Has ‘project go online’ for Indian newspapers failed?

Afaq’s article “Have Indian print publishers lost their way online?” is very interesting. The authors have analyzed this ‘ever debated’ topic in detail.  Some highlights,

  • Many Indian newspapers have gone online for over 10 years.
  • In the last 10 years, online advertising has grown from virtually nothing to Rs 850 crore (source, GroupM)
  • The share of newspaper websites in this pie is estimated at only about Rs 175 crore. Worse, there isn’t evidence to suggest that there will be a significant change in their fortunes in the next few years.
  • The fundamental problem: in print, competition is limited to other newspapers in the same geography. Online, newspapers have to face websites of other dailies, TV channels, pure dotcoms, blogs, video sites and social networking sites – not just for audience time but also for advertiser attention.
  • Indian publishers are blindly following the footsteps of their Western counterparts (Amen to that! We just don’t want to find our own path)
  • Indian publishers are reluctant to share their disappointment with the online experience. (Disappointing, these newspapers are cash rich, they shouldn’t shy away from expressing their true feelings)
  • An estimated 50-60 million Indians go online each month, as compared to 320 million newspaper readers and 460 million TV viewers (that doesn’t mean we publishers should wait till the penetration reaches 100+ million)

To begin with everyone needs to respect the fact that online space is a different medium from print. Each medium should have its own realistic expectations. Print & TV medium is accustomed to huge revenues, so they will always find internet to be ‘minuscule’ which translates to ‘let us look into it later’ or even ‘let us just ignore the net’.

Print houses in India don’t pay enough attention to online. One needs to wonder why The Hindu has been in beta forever?

Finally, each medium needs to respect the other medium.  The size of online business is much smaller than print and TV medium but that doesn’t mean the online space needs to be written off. We online publishers surely respect the print/TV medium. High time they respect the pure play online publishers/portals.


  1. Mahesh,
    I buy everything here except the line
    One needs to wonder why The Hindu has been in beta forever?
    Afaik, The Hindu was the first Indian newspaper to go online. I am talking about the days when they were hosted on IndiaServer.com
    The current beta stint started recently(Aug 15,2009).So, picking on that seems very trivial to me. It is not *forever*. Been just over 6 months.
    Since you have said that online and offline spaces are different,we have to accept the fact that like any online offering, TH’s new version also goes through a beta (testing) stage.

  2. Nikhil – running beta is perfectly fine and legitimate. I have never said it is wrong. But running it in beta since August 15, 2009 is a long period

  3. Nikhil Narayanan says:

    Mahesh- Okay. 🙂
    May be too long a beta-time for a newspaper.

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