Media and blog circles are abuzz with the launch of Times of India’s Chennai edition. The Hindu now has serious competition. While Deccan Chronicle and the New Indian Express do have Chennai editions, I don’t think they are as formidable as TOI when it comes to a fight. Deccan Chronicle played the price game and claims No.2 position and the Indian Express was light years behind in terms layout and presentation.
I grew up in Chennai and my visits to the city of late have been short and sporadic. (thankfully – can’t take the heat). But some things have changed over the last decade or so. I think the precursor to the ‘change’ in Chennai was the shifting of Citibank’s headquarters from Mumbai to Chennai. All it took to change a city of millions were a handful of Punjabi families! The most immediate change was the sprouting of multi-cuisine and speciality restaurants. And then it was no longer taboo to acknowledge the presence of a ‘Naarth Indian’. Earlier, if you asked someone directions in Hindi, he will rudely look the other way. Today, you might get a nod or a wave. The BPO and manufacturing units moved in to Chennai and that brought in a lot of ‘migrants’.
This crowd is likely to lap up TOI Chennai first and may have been ready for TOI about 3 years ago. They perhaps miss the familiarity of their newspaper from other metros (chances are it is TOI there too!) and may find The Hindu too clinical for their liking. Oh, even in Bangalore, it is fashionable to turn up your nose and say, ‘The Hindu is too staid and boring’. In the same breath, people will curse the likes of TOI about their sensationalism…in-the-face marketing. Anyway, newspaper being such a habitual thing it will be tough to dislodge The Hindu from its No.1 position in Chennai. My father used to fume if The Hindu was not delivered before 6am and used to miss it like a child when he went out of Chennai. The other papers used to be just skimmed through but The Hindu delved into.
The launch of TOI has got its competion’s K’s in a twist. The Indian Express has gone in for a facelift (pehle kyon nahi socha?) and looks snazzy. IE has also gone in for a new advertising campaign with a cure-for-constipation-like baseline ‘100% steel. 0% gas’. I get the attempt is to stay true to the promise of ‘courage’ (steel) in journalisam. Taking a dig at the perception of TOI being obsessed with trivia and banal news is obvious. One of the outdoor campaigns reads, “I don’t want Shakespeare to write my news”, while another says, “Lectures turn me off, so do socialites”. Hee hee. Cool. When I was based in Mumbai, I preferred the IE over other papers for its editorials. But the effort from IE in Chennai seems at least 3 years late. Funny how competition makes brands get a face lift, eh?
The Hindu has blinked, despite being the leader, by dropping its price. The Deccan Chronicle has remained silent thus far.
TOI’s advertising launch has the hallmark of TOI marketing: lot of hoopla. Hoardings screamed ‘Next Change’ and gimmicks like a model wrapped in newspaper sari/dress strutted the streets of Chennai.
I doubt if Chennai can sustain four viable mainline newspapers. My wager is that The Hindu will remain No.1 and TOI will gain a No.2 position. I doubt if Deccan Chronicle can sustain its price advantage for long – given its contents and penchant for tabloid-style news (they have got the baap of sensationalism in the form of TOI!). There is likely to be a flight of journalistic talent to TOI. Even in other metros the slug fest is between 2 leading dailies.
Lifestyle brands and local retail & restuarant brands will most likely experiment with TOI. But in the long run, the average Chennaiite is likely to remain loyal to The Hindu.
What say? Enna solrel?