Good afternoon everyone. My name is Ram, Ramalingam. I'm from Quintype. Welcome to the webinar. Today's webinar is about - CMS for magazine publishers. Along with me, I have Amarnath Govindarajan, who's from Swarajya. Here’s a quick introduction about Amarnath. Amarnath is a digital head of Swarajya which started a few decades back. And he's got quite a number of subscriptions and he's the right person to talk about magazines and subscriptions along with me.
So today's format is going to be a panel discussion along with Amar and we will reserve the question-answer to the end of this session. We'll try to answer as many questions as we can, and based on the time left, probably even if you're not able to answer any questions, we will come back with our responses directly. Thanks. Let's get started.
Before that, a bit of context about Quintype, Quintype is a CMS provider, headless CMS provider. We help publishers to create content, distributed content and monetize content. It's a headless, SaaS based platform. We have been here in industry for close to five years and 100 plus publishers are onboarded on our platform.
Now for the context about this webinar, right, we chose this topic because we saw the trend of what's happening in the print magazine world and we've been speaking to quite a lot of publishers, some of our customers and other prospects and and and quite a lot of very interesting points came out. We wanted to have a webinar on the impact of the digital magazines and the print trend, what we have in the industry. The operation challenges, what we have while you know there are quite a lot of publishers who wanted to continue print plus digital and then probably a different equation on, you know, probably you know keep reducing the print or increasing print and vice versa. So I wanted to talk about that on the topic of how well they are balancing and the challenge is what they go through.
And also probably wanted to talk about a few of the Success factors or success stories I would like to share from our customer base as well of course. Amar is here to give his experience in this regard as well. So without any delays, let's get into this webinar.
So like I said that we have been talking to quite a lot of publishers in the past and very interestingly when we questioned about the “print subscription”, the trend of print subscription, a lot of them did mention about the increased cost of print. There's a specific change which I wouldn't really call a declining trend because it's a mixed bag. A lot of folks still wanted to continue print, magazine, print subscription as such for various reasons. Let's say we definitely want to do at least for the cost and revenue must be definitely they wanted to foray into the digital subscription while a lot of news publishers, news alone, publishers want, have already been into that digital arena.
Print, magazine subscriptions, magazine providers are still you know on the way it is specially in India they're still getting into that trend right. So it's a mixed bag. People wanted to continue to print and then also wanted to start digital subscription. There are a few people who said that no one I'm going to stop printing and am going to start this transition. So it's a mixed bag. So here I would like to take an opinion from Amar as well. Amar, you have been running Swarajya for a while now, initially Swarajya has been put into only for publishing houses and later after you started digital as well and are successfully running that as well. So what's your take on print Amar, I’d like to hear from you.
So what we've done is from the word get go we have actually tried to make the print and digital combination work for us in terms of converting subscriptions. What we've always believed is we thought we could make the print sort of a premium subscription with the digital subscription thrown along with that, right. Of course, in the last one year, 1 1/2 years because of the pandemic, we've sort of seen a spike in digital subscriptions alone.
So the print has actually gone down. But we've always believed in this bundled version that has done very well for us in the last 4-5 years. Obviously the pandemic has changed things. But what we've done also with print is that we want to target the specific audiences, especially in India, the older demographics who prefer to have print copies and also because we are a monthly publication, so our digital content is daily, whereas we print this monthly. So there's a lot of differentiation in the frequency already.
Apart from that, what we've also done is we've made this our print issue by sort of slightly timeless. So it can be a sort of a collectors thing to sort of collect all 12 issues of swarajya here. So it will become a news calendar to be looked at maybe 50 years from now and so on. So there's some sort of collection value also to be a print product. So that is how we have approved the early earlier versions of Swarajya were always only printed obviously, but when we relaunched in 2014, we've been printed. It has always been a combination of but we did not do print alone or digital alone.
Great, great. So what, what's your take on the future? I mean that's a train in the past and now what do you think, say five years from now, I'm sure that it's very difficult to visualize that, but you know, what do you think, what, how do you visualize that?
See, all one vehicle has done is it has taken away the meaning of print. But what print will now do is sort of discover a new meaning for itself, a reason for it to exist, now. Like I said, it could be a collectors issue, it could be mementos. Print would also sort of turn into a premium subscription or premium product that is given away to digital subscribers. The Guardian is already doing it. Print will also sort of become a slightly less frequency product because it will always be around. It would be a monthly or a weekly sort of a product with much more timeless content added onto it, because digital gives you the ability to do more timely, newsy stories on a daily basis. The timeless stuff will naturally get into a much more durable format, if you can call it that.
