How to launch a new Marathi Newspaper?
Story of Deshonnati, Nagpur Edition Launch
Let me share a little background from those days: In Maharashtra apart from the Leading Newspapers Like Lokmat & Sakal, smaller newspapers like (Akola) Deshonnati, (Nasik) Gaokari & (Kolhapur) Pudhari, (Aurangabad) Punyanagari have grown their organizations and retained their customer base. These newspapers are popular in their region and were providing healthy competition. When we decided to launch a newspaper, especially Marathi newspaper in Nagpur, we were skeptical about its place in top 10 Marathi newspapers. Launching business is just like bringing something to life and shaping it to your imaginations. Marketing plan of Deshonnati Nagpur was simple reach where no other newspaper reached, Marketing strategy was simple to ensure a penetration in villages up to 10000 population. Market research was done and marketing campaign to launch the newspaper began. Deshonnati with its launch became the only other newspaper to sell 100000 + copies in Vidarbha other than Lokmat. That was quite an achievement for a newspaper which has come from Akola to Nagpur.
How did team Deshonnati do It? How did they influence the minds of readers? How did they achieve seemingly impossible task of launching a Marathi newspaper with such a clear marketing objective? Selling more than 1 lakh copies in Vidarbha.
I Joined Deshonnati launch As DGM Circulation under Ravi tale who was Edition head for Nagpur. Our back end support system comprised of Umesh Sapdhare & Rajesh Rajore who shaped Deshonnati with their amazing efforts in last 2 decades. Working started with researching and making a list of villages with minimum 10000 populations. Our target was simple we, we wanted each village to have our copy. Simple.
A member of circulation team, Marketing team, Editorial team, Accounts collectively started visiting Districts, talukas, And villages as per the list. Ravi tale was leading from front with us for Appointing agents and reporters and correspondents. Unbelievable but we had 450 reporters+ agents in 5 districts of East Vidarbha even before we took out a newspaper. This number eventually went up to 650 in just 3 months of launch. Combined teams offered solving of all queries of the person on the spot. Leaving no questions for working. This was something unheard of in those days for a newspaper. All the existing newspapers had different people going to same person for different reasons like circulation, advertising, editorial.
Also with our decision to reach a village with 10000 populations, we found out that people were interested in letting their stories reach out more than us. We could reach villages which never got newspaper directly. We connected with such villages, appointed reporters, and weaved a commitment that their voice will be heard through Deshonnati.
The Deshonnati backbone System: Deshonnati had some very unique systems & marketing strategy for day to day working of a newspaper. They did not have marketing professionals nor any recovery executives. Surprising?
- 1) Each agent got a copy free on certain number of ordered copies.
- 2) Each month end, a review meeting was held at each district center, where reporters were reviewed for their news target and agents were reviewed for their copy & business target.
- 3) Next month’s planning & marketing targets were also given in same meeting.
- 4) Everyone at Deshonnati worked hard to remain in touch with reporters and agents for smooth achievement of targets.
- 5) All phone numbers of everyone in line till top management were open for issue & guidance.
- 6) All circulation payment made before 15th will attract a return bus fare from his town.
- 7) All payments done of advertisements before 15th will attract better commission than payment done after 20 days or 25 days.
- 8) We are used to business targets, in Deshonnati we had News target. Each reporter needed to contribute at least some news from his village or town.
- 9) The news targets were set as per the population & status of the town.
- 10) Nothing was kept pending.
- 11) At HO. If you gave a press note at the counter, you would get a receipt for the same.
- 12) If your press note is not published in 3 days, then you can call and follow up for the same.
- 13) If edit team felt that your press note has some issues, then you will receive a call from edit team for clarifications.
- 14) Deshonnati Published Diaries with pages starting from 1April to 31 march making it a different diary for reporters. This was a unique effort and till date a popular one.
- 15) In their Home town, Association of newspapers hawkers were appointed as the sole agents of Deshonnati. This advantage changed everything for their circulation objective. Absolutely best marketing strategy for any newspaper.
The product Deshonnati for East Vidarbha:
The agents now set. Distribution now set. What was the product plan? How was the product different from Akola? Deshonnati was a rural product, making it adaptable in Hindi speaking Vidarbha was a unique challenge.
Deshonnati brought in 6 Supplements 1) Krushakonnati – 1 out of 3 publications available for farmers 2) Crime Jagat – No daily newspaper still has a crime supplement 3) Atmonnati – Spiritual Suppliment 4) Vasundhara – Sunday Supplement 5) Sahityonnati 6) glamour
A bouquet of reading material for almost every day. Competitors had 2 or three supplements. Crime, Farming, and spiritual were all unique and wonderful supplements.
Deshonnati invested in talent for its city coverage. 16 + amazing persons covered City for Deshonnati, making it one of the best teams for city news coverage in Nagpur. Imagine the level of content generation at Deshonnati office with 50+ employees at HO, and 500 reporters in rural parts. That was amazing experience.
Deshonnati followed a simple rule, each news received, must be carried. If a reporter decides to abandon some news he should reason it out. This rule meant no more missing news, this meant better connect with people and simply better circulation. Reporters confidence was gained by this rule. Someone sitting in a remote village was also confident that he need not beg for his news to appear in Deshonnati. This was the biggest advantage Deshonnati had.
The Surprise Element of Deshonnati:
Even though it originated from a small town, deshonnati’s technology usage & equipment’s were at par with national newspapers of India. It is hard to believe but it’s true. We had News line 45 for Nagpur edition, which meant we could print all pages’ color, with supplement inserts and lot more. Technology Incharge Sanjay Gaur ensured that we were always matching pace with technology.
Deshonnati Nagpur was paperless. All news and pagination were done on line. This was not heard in 2002. We had most amazing software’s to work with. Deshonnati was one of the first in initial lot to go online. We had fastest internet at our regional centers who sent us ready pages, unlike other competitors who were needed to do the pagination at Nagpur. We could cover late night news coming from any point in 5 district with this advantage.
Nagpur City marketing campaign:
Nagpur city door to door marketing campaign was handled by a young manager Vilas Sapate, who could bring newspaper circulation of 20000 copies commitment for the launch. Again a record for a Marathi newspaper for those days.
Tough resistance was faced in city by competitors, resulting in newspaper not reaching the readers in first couple of days. Usual and expected. Slowly the city circulation picked up and Deshonnati instantly became no 2 in entire Vidarbha.
Newspaper circulation of 1 lakh 30 thousand from day one is something worth mentioning for those days. Having a sustainable product launch strategy keeping in view product, reach & marketing in close loop is again something unheard of for those days. Adding 650 persons to network is mammoth task for a newspaper which was unheard of in this part of Vidarbha.
People made Deshonnati.
Some of the Team members of Deshonnati launch: Umesh Sapdhare is Vice President Deshonnati, Rajesh Rajore is Heading an Edition, Ravi Tale is Editor Lokmat Akola Edition, Rajendra Uttalwar is now chief Reporter at Deshonnati, Premdas Rathod is with Lokmat Aurangabad, Kamlesh Wankhede is with Lokmat Nagpur, Naresh Dongre is with Lokmat Nagpur, Suresh Bhusari, Devidas lanjewar is with Divya Marathi Aurangabad. Entire young talented team in their mid-thirties and 40s now is extremely well placed and successful.
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