement of audiences, both easy to establish with investments in research. Research could have forced changes in content, in design, in pricing. Most importantly, it could have brought in more advertisers at better yields.

Sadly, no one seems to be taking the plunge.

The Times of India Crest edition, died due to lack of adequate research support.

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