The novel coronavirus outbreak has created a huge crisis on a global level which has had a deep impact on people and has changed the way we see our everyday lives. The increasing number of cases has threatened our sense of control. But safety measures have been imposed by the government to stop spreading this virus through social distancing which refrains people from doing what is inherited in their characteristics i.e. finding comfort in the company of others. The announcement of sudden lockdown across the entire nation for months has created a huge recession in the various industries.
Newspapers and Electronic TV channels have always been a powerful medium through which people experience the world. It is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. However, this pillar was hit by the imposition of complete lockdown till April 14, 2020. After evaluating the lockdown period the government decided to extend it as there has been an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. This has prevented the vendors of the newspapers and magazines to stop delivering as rumours spread that the virus spreads through papers as well. This has forced the publications to reduce their circulations and the number of pages. Thus it became a tedious task for them to maintain their devoted readership.
India has been experiencing a rise in the literacy rate over some period of time. As a result, people gained the knowledge of accessing a newspaper online and on digital forums free of cost rather than purchasing it. This has shifted the advertising revenue from traditional print media to online platforms. The daily newspapers are sold in the market lower than the actual printing cost. The commercial advertisements curbed the necessary deficit of the newspapers. However, due to the pandemic and its impact on the Indian economy, companies are cutting their cost by refraining from advertising their products in the print media as people would not buy them in this lockdown. Thus newspapers now had to completely depend on government advertisements for generating revenue.
Understanding the situation, the publications decided to boost their presence on their digital versions. But the free distribution of news on the online platforms may shrink their print versions. As a result, they created a paywall to access their online e-papers to generate revenue. On the other hand publications like The Telegraph, Hindustan Times and Sakaal Times have shut their operations in Tier 2 cities to reduce the printing cost. India today a leading media group has shut down their sister publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. Their business journal known as Business Today would be shifted to a digital magazine as Aroon Purie decides not to invest in these publications. The Hindu announced to lift up their Mumbai edition due to the loss of revenue. TV today network ceased their operations and announced the transmission of Aaj Tak, New Delhi. Further, Outlook magazine has shut down its print edition temporarily and shifted to the online platform and News Nation has shut down their English digital version.
With this entire situation arises a question of sustainability of print media and their dedicated readers. As they say “This too shall pass”, the world is fighting to return to the balanced lifestyle. But will the newspapers get their dedicated readership back after this pandemic? A difficult question to answer.