Newsprint getting bigger in Himachal as Shimla Press Club celebrates its Silver Jubilee


The Shimla Press Club is celebrating its silver jubilee this year. I must have been seven-year-old when the Shimla Press Club came about. That was also the age when I was introduced to newspapers at home. I thought only The Tribune existed in the English category and in the Hindi – Veer Pratap and Punjab Kesari. While no trace of Veer Pratap can be found today, Punjab Kesari is still going strong, with over a lakh copies circulated in entire Himachal Pradesh, and is the No.1 Hindi paper in the state.

Amongst English newspapers, The Tribune still is the most-circulated newspaper with a circulation of around 37,000 copies, as per Audit Bureau of Circulation (July-December, 2007). The No. 2 English newspaper – Hindustan Times is far behind with an average circulation of 6,575, and at No. 3 is The Times of India (around 6,000). Indian Express does not get itself audited. Over all, the circulation of newspapers (both English and Hindi) in Himachal Pradesh is not more than 3.5 lakh copies. That is a small number if you look at the educated population of Himachal Pradesh, which happens to be the second-most literate state (literacy rate: 77.13 %, as per 2001 Census) in India, after Kerala. The population of the state as per 2001 Census is 60,77,248.

Some newspapers may argue their number-game status on the basis of Readership, which differs from Circulation.  Though, newspapers may cry hoarse that media planners do not account circulation figures, but go by the figures thrown by Indian Readership Survey done by MRUC (Media Research Users Council), I’ll still prefer to quote circulation figures as one, circulation figures are more authentic and are audited; and two, IRS is based more on a sample size, which may not reflect the true picture; and three, recently Hindi daily – Naidunia (an Indore – Madhya Pradesh, based paper) and Oriya daily, Pragativadi, have sued MRUC for putting readership much below their circulation. How can that be possible?

Any ways, coming back to the topic, the newspaper reading habit in Himachal was inculcated by Divya Himachal in the ’90s (which today is the third most circulated newspaper in the state, with a circulation of around 64,000 copies). While other newspapers focussed on national news and state politics, the newspaper carried local news, even though frivolous to an extent of the fights between saas-bahus or a cow giving birth to four calves. That created interest amongst local folks who would feel proud that their village was in the newspaper and look forward to the copy of the newspaper, which the rumbling bus would deliver in the afternoon or late evening.

Things have changed since then. Even villages get their copies early in the morning or latest by 10 AM. Improvement in infrastructure – roads and transportation has improved distribution of newspapers. Even the readers’ reading habits have changed. While Punjab Kesari still is enjoyed for its glamour quotient, Amar Ujala has taken over Divya Himachal. The latter while inculcated the reading habit, it also induced hunger in the reader fuelled by television penetration into the rural areas. Readers just didn’t want local news, they wanted to know more about the state politics and what was happening in the nation. For that Divya Himachal was insufficient. Amar Ujala catered that, and is still enjoying the first mover advantage. The big guys, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar have not been able to catch up. While the former has a circulation of about 16,000, the latter which launched its Shimla edition recently, claims to have a print-run of about 25,000 copies.

Himachal till now was being served by newspapers by their Chandigarh or Dharamshala editions. Shimla as a printing centre was not looked at seriously. Only Divya Himachal had a Shimla edition prior to Dainik Bhaskar. Amar Ujala too (which currently serves Himachal from Dharamshala and Chandigarh) would be starting its Shimla edition in the next two months. Dainik Jagran too may come up with its bilingual compact daily i next in the next twelve months.

What’s making the newspapers look at Shimla seriously? It’s the retail growth and growing consumer power. When we talk about consumer power, it’s not about the ability to buy a newspaper, but buy luxuries and brands that need a vehicle to reach out to the consumer. According to a survey conducted by economics research firm, Indicus Analytics, while Shimla ranks ‘third’ in the best cities to ‘reside-in’, behind Kochi and Kozhikode; it ranks fourth on the ‘invest-in’ index, behind Silvassa, Coimbatore and Ludhiana.