Absolutely. So on that note, probably I would like to touch upon the cost revenue part, right. I'm just considering that print magazines and digital magazines as two sides, right? So if I need to do a cost versus revenue kind of comparison maybe some people may. Are you saying that you know both are two different ball games and the revenue strategy for a digital business is different from the revenue strategy or print business you know? That's how it works in the world. There are totally, you know, two different worlds now, I mean again it's a Miss mixed that right. Well, I've been talking to a lot of publishers, they say that print, you know, I can't really track my users and the ad revenues and all these things and print, print ad revenues much, much higher than the district revenue. Again, it depends on a lot of other factors. What's your take on that Amar?
Today we find obviously digital is a much more scalable platform. You know if you are looking to reach volumes of 100K200K and much more than that we are a medium size publisher with both sides of all sorts of volumes to print makes a lot of sense in medium sized volumes between 10:25 up to 30 K up 30,000 subscribers. In terms of revenues, right, again depends on what is your strategy for driving subscriptions, right, if you are doing a premium model with much lesser frequency of print, sure. You keep your print along and you will see the print will also drive your digital subscription and the digital will, you know, in turn drive your print also, right?
Advertisements are a different ball game. I don't think there will be a lot of print advertisements left, at least in India in about 5 to 10 years from now. There may exist some sort of goodwill advertising so to speak, which is, you know, not marketing campaigns technically targeting a particular audience for a particular. But rather advertisements in terms of, you know, just being filling up the space sort of advertising.
So I think that is where we will end up going towards the next five years. I think the key to succeeding in print today may also lie in how you use your digital strategy. If you're trying to push digital from an isolation of print and print and isolation of digital, you're not going anywhere, right? So if you can do, if you know how, depending on your product positioning and everything else, how best can you bring these together and drive a unified marketing campaign is where the answer is.
Absolutely, I agree with that point. It's up to the ROI strategies on how the publishing house is deciding. So on that note, I would like to talk about the magazine options. I mean for those who wanted to try a digital magazine for the first time, right, there are several options available in the industry including the Quintype platform. It could be traditionally the PDF kind of option which. God, slowly it's going away from the market because obvious reasons right the privacy and all this stuff. The moment the PDF is available in your front end website or your mobile app, the PDF is out done. I mean it's at the end of life it's going to be circulated in all these things. So but that's one way.
Then comes the digital magazine along the digital landing page types where you will have a landing page for your digital magazine and for every issue of your weekly or monthly we may have a landing page. So that and have backlinks and and and drive the traffic and engagement from pages to each other. Then comes the reader types, right. So where we have this E-paper or ebook flip book reader kind of options where people wanted to have a digital landing page for their magazine plus you know they wanted to give an experience of a flip book reader type so that the audience get the real feel of that they're reading a magazine. Right. So all options are possible. Again, there's no right or wrong way in choosing one option. So before asking Amar probably I wanted to show a few examples on all these items, what we spoke to you and quickly sharing your screen to show.
This is one example where I was talking about the digital magazine, Amar's team is doing in Swarajya. So there is a landing page for a magazine and again they do have print issues as well which have been sent once in a month or so. And there is a landing page for each issue, there's a landing page for the magazine. Each issue has a landing page and all the articles around it are displayed there and traffic can be driven across and subscription links are given. So the other option could be to say these are the only magazine types right. So we're good in this one of our customers, Vikatan, where they have a wide variety of magazines and they do have a magazine landing page and in each issue all the articles with differentiation on how all this is the article is a free article or a paid article and and and and so on. Right. They don't have a PDF option for the same. So at the same time one other version was the flipbook version. I'm going to show that so the flipbook version is with Kamadhenu which is also a publisher, this part of HinduTamil group where they do have a same digital magazine page where there is a flip version available for that, right? So even though the flip version is integrated as a separate plugin from the system, they do believe saying that flip version is something which needs to be there to give the similar magazine feeling, the physical magazine feeling. So these kinds of options are right. So I wanted to go back to Amar and then ask about the thought process behind the way it's being put in Swarajya.
So the way we look at the idea of a magazine is that it is a bunch of articles strung together for different purposes, I mean for its own purpose, right? A print magazine, a print product has a different sort of arrangement or layout to it or or content plug to it. So for example, our print magazine opens with real letters to reader letters from readers, then there are smaller articles which are less than a page, half a page and so on. And then we do feature fiction. And then we have the main cover. I know this sort of reading or scrolling behavior is not what we see on division.
