‘It’s shocking people are still reading us’

Newspaper industry hit by rising circulation numbers

Chennai, June 15: The Indian newspaper industry, already buffeted by several detrimental developments including the phenomenal rise of internet media, seems to be in the throes of another crisis, one that is being described as the ‘biggest’ faced by it ever: the increase in the circulation figures of many newspapers.

‘It has come as a bolt from the blue for the entire industry,’ the Press Council of India, the apex body vested with the statutory power to issue press releases of little consequence, said. ‘It is shocking in the first place that people are still reading us. And to boot, we now have statistics saying that the circulation figures have risen for the last few years for several publications. This has to be the biggest crisis the industry has ever faced’.

The Press Council’s response has come in the wake of the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) report that print circulation of newspapers grew by 5.04 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over the last eight years.

Though the growth is  being attributed to new titles entering various markets and expansion of existing titles through new editions and printing centres, there is now a real fear that some people may <I>actually<P> be reading some parts of the newspapers.

‘This is an eventuality we have not prepared ourselves for,’ Editors Guild of India, gravely observed (“Editors Guild of India” is another leading industry association with the abiding motto that defines the entire industry: ‘We don’t care for punctuations’).

‘The numbers, even though not even one of us in the industry know what compounded annual growth means, are indeed alarming. Newspapers, which have been publishing stuff in the happy hope that nobody was reading them anyway, can no longer be that sure. The rising numbers suggest that somewhere some unwary individual may be making the rookie mistake of reading us’ Editors Guild said and added ‘we ourselves don’t do that’.

In the last decade or so, when the popular talk was newspapers in their printed form were dying, the industry rose up to the challenge spectacularly by relentless focusing on news and events that were totally silly and stupid. And what became as a small trend is now the guiding philosophy of the entire industry. In this ineluctable evolution, newspapers feel no longer compelled to publish anything that is actually, well, news.

‘We have been featuring anything that landed on our tables, including leave letters, HR memos worded in a way that HR itself will not understand, management bullshit from the marketing team, random animal pics from random FB feeds, absolutely rotten stuff that twitter specialises in and sundry other things that will not pass through any industry that has some basic standard,’ said a veteran Editor on conditions of ‘annonymity’ (this is the spelling suggested by his numerologist).

‘But now since there is some evidence, even though it is tenuous, that people are still reading us, we cannot afford to be casual and cavalier,’ he added. ‘But the problem is we don’t know to be anything else’.

For instance, this morning, the papers are full on about the Twitter exchange between Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and the Education Minister of Bihar whose name we newspaper people Googled and figured out. The issue was about the usage of the word ‘Dear’. In itself the series of exchanges was monumentally silly.  And the bigger point is this was on Twitter, which is an open public platform, and those who would likely read a ‘news report’ on this are even more likely to have  accessed it straight on Twitter itself. In short, newspapers are reporting silly stuff to people who anyway know it before hand and don’t need it.

Another thing that newspapers had become quite used to in recent times is —- you may want to write this down —- reporting events that have not happened or not true at all.

For instance,  last month newspapers wrote a series of articles that Kabali was set to be released on July 1. This month it is all about how the film’s release is going to be pushed back. The beauty of these reports is that nobody who is connected with the film has actually spoken anything about this. Basically, newspapers have been making stuff up.

The bigger joke is there are news sites —- you can bet that these internet  companies will get top investments —- who are making a career out of curating and rewriting stuff that have already appeared in newspapers. ‘We print lies. And they recycle them,’ the veteran Editor sagely  said and added ‘the world is far stupider than anyone gives it credit for’.

Anyway, even though this is a tough situation, the newspaper industry is determined to come through this crisis of rising circulation numbers. ‘We will do our best to tackle the situation by issuing more press releases,’ the Press Council said with typical flourish for pointlessness.