As per R K Swamy BBDO Guide to Urban Markets, Shimla ranks fifth on the ‘Top 10 Towns demanding high priced Consumer Durables’ list. The consumer durables being colour TV, fridge, VCR, washing machine, music system, two-wheeler and car – priced over Rs 6,000. Shimla scores 497 per 1,000 on this list, which is lead by Chandigarh, Panaji, Vadodara, Guwahati and then Shimla. For the record, Delhi ranks seventh.

As cable penetration is low in rural areas, the only vehicle available for brands to reach consumers is the radio, or Doordarshan, as of now, and to some extent the newspaper. Newspapers cannot ignore this growing consumerism and the imminent need of the advertiser. Just look at Shimla. It’s got the brands coming in – Reebok with its exclusive store, Cafe Coffee Day, Barista, McDonald’s and more. The road-network is demanding cars and retail chains like Amartex are already there.

When The Tribune launched Himachal Plus, last year, it was evident that newspapers have realised the potential Himachal has in terms of readers and advertisers. However, it’s the big newspapers, with deep pockets like Hindustan Times and The Times of India who’ve not come up with supplements on the lines of HT City or Delhi Times. That’s perturbing. The answer usually from the editorial team is that “there is not enough news to fill up one single page, how are we going to fill up a supplement.” I wonder, how do Hindi newspapers fill up their pages then?

If these papers do come up with a Shimla City supplement, I’m sure the readers will lap up the newspaper. So where’s the editorial material for these supplements? If not entirely a Page 3 supplement, they can have a supplement on the lines of Express Newsline (of Indian Express), which covers local news and have one page (like the Talk page) for Page 3. Shimla has a lot of Page 3 material. With one or the other function going on at Kali Bari Hall, Gaiety Theatre, Hotel Holiday Home, Golf Course, Shimla Club, one or the other film shooting going on, some adventure sports, fashion shows and contests are always on – there’s lot of material for the pages. Yet all have turned a blind eye to this. While these events themselves can be big advertisers – I’m sure, if a local retailer can advertise on a local cable channel, he can advertise in these supplements as well. If still they believe that nothing is happening in Shimla, what are these dozens of event management companies doing in Shimla that have cropped up in the past two years? Moreover, can you ignore the youth? Shimla is an education hub with one of the best public schools. The entire Himachal youth comes to Shimla to pursue its graduation and post-graduation studies. Can we forget that there are private universities coming to Shimla like the Jaypee University. Education is one big advertiser.

The newspapers may have their reasons not to bring out a supplement as it may shoot up their printing costs, but the local cable channels and FM channels will certainly leverage on this. They may even tie-up as sponsors of these events. Newspapers certainly can take a cue from these channels. Meanwhile, they’ll have to find their niche. For example, the local advertising in these newspapers can come from local real estate and the education sector. They need not depend for government Tender advertisements only. DLF, Omaxe are planning to come in a big way into Himachal. The education sector too is on the rise. Newspapers cannot ignore Himachal any more. So happy reading.

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A perfect story-teller, who is madly in love with the hills. Shimla is his first love, and probably the last too. Won't get tired reading Rudyard Kipling. Hopes to pick up poetry again soon.

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  1. Dear sir,
    I am shocked to see the news article ”Newsprint getting bigger in Himachal as Shimla Press Club celebrates its Silver Jubilee” written by Vividhaditya.
    as there is no mention of Hindi daily Jansatta which virtually first time devoted three full pages for Himachal Pradesh readers in its’ special pullout ‘Himsatta’. It not only carried material on the rich culture, heritage and history of the state but also gave historical background and importance of villages of the state under very popular column ”Aik Gaon”. Infect, all other newspapers followed us (Jansatta/Himsatta) in giving special pages for Himachal Pradesh. Due to certain reasons Chandigarh edition of the Jansatta from was suspended in Feb 2000, however, in May 2007 it was relaunched with 2 pages for Himachal Pradesh with Himsatta. I feel surprised over ignorance of the writer about Jansatta and Himsatta in this article.


    Rakesh Rocky,
    Bureau Chief,
    Jansatta, Shimla.
    Mob: (Removed by Moderator)

  2. Dear Rakeshji,
    Thanks for updating me. I somehow, missed Jansatta, but that’s the beauty of the web and grassroots journalism that collectively we can share information.

