So yet another Consumer Goods stalwart takes his bow.....from Print. A recent communique announced, the present Publisher of MINT is stepping down (to take on “ a new non-media challenge” outside). Glowing tributes have been paid to him for "one of the most unique media brands (created) in recent memory" and taking MINT and its number of sub-brands (Lounge, Campaign, Livemint.com ) to where they are today. Kudos most well deserved .
Marketing Success or Editorial Excellence
But, the purpose of this post is not to debate the Marketing success of MINT. We shall leave that discussion for another day . I do genuinely believe that MINT would be an excellent case-study of a new print product launch.
Here I would like to take off from a point made by Saurjyesh and also questioned by Sudhir (Syal) – as to “when do product innovations actually begin to kick-in?”. Sudhir has cited the example of the re-launched New Indian Express down South.
Opinion may be divided on the Business Model, Media Marketing, Pricing and Circulation strategy of MINT – but even the worst critic and most biased would agree that, MINT is, arguably, the best editorial product in the country today. The ExEd (now ED) of a “sister” ( nay, I meant - rival !!) publication had told me, in a private conversation, soon after its launch that , MINT is "the ultimate editor’s paper”. And, it has only gotten better since then.
When it started – it clearly differentiated itself not just in format (“compact”) and design (one of Garcia’s finest) - but in setting new standards ( and ethics ) of reportage and practically every element of content.
Along the way, MINT has added many of the “Interactive” features – which Saurjyesh, Sen and all those - from the relatively more developed and mature media markets – who commented on my earlier post ( on the future of print ) have talked about. This includes the LiveMint Blogs (click here to read)– again a first of sorts for an Indian (mainline or financial) paper.
So when did these truly fantastic product features start positively impacting the results in Commercial terms ( and, mind you – I am not talking of ‘break-even’ here !!) ?
Does the Winner take it all ?
I am slightly out of date with the numbers. But, from the little that I know of the Financial Papers space – there are 3 players (BS, HBL and Mint ) who are vying for the No 2 slot with roughly comparable figures. A 4th – the Chronicle – is threatening to storm the bastion. A 5th ( DNA Money) is spreading itself at the bottom in an altogether different segment of the market. And, a biggie ( FT – Network 18) is waiting in the wings to make a splash at an opportune moment.
Among these – although no one can discount the editorial quality of either BS or HBL) , in my opinion, MINT stands out in terms of salience. As someone put it beautifully – MINT is like the I-POD after an era of WALKMANs and Juke-boxes.
Even in a market like Mumbai, where (if I may hazard a guess at the risk of offending friends in the Circulation Dept of HT) I suspect, MINT’s circulation would be roughly the same as that of BS and HBL ( the latter 2, certainly BS, could infact be much higher), I believe it has a relatively greater editorial impact amongst high-end, influential readers. I would even go a step further and argue (inviting greater flak in the process) that on sheer ‘reader connect’ within the same target group it would score even higher than the newer broad-sheet mainline dailies (including the one published from the same stable).
Anecdotal or anecdotage
Of course – these are not based on any empirical research but just my own sense from anecdotal evidence. Be that as it may – the questions I have are:
-how much consumer pull did it manage to create immediately on its launch ? putting it a little differently, would MINT have reached its present level of circulation ( 120k ??) naturally without forced trials thru deep discounted subscriptions or ‘jodi’ offers ?
- would "old fashioned distribution" have worked for a product like this ?
- when will the cash registers start ringing ? would the advertisers see 'value' in a premium product offering like this and be willing to shell out an extra dollar ?
- how far and how fast this would translate into organic growth of circulation;
- would it ever be able to revert to the "traditional" sales and distribution sysyetem moving away from "door-to-door sale call" (PCC) and the "annual subscrition" model?
- how much premium would the consumer be willing to pay on the ‘cover price’ of the product ?
- can the present level of circulation be sustained at ‘full cover price’ and without offers ?
( well, well, I know – Cover Price is immaterial in today’s context. Haven’t we done that topic to death already in this blog. But, I’m asking this purely as an Index of Consumer preference)
Perhaps, we can try and answer some of these over the next few days. Would look forward to hearing from you – both 'insiders' and those who watched the birth of a ‘star’ from a distance (or even some like me who have seen it from a ‘distance within’).
Full Disclosure (in keeping with the MINT protocol) – This post was not influenced by the 'E-i-C 'of Mint giving this humble blog a pride of place among his favourites. It was, however, certainly inspired by the farewell accolades for RB.