Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Media War Hits Chennai


It will probably be the battle of the year. It is something students of marketing shouldn't miss out. Yes, I'm talking of the impending launch of The Times Of India in Chennai. The Chennai edition of TOI will roll off the presses from April 14. And, already it has caused a flutter in the Chennai circles.
The TOI sells its paper for anywhere between a rupee and two on weekdays in the other metros. In contrast, The Hindu's Chennai edition sells at Rs 3.25 on weekdays and Rs. 4.50 on Sundays. TOI is pricing its Chennai edition at less than a rupee a day (It's Rs 170 for six months.).


TOI makes no bones that ads are the main source of its revenue. One of the first signs of The Hindu gearing up for TOI's competition in the ad market was when it carried it's first full cover-page on 29 February 2008. It was followed by another one on March 8. It is common for the other editions of the TOI to carry full cover-page ads every now and then. TOI frequently carries flap ads which cover half of the first page. (This is even more irritating that a full first-page ad because the flap keeps popping over and makes reading uncomfortable unless you throw off the page.) Now, this was the first sign the market leader The Hindu wanted to be in the good books of ad providers and did not want them to drift towards TOI.

Another sign was seen even before the full first page ads. This was on February 23 when Metro Plus on Saturdays was modified as a tabloid named Metro Plus WEEKEND. The first Metro Plus WEEKEND's cover-page had Shruti Haasan revealing her shoulder bone - a tamer version of TOI's city supplements. As my grandfather rued that it had nothing to read, I thought about TOI's weekend supplement called "Whats Hot?" brought out every Friday. Metro Plus WEEKEND is still higher in terms of content. After all, for The Hindu, old habits die hard!



March 27, Thursday saw a brand new supplement from The Hindu. This was NXg aimed at Generation Next, which The Hindu believed had not been given its due. It was aimed at the youth, like a TOI city supplement. It provided us details of Koena Mitra's Hollywood projects and Emma Watson's table tennis. But, it had a section on Books besides the usual music, movie, fashion rants, something which a TOI supplement does not carry. It may sound repetitive but old habits die hard! The Tuesday Book Review column (especially the Know Your English column) in The Hindu is still my favorite. And, I can say nothing about The Hindu Literary Review, published in black and white on the first Sunday of every month. It does not carry a single ad.

Even The Hindu Sunday Magazine carries some small quarter page ads only in the second-last and last pages. Sometimes, even that is not there. The Hindu Sunday Magazine provides well-researched articles on a variety of topics. In contrast, TOI's Sunday Supplement called Life! is printed on glossy paper and projects minor trends as the next big thing. It contains more ads than written material. I will provide an example of the absurd articles in Times Life! in my next update.

The Hindu Friday Review has no TOI counterpart. The concept of Indian culture is alien to the Old Lady of Boribunder. The Mount Road Mahavishnu, however, still takes pleasure in his cultural roots. I love the Friday Review for its pictures. They make you want to read the accompanying piece even if you've had no formal training in the arts.
(To be continued...)

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