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Niche magazines lose out to the Net

Ratna Bhushan
Nithya Subramanian

NEW DELHI, Aug. 28

IS the Internet finally ruling over print, at least as far as niche publications go? Take specialist magazines.

While the Living Media group's Computers Today wound up some months ago, the Mid-day group-owned The Brief, a magazine for the ad industry, is now being quietly buried. Also, rumours of A&M being on the brink of closure have been doing the rounds for a while now, though the magazine is slated for a relaunch shortly.

On the other hand, niche portals such as agencyfaqs.com, exchange4media.com and walletwatch.com have been able to survive the dotcom bust and are doing reasonably well for themselves.

Advertising industry sources said that specialised portals such as these have eaten into niche magazines. "When free updates are available everyday, where is the need to buy specialist magazines,'' questions Mr Praveen Kumar, who heads the media tracking outfit, Current Opinion Future Trends (COFT).

Also, it is economically viable to advertise on portals. Mainline advertisers tend to stay away from niche publications. According to a media planner, "With advertising rates for the print medium being very high, it is cheaper to go on to these specialised portals as rates are much cheaper. Niche products or services can be advertised on such Web sites as they target specific audiences, thus giving better value for money.''

The reasons being cited for The Brief's closure are on account of Mid-day Multimedia wanting to focus on its core businesses -- newspapers, radio and outdoor advertising and exit niche magazines.

However, publishing houses are not giving up completely. While A&M plans a new avatar, the Living Media group is putting its money on yet another niche magazine -- Smart Inc.

Mr Anil Metre, Publisher & Editor, A&M, told Business Line, that the magazine is being revamped in totality, and the new-look A&M will hit the stands before Diwali. "While the focus of the revamped magazine will continue to be `business is marketing', it will sport a new, vibrant design,'' Mr Metre said.

He added that the magazine's periodicity would continue to be the same -- once a fortnight, and that its cover price too would remain at Rs 50.

According to Mr Metre, funds for the revamp exercise are being raised internally. He, however, declined to put a budget to the relaunch. "Inducting foreign partners could also be an option. However, that will happen only next year,'' Mr Metre added.

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