By using non-conventional circulation tactics, Anandabazar Patrika in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, saw amazing circulation increases and created a new distribution channel that makes the newspaper available to an interested buyer any time of day in even the most remote corner of India’s West Bengal region (except the capital city of Calcutta).

Traditionally, there have been two major newspaper distribution channels: 

  • On-street conventional selling points across a town.

  • Morning doorstep delivery.

Both of these methods have limitations: they are mostly only available in towns and are scarce in what Subhanan Dey, deputy manager of branding, calls the hinterlands (outlying areas). The other limitation is that the conventional selling points are only open in the first half of the day. 

The media company created a new distribution channel by partnering with “almost any” entity that would reach out to potential buyers all through the day, Dey says, offering two examples:

1. Passenger vehicle drivers in Sagar, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal connected to the mainland primarily through steamer service, now sell to passengers. Prior to the launch of this programme, the only way to buy a newspaper was the steamer jetty, where newspapers are dumped in the morning. 

Now, newspapers are loaded onto the vehicles at the jetty in the morning and are for sale in all Tata Magic vehicles that ferry people from the jetty to various corners of the island throughout the day. 

The media company trained vehicle drivers on the best ways to sell newspapers to passengers when they ride in a vehicle, emphasising the strengths of the brand, which can be communicated to passengers. Drivers receive a commission for each copy sold. Dey calls it “a win-win proposition for all stakeholders.” 

2. Anandabazar Patrika has also connected with many non-conventional outlets that sell products other than newspapers, but which have now been converted into newspaper sales points as well. Given their reach, this ensures availability of the newspaper at virtually every corner of a locality. 

Just a few examples include grocery shops, hardware shops, food stalls, tea stalls, photocopy shops, public phone booths, and shops that sell construction materials. 

The impact of these innovative approaches has been that circulation has shot up – especially compared to other Bengali newspapers (where the combined circulation has dropped by 80,000 copies). More than 500 non-conventional outlets opened in a span of a few months. In the process, Anandabazar Patrika has opened up new growth in the rest of the West Bengal market.