The friendly, neighborhood newspaper

Chennai has one of the highest readerships of print media publications in the country. For a city that has been fed a staple diet of the newspaper from Mount Road Maha Vishnu (THE HINDU :-)) on the English side and Dina Thanthi (the “Daily Thanthi”) on the Thamizh side for decades, Chennaivasis now have choices in the form of Deccan Chronicle and News Today in English and Thamizh Murasu in Thamizh (I am referring only to the latest entrants since Chennai always had “The Indian Express” as an also-ran for a long time and in the Thamizh segment, has had everything from Dinakaran to Dina Thoodhu to Dinamalar to DinamaNi (which was the Thamizh paper of the Indian Express group) to Murasoli to MakkaL Kural to Namadhu MGR and more).

In spite of the growth in readership (in absolute terms), these dailies, mainly the English ones, were not really tuned into local news/happenings and this niche came to be occupied by a plethora of small community newspapers like Adyar Times, Mylapore Times, Royappettah Times, T.Nagar Times, Anna Nagar Times, Arcot Road Times, Apollo Times, Suburban Voice, Mylapore Talk, T.Nagar Talk, Anna Nagar Talk and Adyar Talk. Almost all of them have not only survived competition but have grown organically to reach respectable circulation figures in the tens of thousands.

THE HINDU did wake up to the potential of this segment but rather belatedly and launched its DownTown section to compete with the smaller neighborhood papers, who did not feel all too threatened because of one major difference – these papers were all free whereas the DownTown supplement was part of a pricey newspaper. They had local advertisers who would not touch the major newspapers because of cost and diffused effectiveness of their ads. In a way, this portends to the broader trend of “Go Local” that has prompted giants in both the offline and increasingly the online world to dovetail their offerings with a strong local focus. Prime examples are Yahoo, Google and MSN competing fiercely with each other to offer classifieds, yellow pages, maps, locally-relevant content like restaurant guides, online ticketing for events and location-based services like coupons.

In the Indian space, Sulekha has been offering the same services like event/movie ticketing, classifieds, yellow pages etc. and has been gaining so much of traction that they have also launched a paper version of classifieds that competes with the likes of Free Ads and such other city-specific papers. On the topic of city-specific media, I am reminded about this magazine called “Aside” that used to be a big-time Chennai-based magazine in its heydays and which I used to look forward to reading, alongwith my fortnightly dose of Thuglaq, the long-time political satire mag in Thamizh written and published by the irrepressible “Cho” S. Ramaswamy. It is indeed Chennai’s loss that publications such as Aside went out of business and its denizens have become consumers of magazines that have made their readers experts in navel-gazing of a different kind :-).

4 Comments so far

  1. Anand (unregistered) on September 15th, 2006 @ 9:47 am

    A few reasons why I dont read The Hindu:
    1. By Stopping the newspaper, I do my part to prevent child-labor.
    2. A recent UN-report has found that ~99% of the boys who drop newspapers carry sexually transmitted diseases with them and are HIV+

    An Appeal from Friends of Tibet
    The Hindu, one of the most credible and trusted newspapers in
    the country has many things to its credit. Chief among them is
    the appointment of an Ombudsman or a Readers’ Editor in a
    newspaper for the first time in the history of Indian
    journalism. This 127-year-old newspaper with 3.8 million
    readers has a different story to tell ever since N Ram, who
    describes himself as “An Indian who has no sympathy for the
    Dalai Lama’s separatist and backward looking agenda”, took
    charge as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper on July 1,

    Friends of Tibet has learned that the editorial board of The
    Hindu led by N Ram has instructed their centres not to carry
    any ‘Tibet’, ‘Dalai Lama’ and ‘Falun Gong’ stories criticising
    the policies of the Chinese government. Instead of depending
    on reliable news agencies like PTI, UNI, IANS, Reuters, AP and
    AFP, The Hindu has found a Beijing-based news-agency to fetch
    stories – The Xinhua – world’s biggest propaganda agency
    belonging to the Chinese Communist Party. Probably The Hindu
    is the only newspaper in the country to reproduce Xinhua
    reports. Today The Hindu has virtually become a mouthpiece of
    the Chinese Communist Party.

    Perhaps unique in the world because of its role, size, and
    reach, Xinhua reports directly to the Chinese Communist
    Party’s Propaganda Department and employs more than 10,000
    people. The head of the Xinhua has the rank of a minister.
    Successor to the agency, Red China that was founded by Mao
    Zedong, Xinhua adopted its current name in January 1937. Since
    October 1949, this state-run news-agency has been completely
    subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party and remains the
    voice of the sole party.

    A card-holding member of the Communist Party in India who had
    been to China and occupied-Tibet at least fifteen times in
    junkets mostly arranged by the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, N
    Ram is also the mastermind behind ‘India-China Association of
    Journalists’, an embassy-sponsored organisation specialising
    in arranging pleasure trips for Indian journalists. This new
    strategy of Beijing has already won the hearts of some of our
    best journalists. Ironically it is only when the Tamil Nadu
    Police entered The Hindu office premises in Chennai, N Ram who
    calls the killing of a million Tibetans by China’s occupying
    forces ‘a myth’, got enlightened about freedom.

    We believe that it is immoral from the side of an Editor to drag
    some of the eminent journalists to do ethically-wrong
    reporting for The Hindu and Frontline and also to use a
    democratic forum – freedom of the press – to advance the cause
    of an autocratic regime.

    ‘Save The Hindu’ Campaign is an attempt to save the newspaper
    and also to expose Xinhua – Chinese government’s propaganda
    agency to its readers. Let us use the opportunity to write to
    the newly-appointed Readers’ Editor about our concerns on The
    Hindu policies on various issues including Tibet.

    For a case study and to sign a petition online, go to:

    (The Petition will to be submitted to the newly-appointed
    Readers’ Editor of The Hindu.)
    Friends of Tibet, PO Box: 16674,
    Bombay 400050, India.
    Tel: +91.22.26409612 / Mobile: +91.9388465953 / +91.9418079832
    Friends of Tibet is a global movement to keep alive the issue
    of Tibet through direct action. Our activities are aimed at
    ending China’s occupation of Tibet and the suffering of the
    Tibetan people. Friends of Tibet supports the continued
    struggle of the Tibetan people for independence.

  2. phantom363 (unregistered) on September 15th, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    we still don’t have an english tabloid along the same flavour as dinakaran or dinamalar. this is a niche that has always been vacant. for the hindu, which modelled itself after the times of london, it was too plebian. the other english papers are also equally pompous. we need a lusty sensational english tabloid like the sun in england. light on news. heavy on all other stuff. :) bound to be a commercial success anyday :)

  3. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on September 15th, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

    YEH! A Chennai newspaper with Page Three Girls!!!!

    There’s an idea!

    (and for those unfamiliar with this British tabloid concept, let me just explain — they don’t wear much)

    Anand— on a more serious note… very interesting and disturbing comment.

    Have to say I got fed up with the daily Jaya photo-opportunity: presenting this, receiving that, blah blah blah. Suppose it’s Mr K now — I haven’t been reading the papers so much of late. Too much on this wretched Internet!

  4. thennavan (unregistered) on September 17th, 2006 @ 2:13 am

    Anand, good luck with your efforts to create an awareness for your cause :-).

    Phantom and Thad, do you think we will ever have something like those racy tabloids abroad, in India any time soon (especially with our “kalaachaara police” doing the rounds)? :-)

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