    Jansatta was not left out deliberately. You can call it as a “far from reality” syndrome, which I accept to, as I’m in Delhi and have depended on figures and facts doled out by ABC and IRS. Also, Express has been a very secretive organisation, not giving out details. To be honest, as a print analyst, I haven’t figured out how to crack Express and HT. HT has a lot of protocols and pass on the buck from one person to another. The grapevine says, HT in Delhi has more than 150 VPs, so there is always this tug-of-war. Express on the other hand, has only one spokesperson, who most of the time is not available for comments. While, the Marketing department of Express may tell advertisers the circulation or Readership as ‘X’, but insiders have told me that the copies of IE in Shimla is just (let me not reveal the figure in public domain) but in other words very bad. But the same may not apply for Jansatta.

    But overall, it remains to be seen how innovative newspapers can get and help the market grow. Also, I’ve heard that Times of India too has come up with a Supplement, which is not supported by the Editorial team, but is a one man effort from the Marketing Department.

    Let me say, that there are people in the Editorial Team of most of the newspapers in Shimla, who’ve got a life-long pension and are contended with whatever is coming. While we talk about nepotism and corruption in other departments, Shimla has many people in the Editorial team, who are there because of their strong links in Chandigarh or Delhi. The need currently is to innovate. That will not only help the market grow, but raise bars – more jobs, and raise salaries. Salaries of media persons in Shimla are stagnating and Seniors are contended having Stringers, as that does not threaten their positions. Staffers, that may turn out to be talented, may threaten their positions and may put their pensions at risk.

    Recently, at a Forum – Indian Newspaper Congress, held in Delhi, Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN, rightly said that, rather than the politicians there are two fraternities that need sting operations to be carried on – the media (especially the Editors and the Judiciary). There has to be accountability. There is a dearth of leaders, even in the media industry.

    But I must thank you for updating about Himsatta, – which I was not aware of – and not only me but the readers as well. Thanks once again.

  3. Dear Vividhaditya ji,
    In my opinion it is not the circulation which much matters for a newspaper but the credibility and the impact of its stories. Also the courage to raise the issues of the people and expose the wrong doings in the system.
    Both ‘The Indian Express’ and ‘Jansatta’ with their stories have special place in the field of journalism.


    rakesh rocky,

  4. I am in a great company of the journos here and would like to comment from a reader’s viewpoint.

    Punjab Kesari was a household name during my childhood days till the time they started publishing semi nude pics on the front page which Vividh has modestly termed as glamour quotient. With teen aged sons and daughters at home the elders starting frowning seeing those pics and in came Jansatta

    I feel Jansatta was a great newspaper. The editorial page was the strongest point of this newspaper and being run by stalwarts like Om Thanvi from Chandigarh and Prabhash Joshi as the founder editor nothing could go wrong. The punch line was even smarter Sach kehna ki himmat aur kahne ka salika – Jansatta Reporting was not easy during these times as militancy was at its peak in Punjab but the newspaper did a splendid job carrying the torch of journalism alive.

    English papers in the region have a snob value attached to it. They are the snotty western wannabe. The one with the longest nose has been The Tribune. In the early 80s it was blatently pro Khalistan during the tenure of Prem Bhatia, I guess, to the extent that people switched over to Indian Express during this phase. Tribune has always ignored Himachal and the region and is basically a Punjab oriented newspapers. Though it has maintained a strong editorial page all through out. During the apple farmers agitation in the 90s one of its editorial termed the apple farmers as ‘Sheikhs of Himachal’ and supported the govt’s crackdown on the protesting farmers. It was a South Indian, forgetting the name here, who was the EIC then. This chap had virtually no knowledge of the region but was a great philospher and his Sunday articles were a treat to read. Tribune still maintains the snob value and one can judge from the letter to editor coloumn where hardly any letters from Himachal are published and only a selected few from the state gets mentioned in the newspaper.

