Media in the United States and Europe have been pronouncing the death of the newspaper for several years now. Yet while Asia had mostly been seen as exempt from this trend, is the internet bug finally catching on in the Pakistani media market? Can the Pakistani newspaper survive? An analysis conducted by The Express Tribune suggests that the answer is yes, though there are some caveats.
Of the Rs32 billion spent on advertising in Pakistan in fiscal year 2011, only about 27%, or Rs8.5 billion was spent on all print media advertising by members of the Pakistan Advertisers’ Society, a group that claims to represent 75% of Pakistan’s total advertising spending. That number is down 5% from the previous year, leading many analysts to worry that Pakistan’s newspaper industry may be facing a squeeze that may well become permanent.
Yet there are at least some reasons for optimism on the part of newspapers. For instance, newspapers often earn more revenues through their classified section and through government advertising, so the industry’s overall revenues are somewhat higher than the Rs8.5 billion figure.
In addition, Urdu newspapers are still seen as strong value for money by many advertisers since they go out to hundreds of thousands of households across the country. The Daily Express, for instance, is published in 11 cities nationwide and has a circulation that vastly exceeds that of even the most widely read English newspaper in the country. Advertisers view a newspaper as an opportunity to have an ad be available to their customers for an entire day, as opposed to the few seconds that they might or might not see a clip on television.
And even English language newspapers have found ways to make the digital age work for them. The two leading national English-language papers in Pakistan – Dawn and The Express Tribune – have managed to monetise their website to varying degrees of success. Both of these newspapers even have applications for mobile phones that are ad-supported, offering both newspapers a new revenue stream.
Yet will this be enough?
It is entirely likely that the digital age will cause some newspapers to fail. But others will likely continue to succeed, particularly since many advertisers – particularly those in financial services and others that offer more complicated products – still see print media as the best way to promote their wares. And even though digital advertising is cheaper, its efficacy is far lower than that of print advertising.
“Reading a newspaper is a habit, and you cannot change it easily. So while the share of newspapers in the total ad spend is shrinking gradually, it is not going to disappear anytime soon,” says Saad Hashmi, a client services manager at Orient Advertising.
And then there is the small matter of the fact that a large chunk of the content shared on social media is produced by newspapers. Some of the most interesting news stories are shared virally on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, driving even more traffic to their websites and creating a positive feedback loop, where social media and old media work to support each other, rather than act as rivals.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.