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Newspapers as Status Symbol--Why They're Thriving in India

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On December 20, 2007, the Tribune Company's Sam Zell said, “I’m sick and tired of everybody talking about and commiserating about the end of newspapers. They ain’t over.”

A year later, the Tribune was in bankruptcy.

“Readers should be concerned about the deterioration of the American newspaper,” Tom Rosenstiel, director of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, told the San Francisco Gate.

And the newspaper is not just disappearing in America. Your daily paper is becoming extinct all over the world.

There is, however, a country noticeably missing from the list:


Why? One reason: Literacy rates are climbing. Bindu Bhaskar, an associate professor at Chennai’s Asian College of Journalism, told Abu Dhabi’s The National: “The reason why print media is doing well in India is linked to the literacy factor, with more new literates taking to newspapers. These new literates are a major expanding group.”

Two, large portions of the population still doesn’t have access to the Internet, so a newspaper is the only way for them to get their news.

The third reason? Cachet. Yes, in India, newspapers are status symbols, “reserved for those with a greater education; people who receive the newspaper are thought of as intelligent and are sought for advice in important matters.”

Raju Narisetti, editor of Mint, a business daily published by India’s HT Media in association with the Wall Street Journal, agrees. “Newspapers here, unlike in the West, remain fairly aspirational,” he said. “People want to be seen reading newspapers. So there’s not only a functional value, but also a social value.”

Narisetti also pointed out that last year, India’s papers gained 12 million new readers. He said, “That is equivalent to five Wall Street Journals. There are 360 million Indians who can read and write and don’t read a paper. In a country where the government is making no initiatives to talk about population control, I see very healthy growth.”

Which translates into profit growth. In the past 6 months, advertising rates in India have risen by almost 40%.

Timmy Kandhari, of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Mumbai, told the Independent of London: “There's going to be 12 to 15% annual growth in the market going forward, and I think our prediction is conservative.”

He predicted that the industry would almost double in size by 2011.

Good news for investors. Better news for people who enjoy stories like this one, from the Hindustan Times, about a randy langur:

"About two years ago when a langur appeared at Cherukulapadu village in Kurnool district, its 400-odd residents had sighed in relief. It would chase away a pack of monkeys that were destroying their crops. The langur did end the monkey menace but is now troubling the villagers. It has started
attacking women — five in the past week — and one elderly woman, Janakiamma, died of shock recently when the langur pounced on her.

“Apparently it saw a couple indulging in sex in the fields recently and since then it is pouncing on women and trying to replicate the act. Women are scared to go out in the open and when inside, they ensure that doors and windows are locked,” says Subba Rao, a villager.

"Now women are afraid to go out alone and usually travel in groups. The men, too, carry sticks and sickles to prevent any attack.

“I was returning home one afternoon with a basket of vegetables when it pounced on me. Its actions are worse than a human being,” adds Ramulamma, another resident.

"The villagers have petitioned the forest department to trap the langur and take it away. 'We are waiting for the forest official team to arrive,' says Subba Rao."

Friends, we simply cannot sit idly by and let reportage like this disappear.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.