On digital, we advertise our covers for the moment our user clicks on the cover. What we want to show is. The first story would be the cover story that we have that we want the reader to go through, right? Once he's done, we then lead him to the next article and so on. So the reading hierarchy in itself is different between digital. I'm sure this is a much more text intensive product. So maybe you're in a more visually intense product like say an Automobile Magazine or something to do with jewelry, watches, movies, comics, say maybe for them it makes sense to have the flip version. It did not make sense to have the flip version. So we are a much more text oriented product. So not similar to The Economist if you look at their magazine and their. Design language. There's so much more. They cover between 70 to 80 articles in an issue, the articles of how dense and differently packed them, movie magazine or jewelry magazine and so on, right?
So it really depends on what sort of magazine you are and how you want to present your content. It depends on the visual language that you want to use in your product. One approach made sense. Maybe for others the other approaches might be.
Absolutely, absolutely. Thanks for that. And on that note, I wanted to ask about the adoption rate right after you started a digital magazine full-fledged right along with the print copies. How was the journey? Do you want to talk about the adoption rate and how it emerged over time?
Right. So see earlier the print was easy to sell, but this is about seven years ago. But today digital products are much easier to sell. Obviously a market exists for the print. And it continues to be sold, but not, not so much, not in so many volumes. So what we saw is between the last seven years and now there has been a journey of a lot of readers moving from print to digital, right. Uh, users see that a print product makes sense if they are looking at a premium product, if they are looking at slightly different frequencies and so on. Whereas in our case, what we have slowly graduated too is to have the digital itself replicate definitions of the print product except the scrolling and reading experience and content hierarchy and so on. But otherwise largely like you said, we are much more content text intensive media products then your typical magazine on any other topic would be right.
Therefore it made sense, more sense for us to push digital a little bit more than the print. Happy to say the pandemic sort of gave us a pull to our content. So when we started we were 50/50, we had 50% of our subscribers with print and digital subscriptions and only 50% opting for digital. But as brand familiarity grew, we found more and more people switching to digital.
Great, great. So on that note, I want to touch upon one different area which is those publishers who are running digital and print copies together, probably from the editorial room perspective. I want to touch up an area which is how do we write the data, where do we start, how the data flows? There are a lot of publishers still using two different CMS, one for digital, one for print, how the data flows. And the operational challenges on it, right. So it is really challenging.
You know, we did a lot of interviews, a lot of interviews with our publishers, customers. It's really challenging to have two different scammers and probably sometimes two different teams and one for the whole digital team inside. Another thing is take this and put it into the print CMS or write totally different content in the print side or probably they're still hesitant saying that we may have layouting challenges when we take a content from digital space and then put into print. All these things and how the content comes back and then gets updated a little bit, still all those things need to happen on the flight and there are delivery pressures for the content team, right? So on. So one suggestion was very clear, one common thing, everyone wanted to automate as much as they can. They want to reduce the manual. The effort of moving things from one place to another place. So the general suggestion is to write in one place and then syndicate. They get moved to another place automatically as much as they can.
Again, it depends. It cannot be a single thumb rule for everyone. It depends upon the situation, how they're running both the same as and then data being flown from one system to another system though. So we do have a few publishers who are doing a round trip, meaning it will start writing at one CMS. This is bold, our CMS, where data gets flown to. We do have the facilities so we post the data to an external system. You know we need to be updated in the digital source also and sources one data flows into digital and print as two different flows. All sorts of use cases are possible, it could be a journey, could be a workflow where the content team writes an article, someone approves, proof reads the article. Once proofreading is done, someone decides whether it has to go to a print route or a digital route or both.
Print and digital route depends upon the use cases recommended and probably if it is going to both the ways, probably in between we can have a customized workflow where data has been thrown to an external system. And the article continues in the workflow and gets published statistics work given interesting problem cases like you know if print and digital or coexisting the article. There are some publishers who don't want the article to be published in digital first before the article goes into print. So that should be automated. Means that article should not be published, but it should be scheduled and it will be waiting until the print hits the market, hits the stores. And again if there's a subscription, subscriptions that are things come into picture. There could be slight differences in the equation but which we will talk about probably after this. But however, all use cases are possible.
So that's something which I want to highlight. So on saying that I want to hear from Amar, since you have both the workflows you have digital and print as well. How is the data flow happening in Swarajya?
