India’s Hindi Newspapers: ‘NaiDunia’ vs ‘Dainik Jagran’

Tears are being shed for NaiDunia and its exasperated new owner is wondering why

Talking Media | Sevanti Ninan

Two newspapers were started back in 1947, in towns of the Hindi belt not that far from each other—Jabalpur and Jhansi. Last week, one acquired the other. In their 65-year trajectory, one produced some of the most venerable Hindi language journalists the country has known, the other achieved growth which has made it the most read and highest circulated paper in the country. No prizes for guessing who acquired whom.

Dainik Jagran, the country’s leading newspaper, acquired NaiDunia, now headquartered in Indore, in a cash deal. NaiDunia, which has been much romanticized for producing Rajendra Mathur and Prabhash Joshi, towering figures in Hindi journalism, and for nurturing a culture that set the journalistic benchmark for the Hindi press, finally succumbed to market realities. It suffered huge losses in the last few years. But it began to lose the battle a long time ago.

n early 2005, Ajay Chhajlani, son of one of the three founders and the man who had presided overNaiDunia’s heyday, explained to me how the paper came to lose out. In 1967, it was the first paper in the country to make the technological shift to offset printing. From the early 1980s to the mid-1990s it was in technological transition, even as its three original owners died one by one. Meanwhile, newspapers across northern india were becoming multi-edition. “By the time we thought of multiplying, newspapers had become capital-intensive.”

There was another factor not mentioned then. Whereas the third generation of other leading newspaper families in the Hindi belt entered the media business, Ajay’s son Vinay went into software. When things became critical in the family newspaper after an expansion to Gwalior, he came in, got an infusion of finances from a leading industrialist, and led a short-lived revival and expansion which included an edition in Delhi. But the losses only mounted till the backing for Vinay Chhajlani dried up.

Dainik Jagran, meanwhile, was less about scaling the heights of journalism than about expanding from early on, and getting masses of readers.

The editor of Prabhat Khabar, Harivansh, a noted figure in contemporary Hindi journalism, recently published a long piece over three days extolling the high-minded, spartan living tradition of NaiDunia’s early editors. One took no raise for eight years on a salary of Rs150 a month. The other asked for a salary of Rs75 a month. He wrote about NaiDunia’s glorious contribution to the intellectual life of the period.

But that was in the past. Is small and high minded now unviable?

Harivansh’s essay invoked Marx, Engels and Darwin, among others, to warn that it was inevitable in a market economy that the big fish would gobble up the little fish. And, it diagnosed the changes in the newspaper industry that are making it near impossible for the small, family-owned newspapers of yore to survive. Rising costs of raw material, including newsprint, the fact that advertisers favour big publications, and the advent of papers like Sakshi andDNA in a crowded market where it needs an investment of upwards of Rs1,000 crore to launch a newspaper.

Tears are being shed for NaiDunia and its exasperated new owner is wondering why. The way Sanjay Gupta, India’s leading media baron, sees it, he is not gobbling up NaiDunia, as is being made out. He is giving it a capital infusion that will put it back in the race for readership in Madhya Pradesh.

“I am not gobbling them, I am making them grow strong. I am giving them their right place to survive in the market. If (Dainik) Bhaskar buys them, they will close it down. I am buying and mentoring an old brand which would have withered away. Today a Mid-Day is standing up to a DNA and HT (Hindustan Times) onslaught and even a Mumbai Mirror because I have given them an infusion of capital.” (His company acquired Mid-Day a couple of years ago.) He adds: “If a newspaper is about an idea of journalism and not able to survive, it needs to go and sit in the lap of a media group. Whatever its tradition, it is going to be a stronger paper.”

Gupta says that today the debate is twofold. Should you earn out of journalism, and if so how much should you earn? “I don’t think we should start disowning capitalism and start moving towards socialism.” And he adds dryly, today nothing can be small or it will be gobbled up. “This logic was applied in our family 30 years back. Expand, or perish. We began in Jhansi and then in time we launched in Gorakhpur.” They were not an entrepreneurial family backed by large funds, but they were clear that it was a business. “Back in 1947, it was also to make money. We were not some kind of an NGO.”

And for one journalist involved, the wheel has come full circle. Shravan Garg, who is now NaiDunia’s chief editor, has to help the newspaper regain ground from Dainik Bhaskar. He was the man who in September 1993 took over running Bhaskar in Indore and oversaw its overtaking of NaiDunia in that market. The challenge is now reversed.

