Abandoning print completely isn’t in the plan for Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. in Sri Lanka. While they’re absolutely seeing a need for mixed media plans and diversifying revenue streams, the company is tweaking its print advertising strategy a bit instead of dropping that side of the business altogether.
Gayani Punchihewa is general manager of advertising at Wijeya and, speaking at the recent South Asia News Media Summit, explained how during and after the COVID pandemic, Sri Lankans flocked to digital and social platforms over traditional print. Wijeya found shifting its focus to those platforms was actually beneficial to the company.
“We could see by using various touchpoints, we could amplify our brand visibility rather than limiting ourselves only to print,” Punchihewa said. “By integrating ourselves with mixed media through digital to social, we were able to amplify our brand visibility and also the cost efficiency.”
As they began producing video content for digital and social platforms, they found this route to be more cost efficient and sustainable to the business than traditional print workflows. Since mobile is dominating in Sri Lanka, Wijeya is seeing huge growth in digital advertising and media content through TikTok and YouTube.
“At the same time, we are seeing the print advertising trends,” she siad. “We have a dedicated loyal readership and with the different ways of regionalized publications and segmentation, geographic segmentation, we have been able to niche focus our publications and the advertising has been changed from a static display advertisement to more for creative forms.”
So Wijeya capitalises on its innovation and having a local connection to its audience to really tailor their content and advertising to niche groups still more attracted to print.
The combination of digital and print needs is what Punchihewa calls the “hybrid present.”
“We have to rely on mixed media strategies to capture diverse audiences and their preferences,” she said. “This is not the future we are talking about. It is the present. So for us to navigate this hybrid present, we have to blend digital and print and it's a very crucial thing. This holistic approach allows us to maximise reach and our advertising revenue as well.”
Wijeya is taking social media and digital and integrating it into its primary print channel to make their offerings more attractive to advertisers and readers. They’re seeing advertising agencies and direct clients both reevaluate how they allocate their budgets between print and digital. In many cases, Wijeya has found success using print as a tool to drive traffic to digital platforms and creating niche publications that offer targeted exposure for specific days of an ad campaign.
“There are traditional displays evolving into more creative formats and hyper-localised campaigns for community engagement,” Punchihewa said. “This is the go-to option for most of the advertisers. And the integration with digital we use QR codes, URLs, and Augmented Reality techniques to seamlessly cross-platform engagement and the print to digital conversion.”
Wijeya is also seeing its advertisers demand transparency when it comes to metrics and measuring the results of a print campaign in conjunction with digital campaigns.
“So we need to combine. We need to give results with what they're doing with the digital and print synergy of complementing digital campaigns with consistent brand messaging using interactive elements,” Punchihewa said. “We do innovative inserts and interactive reader centric approaches. So these types of things are the trends that we see in the Sri Lanka landscape.”
Four-step test of new approach
Wijeya has identified a four-step way to determine if their mixed-media approach is working:
1. Market penetration strategies
Wijeya is using cross-platform promotions with digital print bundles, integrated advertising campaigns, interactive print elements, and real-time reporting of certain events. They also get readers to share their content and promote events they care about.
An example Punchihewa used was an ad they did for World Water Day. When someone went to their Web site homepage, instead of just a pop-up advertisement, they found an immersive experience with images of a water glass being broken and water being wasted to really engage the reader in the issue they were discussing.
2. Product development strategies
Wijeya gives its consumers personalised newsfeeds and displays content tailored to the consumers interests and preferences. They also do event and Webinar coverage and customisable subscriptions.
“We allow our readers to go to our subscription page and decide on which publications, what bundle they want to go for,” Punchihewa said. “The digital integration comes in the form of maybe a social media interview. It can be our digital PR or Web article or web banner placements and sometimes we carry on interactive calls and quizzes.”
Advertisers can see measurable results with this. An example Punchihewa gave was an ad campaign with Unilever. Unilever dramatically reduced its print budget, so her team knew they had to bring in innovative digital or social media concepts.
“So we are promoting their e-commerce platform store at the same time that we are offering them print media integration into the advertisements,” Punchihewa said.
3. Market development strategies
“We have done localised digital content, social media campaigns, digital niche content, and local business spotlights focusing on certain areas,” Punchihewa said.
Wijeya also promotes certain content on TikTok or Instagram that may appeal more to younger generations. They’ve also explored geo targeting their advertising for election periods.
“During the elections when we want to promote a certain candidate on print, we do a segmentation and a geo-targeted tabloid insertion,” Punchihewa said. “We do at the same time the web advertising or the display advertising we do on geo-targeted and collaborative events.”
They’re also able to customise ad packages for smaller businesses or advertisers so they aren’t held to the same rates as larger corporate clients. They can tailor the advertising itself too into very segmented or demo-focused ways.
Wijeya made history in Sri Lanka when it became the first newspaper company to create a magazine for professional women. Capitalising on that, they established an event on International Women’s Day where they offered sponsors certain benefits to entice them to get on board with the event — especially if the sponsor had a female-focused demo.
They did telecasting of live feeds from the event on social media and on other digital platforms with the sponsors displayed prominently.
“When we offer something like this, if we go simply with one proportion of our platforms and go, it’s with the print only with the social media or digital, they may think twice,” she said. “But when we go with the 360-degree solution, the offer was very attractive when they compare it with the other offers at that particular moment.”
The Wijeya of the future
“We need to go for subscription models, freemium approach and innovative pricing models, native advertising and CPM-based campaigns, sponsored content,” Pushihewa said.
They also want to expand their revenue streams using events and workshops, subscription tiers, membership programmes, and other collaborations. They’ll have to continue the battle to evolve with the fast-changing consumer preferences, culture changes within their own company that make some resistant to digital transformation and enhancing transparency and credibility to build trust.
“As I say, the one most adaptable to change is the one that survives,” Punchihewa said.