Our biggest strength in terms of managing this. Prioritization is that we are a monthly frequency product, so it's much easier. The volumes are much, much lesser. Suppose it would be so much more difficult to do this for us if it was a daily frequency product, if you're a newspaper for example, or if you were a weekly magazine for example, it would be much more challenging to get all of this sorted out. Monthly we don't have a lot of issues. We are, like you said, our content first flows into the Quintype CMS Bold. And from there it goes to our print product, right.
We will not build anything much more sophisticated than this because for us this is where we are seems to be quite sufficient because once the article enters the production queue, the print queue is completely separate from the digital queue. I suppose some of the problems also happen because you are not very clear about your production priority, is it print or digital, which one gets higher? You know all of those things. So once you have clarity on those things, I don't think organizing a simple workflow around that is so much super trouble, right?
Maybe from a technical perspective, being able to have bidirectional content flow, that may be trouble, but otherwise I don't think it should cost too much. I don't think we have any trouble.
Great, great. And one challenge, Amar, which I was talking to the publisher at the very end, and he was quoting the versions, right? He wanted to have two different versions of the same story, right? The same article. It is a news publisher for that matter. So you wanted to have a detailed media rich representation of the same content in digital, whereas in news, I mean the print, it has to be a toned down version without the required media, right? In digital you have the liberty of showing and video, showing them words and then and a lot more pictures are affordable whereas print is a different ball game. Are you dealing with such a problem? Like I'm talking about, the same content needs to be represented in both the places but two different versions need to be there.
Well I suppose here, this would be quite useful because most of the time what you will see is- one piece of content which is an article if you want to call a unit of a content. That article might have multiple forms. Even with digital you could have multiple formats, you could, you could have formats for high speed connections, you could have a format for different languages, different formats for different languages and so on. But largely see again, for us we are a low frequency monthly product, so not a lot of issues for us. But I suppose even within digital itself I see use cases where you would want different variants of the same article, right?
For example, you could also do something now that you mentioned, you could also do a different variants of articles for depending on readers, readers behavior for a particular user has not returned an article earlier in the series. The article that you questioned might be slide, could be slightly, you know, maybe the introduction, paragraphs could be slightly different and so on.
Great, great. Thanks for that. So I'm going get right into subscriptions, which a lot of people wanted to talk about, right. A quick note on subscriptions. There could be a lot more things that's possible in the magazines in perspective subscriptions right apart from. So there could be an overall strategy for how the publishing house wanted to take this. It could be a hard paywall, it could be a soft paywall with metered options into it. Whereas you could have a strategy which says that you know you can read X number of articles post which you know you will be shown with a table kind of things and and forcing people to, take it, subscribe to the magazine. And combos combinations right where you wanted to. You know, you have the option of selling, you know, magazine 1, Magazine 2, magazine 3 for only three months and with the special price and probably magazine one and website article access to this through this great plan, also think all those things are possible, right. So these are subscriptions which at least we have seen with our customers. So I've seen that there's one, one or two subscription options that you are using. What kind of subscription is working for you?
So we believe in bundling, right? Selling subscriptions is hard as it is. So the moment you unbundle, I think it gets a little bit more difficult to sell subscriptions, right. If you sell content also the friction towards making that transactional frictions are there. You have to convince your readers to be able to pull out their credit cards or their phones to pay for every smaller unit. It's a losing game as far as we've seen. Right. So we believe in bundling. We always try to bundle print and digital as much as possible and we try to come out with as simple as possible, we kept unit of subscription that appears at times. So you either buy a one month subscription or two months or six months or 12 months or five years, 10 years and so on, right.
So my own submission is to keep bundle content, bundle it as simply as you know in our simple manner as you can and then so we have not seen great success in unbundling being able to sell 10 rupees ₹20 plans as we've seen other subscribers. We are not very keen on doing it ourselves and we don't think we would have had a great deal of success either.
Bundling is a much, much more efficient way to sell content on the Internet.
So do you think that having a magazine, I'm sure that Swarajya writes a lot more articles apart from magazines also right on the website. So do you see traffic driven both the ways like some subscribers who are, you know, who are following Swarajya for years now because they are following Swarajya, the traffic is driven to the website and vice versa and you know a lot more people traffic getting up to the website and then started getting some, you know, subscribing. Magazine articles. So do you see that kind of trend coming?
Such a trend might be visible in print products, which are daily frequency print products, but not so much in the digital magazine. The magazine world exists in its own ecosystem. I don't think a reader was picking up a piece of magazine and going through content. Good content, immersive content will want to lay, yeah, you know, leave his magazine back on the desk and pick up the phone at any moment of time. Obviously over a long period of time, cross pollination will always happen, but I don't think you could look at it as a transactional. And where you will drive traffic from print to digital. Maybe the best that you can hope for is to be able to sell print subscriptions using your digital channel. Cross pollination or longer term inorganic, organic but organic stuff will happen. But you know, don't expect page views from because you have a print product and people will come here to read which could be a waste of your real estate space on printed.