    It was when the HT started denting into its circulation and the Hindi newspapers starting reporting from every nook and corner from the state that Tribune woke up and now gives 2 pages for Himachal which are basically nothing but press notes. Hardly any qualitative or issue based news is offered. Earlier Himachal page used to ne number 7 or 8 and that too with one or a half coloumn of news and the rest used to be the Tender Notices on this page!

    Indian Express had always the fear quotent attached to it and the govt of the day used to be scared of this newspaper for its embarassing reporting. It somehow lost its focus and is non existant these days.

    English papers have been missing the pulse of the readers and it is the Hindi dailies like Amar Ujala and Divya Himachal which rule the roost here in Himcahal.

  5. Vividhaditya,
    Let me correct you The Indian Express does not just survive on circulation and it is the content which has shaken many government’s in the past. And ur commnet on the editorial teams in Shimla is biased because whatever needs to be done is happening here and the rest depends upon the editorial policy of a newspaper.

  6. @ Rakeshji

    I agree with you that it’s the credibility of the newspaper that matters most. At the same time, what matters is the Reach as well, so that an Impact is made. Especially, after the division in IE and formation of The New Indian Express (in South India), IE has not done its marketing well to increase its reach. They may have their own reasons, as I said that it may shoot up their printing costs without any support from the advertisers and mostly depending on Govt advertising. But this is a Catch 22 situation, which even Naidunia’s CEO, Vinay Chhajlani raised at the Indian Newspaper Congress that you have to tread on an uncomfortable line. The point raised was that at times, the Marketing Team calls up in the middle of the night that a particular story cannot go as it may hurt their client and ad-support. The issue was raised that since the ’90s there have been hitting stories on environment and politicians but no story on the Corporate World, except for Dhirubhai Ambani – and that’s been ages.

    However, the point here is there is potential for the market to grow and expand, and somebody will do it sooner or later. Currently, I see the scenario in Madhya Pradesh, which was lying to be tapped for long and suddenly there is a spurt of newspapers going into the region.

    The same could happen to Himachal, but the problem is a lack of Editorial Motivation of Bureau Heads in Shimla, who do not want to explore or be adventurous enough to tap the audience. There is an audience – the youth – that is slowly getting away from reading newspapers. Even initiatives like Newspaper in Education (NiE) are not helping much. It only helps in raddi.

    Everyone will have to find their niche. What do the youth need today? They are far from politics. Their concern is – Why do they have to go out of the state for Jobs? Why don’t newspapers inculcate or educate on entrepreneurship in Himachal, which the Himachali youth lack so much. Why don’t newspapers capture this untapped segment – the youth.

    The newspapers still are catering to the babus, the ministers or the bureaucrats. How many Editorial Heads in Shimla will turn down a junket by a Minister?

    The job of a newspaper today is not to just give news but information as well. While newspapers in Delhi take a lot of pains during DU admissions and even open Counselling centres – not only to tap the youth and bring loyalty but as a CSR as well, how many newspapers in Shimla take upon themselves to open centres, or educate the youth about courses available in HPU or other institutes or educate them about alternate career oriented courses and how they could venture and start on their own without leaving the state and earn their living.

    However, the intention of the article was that there is a demand and supply is not meeting that. And if newspapers think that there aren’t advertisers, they are wrong. Newspapers should seriously look at Himachal. They have information on education that they can give and at the same time, this sector can besides Real Estate become one of the biggest advertisers. I hope the bigwigs in Delhi are listening. And may that shake up the complacency of the Editorial Heads in Shimla too.

  7. Rajdeep Sardesai of CNN-IBN, rightly said that, rather than the politicians there are two fraternities that need sting operations to be carried on – the media…

    Now this is getting interesting. Vividh anything in particular we may be missing here with regards to Himachal.

    On a lighter vain.. (disclaimer: This is meant to be a joke, no offense intended. Apology tendered in advance in case anyone is still offended!!)..I have noticed that the press conferences at Ashiana and Holiday Home have 200% attendance when called during lunch hours and it is the stringers attending if called after 3 pm.