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch She examines the larger issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

Dainik Jagran- No.1 Hindi Daily of India

Dainik Jagran remains No. 1 and Dainik Bhaskar at No. 2. Patrika, which made an entry to the top 10 list last quarter, has surged past Nai Dunia to acquire the No. 9 position.

The fourth quarter results of IRS 2011 indicate that six out of top 10 Hindi dailies have registered growth this quarter. There is also a change in the pecking order with Patrika surpassing Nai Dunia to acquire the No. 9 position.

India’s No. 1 Hindi daily, Dainik Jagran, has recorded an AIR of 1,64,10,000 in IRS Q4 2011 compared with 1,64,58,000 in the previous quarter and 1,63,93,000 in IRS Q2 2011. The daily had added 65,000 readers in IRS Q3 2011 and 4.83 lakh readers in Q2 of IRS 2011.

At No. 2, Dainik Bhaskar has lost 2.74 lakh readers in the fourth quarter of IRS 2011. The decline of 1.9 per cent comes after an exceptional growth in its AIR in Q3 of IRS 2011. The daily had added 7.02 lakh readers in Q3 and 1.58 lakh readers in Q2 of IRS 2011. Its AIR now stands at 1,46,02,000 against 1,48,76,000 in the previous quarter and 1,41,74,000 in Q2 IRS 2011. Bhaskar had added 25,000 readers to its AIR in IRS Q1 2011.

The third most read Hindi daily, Hindustan, has held its position and seen a marginal growth of 12,000 readers this quarter. Its AIR stands at 1,20,45,000 in IRS Q4 2011 against 1,20,33,000 in the previous quarter and 1,19,85,000 in IRS Q2 2011. Hindustan had added 48,000 readers in IRS Q3 2011, 1.75 lakh readers in IRS Q2 2011 and 3.58 lakh readers in IRS Q1 2011.

The fourth largest Hindi daily, Amar Ujalahas been able to add a few readers this quarter. The daily has recorded an AIR of 88.42 lakh in IRS Q4 2011 compared with 88.36 in the previous quarter and 88.91 lakh in IRS Q2 2011. It had added 1.44 lakh readers in IRS Q2 2011 and 1.07 lakh readers in IRS Q1 2011.

At No. 5, Rajasthan Patrika’s losses have continued into this quarter. The daily has lost 71,000 readers recording an AIR of 68.47 lakh against 69.18 lakh in the previous quarter and 69.41 lakh in IRS Q2 2011. It had lost 23,000 readers in IRS Q3 2011 and 92,000 readers in IRS Q2 2011.

The No. 6 Hindi daily, Punjab Kesri, has been able to hold its readers and added 4,000 readers this quarter over the previous quarter. The daily has been on a decline for the last three quarters. Its current AIR stands at 33.3 lakh against 33.26 in the previous quarter and 34.14 lakh in IRS Q2 2011. It had lost 88,000 readers in the previous quarter, 65,000 in the second quarter and 80,000 readers in the first quarter of IRS 2011.

Navbharat Times has again lost a few readers this quarter after losing 69,000 readers in the previous quarter. Its AIR now stands at 25.73 lakh against 25.81 lakh in the previous quarter and 26.5 lakh in IRS Q2 2011. NBT had added 61,000 readers in its AIR in IRS Q2 2011 and 10,000 readers in IRS Q1 2011.

Jharkhand’s leading Hindi daily, Prabhat Khabar, has grown steadily quarter-on-quarter. The daily has added 1.24 lakh readers in IRS Q4 2011 to take its AIR at 21.87 lakh compared with 20.63 lakh in the previous quarter and 18.93 lakh in IRS Q 2011. It had added 1.7 lakh readers in IRS Q3 2011, 81,000 readers in Q2 2011 and 1,33,000 readers in Q1 2011.

After making an entry at No. 10 in the last quarter, Patrika has climbed up to No. 9 position. The daily has recorded a growth of 25 per cent and an AIR of 17.87 lakh in IRS Q4 2011 compared with 14.3 lakh in the previous quarter and 12.51 lakh readers in IRS Q2 2011.

Despite of a marginal growth, Nai Dunia has been pushed to No. 10 in IRS Q4 2011. The newspaper has registered an AIR of 16.49 lakh in IRS Q4 2011 compared with 16.30 in the previous quarter and 17.14 lakh in IRS Q2 2011.