I see, great. So probably we should talk about the future a bit. Future of the magazines assets, right? So there was a very interesting discussion we had some time back among the engineering group and so that's the “issue”, the format of issue monthly, weekly kind of frequency, does it make sense in the digital world when you know probably it's a lineage which we are following from the print world. But after moving to digital does it make sense. Why this topic actually came into the station is digital, you have the flexibility of representing and then pushing the content to the end user as early as you could, right? And the end user can choose what he wants to read and not necessarily need to go through all that tickets which are grouped in a bundle called issues and and and a lot more flexibility he gets right now. What do you think about this point? I mean what's your take on it? Do you think issues are going to exist in the future?
Yeah, issues will always exist and it is best to think of putting a print product as a collection of articles that are delivered at a particular frequency. You know, on digital, the luxury that you have is you have to move the entire frequency pattern and you can do as many as you want. You could potentially organize a bunch of content on the basis of entities or people involved or on the basis of a particular event, on the basis of a particular. Sub categories like industry, teams and you name it , whereas these are not available on our print product where you're stuck to a particular frequency and just talking and you're stuck to a particular format with its own content hierarchy and so on. So there's no reason you should not take advantage of how you bundle your issue for safety. And also another thing is given the explosion of content, I think people are also looking for ways to access it well. Curated content, discrete chunks of information that are well curated and give you a sense of completion. Right now you can do all sorts of things using issues or categories or content collections or whatever you want to know how you organize it.
Yeah, I mean that's a very interesting point. You brought curation, right. So in digital you get to have the flexibility of the editor to curate the content on the fly. And probably to give an example, I probably wanted to pick up a topic which has been published over 20 to 35 years and pick up all the articles on the fly and make a supplement out of it. Those kinds of forms we could think over of this that those kinds of flexibilities, you know probably you might want to pull out all the articles tagged with specific. You know a specific topic. What other forms do you think it can take apart from supplements, right? Supplements are one thing which I can think. Say weekend specials or festival specials and all this stuff. Do you foresee any other forms of bundles as such Amar?
One such that the people have been trying, I believe large media organizations with much larger IT teams have been trying and have been succeeding is being able to do this bundling in a much more subtle form, not call it a bundle and not actually asking user to, you know go through this bundles landing page, open it and do it. Only content plan that actually happens in a much more subtle form is when you are able to customize and decide what is the next article that you want to show the reader after a particular one. Obviously if you're collecting data about you know, the users reading habits or geography or time, so also the amount of customization you can do in terms of what content to showcase to a reader, this is much better than these. So these things have been happening. If you take a little bit more time for it to you know turn up to be implemented by smaller CMS companies and then you know, for smaller publishers to pick up. But yes, I mean bundling will happen much more certainly as much as it happens in a much more obvious and explicit way.
Great. That's very interesting. Thanks for the insight. So I wanted to talk about challenges that we can foresee in the future, right especially the digital magazines because probably let's say that five years, 10 years from now the print, you know I'm not saying that we're going to stop it, but if it is reducing this trend and digital is increasing you see any risk? Do you have any piece of advice for those publishers who are thinking about getting into a digital subscription, especially for magazines, right? Did you want to, you know, give them some tips on that front?
And I think the key is to find the correct reason for the magazine for the print product to exist. And if you cannot think of three good reasons for your print product to exist, don't do your print product. But if you can think of very good reasons, you know my magazine is a collectors edition. Everybody wants to keep a copy of it at home. Magazine offers a much more immersive reading experience and much more particular topic running over 5000 words per article and it is best read on a physical product then on digital. Yes, then keep your print product. My migraine is a weekend that is meant to, you know, supplement a relaxing reading experience over the weekend. Yes, sure. So if you have a good reason to keep your magazine, yes. But if you are looking to keep a permanent product because of legacy, maybe not so much. And if you, if you have an active digital readership and then I don't see why people in production like this. But that doesn't mean you don't try and invent a new reason for your product to exist. We've certainly done so. I see the Guardian has certainly done so. Quite a few other publishers. That's right. So reinvent, reimagine a new reason for the product to exist and you should be doing it.
Hey, I mean that's a very useful insight. I mean I think at the end of this session, thanks for attending the webinar. Thanks once again.