  8. @ Hema

    There are no two doubts that IE has shaken governments in the past. I still remember “The Rape of the Rock” that not only shook the state government but the centre as well and along with it the judiciary. But how long can a paper survive without money. There are two streams of revenue for a newspaper – the cover price and advertisements. IE neither has a circulation nor has advertisements. Only God knows how it is surviving? And for how long will it be able to survive? Though even there’s Tehelka, which mostly is being funded and has no advertisers.

    As far as the Editorial Policy is concerned, do you want me to take names in the public domain about these royals who have strong connections in Chandigarh or Delhi and have been getting jobs in newspapers for their kith and kin because of their links and there’s been a case where this relative was called back to Chandigarh (from either Ludhiana or Jalandhar) for his/her bungling there. But s/he wasn’t fired because s/he was a relative of one of the Editorial Heads in Shimla who has a strong link up in Chandigarh. There are many such cases. Please don’t force me to take names, and let’s keep these discussions for over a cup of coffee/tea.

    Let’s use this forum to debate, how the market can be grown and how Shimla can invite more investment in media. In spite of high consumer power it still remains untapped. Why so?

    As Nityin has rightly pointed, editorial teams in Shimla are contended rehashing Press Releases, or visiting Google News, that if any website has carried any news or not, which can be copy-pasted and rewritten. And that’s exactly the reason, we’ve refrained from putting Press Releases (We’ve left that job to our Competitors, and let the lethargic media in Shimla, copy-paste Press releases from them. They can’t even copy-paste it from but have to go to our Competitor to Copy-Paste those releases), and stuck to our main goal of being a Think-Tank. We don’t want to create a fear in the Government, but we want to – let’s say – be Bhagidaari – in the progress of the state; give ideas to the government and help the state grow.

    If there is one special story the media carries, the same story appears within a gap of two-three days in another newspaper. The reporters want to enjoy. One of them takes the task of reporting while other roam around, and later send the story to the other reporter. The second reporter rewrites it, and that becomes a Byline story, not even a Bureau story.

    Please Hema, give this “pious media” lecture to someone who’s not seen media closely. I’ve been a part and parcel of it for the past six years now. And more so, my job is not to track politicians, or the bureaucrats, but the media itself. If your Address Book is full of names of politicians, bureaucrats, my address book is full of names of Publishers, CEOs to VPs, Editors, and Marketing Heads of Media Circle, whether be from Print, TV or Internet. I know, how Shimla’s media is functioning and why so IE does not get itself audited by the ABC? Why’s it not concentrating on making itself reach to a wide section of the readers? What stops it? Even The New Indian Express is doing far better in the South, with the same spirit of journalism. Even so The Hindu in Chennai? The Hindu gets about 10 copies in HPU and about 20 copies on The Mall. That’s what I’ve seen. And when I was in Shimla, I used to get the copy of The Hindu (Delhi edition) a day late and that too not through the hawker but had to walk myself to The Mall to get my copy.

    You know very well, how many copies does IE sell in Shimla – in hundreds.

    For the record: as per IRS R2, 2007, Shimla’s Readership is as follows:

    Any English Daily: 22,000
    Any English Monthly: 7,000
    Any English Weekly: 4,000
    Any Hindi Daily: 69,000
    Any Hindi Fortnightly: 4,000
    Any Hindi Monthly: 12,000
    Any Hindi Quarterly: 3,000
    Any Hindi Weekly: 5,000
    Shimla Total: 1,26,000 .

  9. Dear Vividhaditya,
    It seems u are very concerned about the media in Shimla, why do’nt u try to come here and work to imrpoove the things, if they are as worse as u have portrayed. And With whatever u believe I think if you can create such ideal conditions it would be worth working with you. But would you also leave a “better paying job” in the metro to come in the backwaters of Shimla. If yes then this is teh time. Shimla is waiting 🙂

  10. Goodness grief!

    This thread seems to be heading for some serious law & order problem. Instead let’s have some solid arguments to what Vividh has mentioned. Let the docs also go under the knife

  11. Here is an example of media making an ass of itself and shows how little journalistic investigation is in place now. All major newspapers carried a story of Nazi war criminal held in Goa-Karnataka border. The Tribune, Chandigarh also carried this story on July 1 with an impressive heading 88-yr-old Nazi war criminal held The report quotes SM Bidari, ADGP, Intelligence, Karnataka mentioning to the TNS that the accused has been flown to Berlin.

