Uttaranchals dubious publishing boom

BY sevanti ninan| IN Regional Media | 06/06/2002
Uttaranchals dubious publishing boom

Uttaranchals dubious publishing boom

 

When so many people are rushing to print newspapers, booking a title calls for more than a little ingenuity.

 

By Sevanti Ninan

 

Did you know that Dehradun was a major publishing centre? There are eleven daily newspapers and no less than 84 weeklies coming out of here. If you look closer though, you might find that many of these have a unique distinction. They could be among those newspapers and weeklies in the country which have very unique periodicity---they neither come out weekly nor daily, but on demand, whenever the government demands proof of their existence.

They have interesting names, these newspapers. There is The Hawk which comes out both in Hindi and English, and from both Dehradun and Haridwar. It has four pages, not a single ad in the copy I picked up from the information directorate, (where they have to be filed) and its text is in a point size so big and you can read it if you hold it two feet away. The paper is so thin that it rips with careless handling. It bungs in all manner of news, pell mell into those four pages.

Then there is the Valley Mail, a Hindi daily eveninger with an English name. It is published on coarse newsprint that is almost grey in colour, but manages eight small ads. This too is four pages, as is Uttaranchal ki Ore, which again has no advertising. The daily Shikhar Sandesh is again four pages, two ear panel ads on page one, and a single 2x3 inch ad on the back page. The Himachal Times is rather more ambitious, with editions in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, but here too locals will tell you that its circulation is not anywhere near what it claims.

Altogether, Uttaranchal boasts 31 daily newspapers, out of Dehradun, Haridwar, Udhamsinghnagar, Tehri, Pauri Garhwal and Nainital. And 122 weeklies. The majority of both kinds of publications, are four pagers. Why they appear at all may seem a mystery to outsiders who encounter them but in the state everybody seems to understand the economics of this publishing industry only too well. There isn`t that much employment in this hill state, self-employment is the norm, and if you are not running a school or a coaching academy in Dehradun, you are likely to be running a newspaper.

What kind? A cheaply produced four pager, though there are honourable exceptions such as the Garhwal Post and Mussourie Times which have more pages and use good paper. They have unlikely names, many of them, such as the Kavita Express, the daily Apne Log from Haridwar, another daily KhabarLaye Hai from Dehradun, and the daily Seemanth Varta from Pauri Garhwal. The last is fourteen years old, owned by a former finance minister of UP, and is a pink paper to boot, though both its quality of newsprint as well its shade of pink would make Samir Jain, proprietor of the country`s first pink newspaper the Economic Times, blanch. In size this newspaper is neither a tabloid nor a broadsheet but something in between.

And yet this city`s other pink paper has a philosophy and a level of success that Samir Jain would whole heartedly approve of. Doon Classified, owned by a former municipal councillor Dinanath Saluja, is a publication devoted to ads, with a single column of text per page. It is a tabloid whose pages vary according to the season, going up from a minimum of 24 to 48 in summer when the advertising season is at its peak. It was conceived of as an ad supplement to be inserted into the English broadsheets that come from Delhi, and as the circulation of these-the Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, the Hindu and the Times of India---grows in the valley, so does the circulation of Doon Classifieds.

It currently sells 30,000 copies a week, and with the exception of Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran is the only local paper about whose circulation figures there is no scepticism. Indeed because he can`t get a local press to handle this print order he has shifted its printing to a Delhi press, as the circulation has grown. Initially free, it now charges 50 paise per issue, and its ad rates are extremely affordable: Rs 5000 for a full page, and Rs 100 for a 24-word classified. Everybody advertises in it, and the local gentry find it a very useful. The biggest category of advertising is property sales and rentals, followed by vehicles, and admissions to schools, coaching classes, and new computer institutes.

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