Over 500 students representing universities across the globe set sail on the MV World Odyssey this January for the Spring 2016 Semester at Sea program. Their floating campus will take them around the world to 15 cities in 11 different countries in just over 100 days. Among these world travelers is Paula Pecorella of Stony Brook University, who will serve as a correspondent for The Statesman this semester.
In a time when information is more readily available than ever on the Internet, many news publications around the world are facing drop-offs in readership and circulation.
However, India’s Times Group is actually increasing its readership each year.
Nearly two centuries ago, the Times of India started as a single publication and has since grown into the media conglomerate known as the Times Group. Today it owns companies across all media platforms, including The Times of India, the world’s largest selling English daily newspaper, and The Economic Times, the world’s second largest English business daily.
“The reading culture here is still very strong,” said Rochelle D’Souza, the arts and culture correspondent for the Times of India. “People here have more access to books and newspapers than going on the Internet or having a Kindle.”
D’Souza is referring to the library reading rooms located around the southern state of Kerala. Books and newspapers are laid out for the public to come and use, free of charge. She said on any given day, 50 to 60 people will use these rooms as a means of obtaining news and information.
“People come and sit there, and they read the newspaper, and then they go back home,” she said. “So the readership is actually a lot more than we think it is.”
In order to not let revenue drop off during the ’90s rise of free TV channels and the Internet, the Times Group moved away from the age old model where it relied equally on revenue from advertisements and circulation and began to maximize revenue from advertisements. This is reflected in their cost per newspaper, which remains at about just four rupees, or about six cents in U.S. currency.
While D’Souza said she reads most news on her cell phone out of convenience, she remains a minority in that. She said it’s because the people in India do not trust the online system just yet and that there are some things they simply prefer to do in person.
“If it’s shopping, they prefer to go to the store and touch and feel and buy, and they know ‘OK, nobody is ripping me off. They are giving me the actual deal,’” she said. “It’s the same with newspapers. It’s a culture that Indians wake up in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee, and they sit and read.”
In 2003, the Times of India made history by becoming the world’s first entirely color publication. This all-color model was followed shortly after by other publications such as The Guardian.
Another major change was the introduction of the Student Edition of the Times of India, customized specifically for students to engage them in world affairs and create political awareness from a young age.
With a new generation of Indian people becoming more engaged simultaneously in news and technology, one might worry that the Times of India’s readership could face a similar decline as the rest of the world’s newspaper readership has. Members of the Times of India staff, however, remain unworried.