    So far so good..

    This story was a hoax put across by the Pen Pricks, Goa based bloggers. This is how they went about it, as mentioned on there website:

    ….Now the tricky part. The story. The Goan media loves an easy feed. Give them an 800 word press note about a minister inaugurating a public toilet and chances are it should appear the next day, not a word changed. With the Indian media, we needed something idiotic and exotic. The Bach story suited our bill.In fabricating the story, we slipped in a lot of these anagrams PERUS NARKP, MALAK DULAB etc… (There’s nothing that conveys a message quicker and effectively than the fact
    that you’ve been not only proven wrong, but stupid too)
    Then a thought crossed our minds… Since we had included Bach in the story, why don’t we throw in a piano for good effect too? So we included a 18th century piano, the same century Bach was born in.
    Then we turned the heat on a bit more.
    We also stated in the press note that this fictitious SS Colonel Johann Bach too loved music and was a talented musician… And that our fictitious character was sired to Ambrosius Bach
    in Eisenach.

    We mailed this press note to several newspaper houses in Goa. We called three newspapers too introducing ourselves as Hamman Smit, a press official working for the Perus Narkp. The thick German accent seemed to have passed muster. In fact Suhas Belekar who works for a Marathi publication in Goa, Dainik Gomantak appeared happy and grateful to have even spoken to a person of German origin on the other end of phone. Maybe its the Aryan thing…
    Once the story was picked up by the local media, the national newspaper swooped in quite literally like vultures eager to pick prey. The story seems to have really spread quickly over the weekend…

    The story in The Tribune appears by the byline of Shubhadeep Choudhary and surely this journo or a churno (as he happens to be churning stories the copy-paste way) is expert in ‘cooking’ stories and we the gullible junta laps what ever is thrown at us. See what he mentions in his ‘exclusive’ report – Berlin also had information that an old German had bragged about overseeing the genocide of Jews to an Israeli tourist couple in Goa during a rave party a few months ago. The former Nazi had mistaken the couple to be Americans.

    “already flown to Berlin” …muahaha
    and the DGP thinks it is true… great
    “Berlin also had information”… too good to be true!

    Sad reflection how the journos do not even lift their asses to check the stories. Reporting has now become a copy-paste job. Sensationalism seems be the mantra these days. The Tribune is the most amusing thing I have read since the tales of ‘sheikh’ chily. ‘Tribune’ and ‘News’ cannot be put in the same sentence.

    No big surprise to read about catching a Nazi in deep Karnataka forests with intentions to sell a piano. I hope The Tribune gets the piano back. Hats off!

    Pen Pricks

    Siddharth Varadarajan on this episode in the Hindu

    An update to the hoax on Reuters Blogs

  12. Genaralising would be too soft a word. All big newspapers were head over heels to give a twist to this story and later had to cut a sorry figure

    How the entire national media invented the details.

  13. NDTV’s Barkha Dutt gets angry at a blogger who wrote an angry blog on the ‘shoddy journalism’ about her coverage of Mumbai Terror attack. This is the original post and this is the apology tendered later on the blog.

    What happened to the freedom of speech? Does this freedom happens to be the exclusive right of the big media houses? Here is an another link on Intimidation by NDTV.

    Why is the traditional media both in Print and TV conspicuous by their silence on either reporting about the dispute or analysing the implications. Are they showing their solidarity with a fellow jouranalist? or Are they afraid that Barkha Dutt or NDTV would launch a legal attack on them also?

  14. Truly, I’m a lost character.

    Just figured out that this thread which generated much heat elsewhere, was moved to a different location.

    It’s enough that it still holds its place in cyberspace.

  15. your article seems less evaluation about the himachali cause render by divya himachalduring last decade.the credt goes to this newspaper that issues related to himachal are now being discussed even at nation level.go anywhere in india and tell the nation which newspaper represent himachal. there is no doubt that it is divya himachal with its all streants in the service of the state


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