Indian Newspaper Caters for Readers and Advertisers in the Gulf
English-language newspapers in the Gulf usually find their largest audience among South Asian expatriates. For that reason, most of them focus on news from the subcontinent or offer special products to gain readers from those communities. Now, they have new competitors for readers and advertising publishing in their native languages. The largest circulation daily of the south-west Indian state of Kerala, MalayalaManorama, has launched five editions in Bahrain and Dubai.
"Malayala Manorama has been in the Gulf for 40 or 45 years now. We used to send it from India and as a result our competitors were ahead of us in the market," says Anand Mathew, head for Gulf operations at the newspaper. "Other Malayali (from Kerala) newspapers already had editions there and our readers kept demanding that we do the same. Now we can be in newsstands early in the morning and get to our reader's home before they leave for work."
With a print run of 40,000 copies, the Bahrain edition started printing in September and the Dubai edition a month later. Advertising revenues as well as circulation have increased, says Mathew. However, he declined to give numbers. "We are in a initial stage and we do not want competitors to know those figures for the moment.
"We definitely expect to enlarge our advertising customers, including Indian and local buyers," says Mathew. "Local advertisers and retailers are approaching us and showing a big interest. The marketing and advertising market in the Gulf is very active and the Malayali community represents an important number of consumers." In fact, 1.6 million Malayalees live in the Gulf region, according to estimated figures, says Mathew.
To gain advertisers, the paper offers them a niche target audience, says Mathew. For instance, the paper publishes a supplement on Wednesdays devoted to issues concerning the Malayali community in the Gulf. "It has proved to attract more local advertisers than the daily edition," he says.
Indian companies are also interested in reaching readers in the Gulf. Since Malayees in the region expect to come back home after making money in the Gulf, real-estate companies from Kerala and matrimonial agencies are interested in reaching them, says Mathew.
Local advertisers can be problematic "Gulf advertisers have not shown interest, for the moment, in advertising in the Malayalan editions. However, as India is a growing market and there is an important cooperation between India and the Gulf countries, we hope to end up attracting them. As for today, the share of Malayali newspapers in the Gulf advertising market is very small," he adds.
Although implementing a partnership with a local newspaper could have been cheaper, the Indian newspaper decided to open its own offices in the Gulf and started printing there. Furthermore, the paper is distributed throughout the Gulf countries by local agents.
"We know other newspapers in the area that have published supplements in South Asian languages and it has not necessarily led to an increase in circulation," says Mathew. "For us, Malayala Manorama is 115 years old and we thought that losing our branch would have been a bad idea. If our readers see that we are publishing in another newspaper, they will think that something wrong is happening."
Content The Malayali Manorama in the Gulf focuses on news from Kerala. "Malayali readers want to know what is going on in their homeland. Therefore, we have done five different editions to focus on each of the regions within the Kerala state," Mathew says. "Every edition has five exclusive pages dealing with issues from one of those regions."
Other supplements are published on Fridays about Malayali culture along with the weekend regular supplement that the daily publishes every Sunday in India. "We decided to publish it on Saturdays because the working week in the Gulf begins on Sunday and our aim with this supplement is to capture week-end readers," Mathew says.
Malayala Manorama is one of the largest newspapers in India. It was first published in 1890. With a circulation of 1.5 million, it has fifteen printing centers in India and publishes up to 83 different editions. They are all coordinated from Calicut (SW India).