Harsha Mathew, chief resident editor and director at Malayala Manorama, has a job bigger than most in the industry, literally. Malayala Manorama has a long history in India, having published its first edition in 1890.
Today, the news media company produces 11 editions reaching all 14 districts of Kerala, India; Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai in India; and Dubai, Bahrain, and Doha in the Middle East. Written in Malayalam, one of India’s 22 official languages, the newspaper is ranked among the top six most-circulated in the country and is ranked 14th in the world.
That totals 2.4 million daily copies. In addition, the company also has print, digital, magazine, television, and radio subsidiaries. Malayala Manorama’s digital arm includes various apps; more than 14 Web sites, including manoramaonline.com; and a digital newspaper for kids, just launched in January 2019.
How does Mathew, a member of INMA South Asia Division board of directors, keep his audience buying and engaged?
We asked him.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of at this moment?
Mathew: We have been able to achieve almost 2.4 million daily copies in circulation for Malayala Manorama. Most of our products are doing well.
INMA: Describe one or two things you have done to accomplish that?
Mathew: We do sampling of copies to prospective buyers of our daily and other publications at their homes, and our salespeople personally try and prevail upon them to subscribe to our newspaper. Even in homes where we are not able to get a customer, we distribute an attractive pamphlet that highlights the positive elements of our newspaper. [We also] have different interactive reader games every couple of months in the newspaper. [For example] we offer the online Daily Quiz based on the contents of that day’s newspaper.
INMA: What are some of your recent successful initiatives?
Mathew: [We have been able to do] targeted selling by having better consumer insights through reader panels, focus group interviews, and through primary market research as and when found necessary. Use of more technology has helped prevent wasteful expenditures in manpower.
INMA: What concerns make you pace the floor at night?
Mathew: The rise of a new generation that doesn’t like to read. We need to bring them on board by catering to news or have content that they like. Second, I am concerned that the future may bring a decline in print advertising.
INMA: What did you learn in 2018 that will shape your leadership in 2019?
Mathew: [We] found new ways to increase productivity and efficiency within the organisation by having professional and systematic evaluation meetings at frequent intervals for all verticals and operations.