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National Publishing Company: Marketing of Children's Fortnightly Magazine

Abraham Koshy
In November 1990, Mr R Saxena, Marketing Manager of National Publishing Company, was considering alternative strategies to improve the sales of "Titli," a children's fortnightly vernacular magazine published by the company. Although Titli was the market leader in the children's periodicals segment, the downward trend in its circulation was causing serious concern to the company. Three factors were particularly worrying for Saxena. First, the circulation of Titli had declined by about 40 per cent after attaining peak sales in 1987. Second, despite an active advertisement campaign which coincided with the withdrawal of another leading children's fortnightly named Children's Delight from the market, Titli did not register any worthwhile increase in its circulation (From the issue which coincided with the withdrawal of Children's Delight, Titli obtained legal rights and started carrying some of the popular cartoon serials which were being carried by Children's Delight earlier and this was highlighted in all the advertisements of Titli). Third, though as a result of promotional schemes (such as time-table cards, name slips, face-masks of animals and mythological characters, etc. given free with the journal), the circulation of the particular issue increased by approximately 10 per cent, subsequent issues did not retain a significant number of the additional buyers. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the situation and to obtain inputs which would help in the decision making, the company had commissioned a study by a professional market research agency. Saxena was studying the market research report submitted by the agency carefully so that he could take appropriate decisions based on a sound diagnosis of the situation.

The Marketing Manager of National Publishing CompanyMr R Saxenais contemplating on the strategies he should adopt to increase the sales of Titli, a children's fortnightly vernacular published by the company. Readers are invited to send their responses on the case to Vikalpa office.
Abraham Koshy is a member of the faculty in the Marketing Area of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The Company
The National Publishing Company was a leading publishing company with several years of experience in the printing and publishing industry. The company had several publications which included a daily newspaper
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as well as weekly, fortnightly, monthly, and yearly journals. Some of the publications were market leaders in its product category. The company had a team of competent editors and managers. The products (publications) of the National Publishing Company were distributed through a system of agents and sub-agents located in all important places in the state. A high proportion of sales volume of most of the periodicals was effected through door delivery at the subscribers' premises and this was done by the agents and sub-agents. Periodicals were also distributed to different shops which, along with other assorted products, also carried different magazines. These shops (usually, pan-beedi type of shops) catered mainly to occasional readers. The company had a network of more than 3,000 agents and sub-agents covering all parts of the state. category of Rs 12,500. The proportion of households belonging to this income category, however, was lower in urban areas (about 67 per cent) when compared with rural areas. Exhibit 2 gives the classification of households into various annual income groups in urban and rural areas in the state. Though Titli was targeted at children in the age group of about 5 years to 12 years, experience indicated that children up to the age of 14 years read and enjoyed Titli. The number of children studying in class I to Xthe classes corresponding to the age of target readers was estimated to be around 60 lakh in 1986-87. Although the number of children was divided somewhat equally between various classes, the lower classes had a slightly higher enrolment than the higher classes. Thus, about 40 per cent of the children belonged to the primary classes (standards I to IV) and the remaining 60 per cent were equally divided between middle (standard V to VII) and high school (standard VIII to X). There was, however, no significant increase in the enrolment in schools; between 1984 to 1987, the average increase was about one per cent per annum. Initially, there were several publications in the children's magazine section. The competitive situation, however, has undergone some changes since the last few years. For instance, in 1985, there were about 20 periodicals/magazines published in the vernacular language and targeted at the children. In 1986, this number increased to 31, but in 1989, there were only nine publications. These were either fortnightly or monthly publications. The combined monthly circulation of all the children's publications was estimated to be about 16 lakh copies. In 1986, there was an increase of about 25 per cent in the total circulation of children's periodicals. But in 1989, the combined circulation declined by about 56 per cent from that of 1986 level. Titli was the market leader in the children's periodicals segment. In 1985, Titli and Children's Delight had 30 per cent market share each. In 1986, Titli's market share was 26 per cent whereas Children's Delight had a share of 23 per cent. In 1989, Children's Delight discontinued publishing and Titli's share rose to 47 per cent. The closest follower by this time had a share of about 14 per cent and the rest of the publications shared the remaining 39 per cent of the market. All the children's publications were targeted at children in the age group of 14 or 15 years and less and followed similar format by and largestories, cartoons,

The Product
Titli carried various features interesting to children between the age of about 5 years and 12 years. Typically, Titli carried about two to three short two-page stories, three or four longer stories, one or at the most two serialized stories, two or three short poems, about seven or eight regular cartoon features (out of which about two were serialized cartoons), tit-bits, and fun and games. In order to cater to the young readers who had just begun to read, the journal carried one story written in simple language and printed in bolder letters. For the purpose of initiating those who had not yet begun to read properly, Titli carried another "read aloud" short story written in rhyming language. The magazine was printed in multiple colour and was liberally illustrated. The size of the periodical was 12 cm x 20 cm. By and large, most of the other children's periodicals followed the same structure in form as well as content. Titli was priced at Rs two per copy. All the competing children's fortnightly publications were in the same price range. Annexure 1 gives the summary of a typical issue of Titli

Market and Competition

The number of households in the state where Titli was published was estimated to be about 52.35 lakh in 1990. The number of households with a household size of 3 to 5 members constituted about 68 per cent of the total households. Exhibit 1 gives the classification of households according to household size in urban and rural areas in the state. A majority of these households (nearly 81 per cent) belonged to the annual income 58

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tit-bits, etc., although some of them concentrated on mythological and historic stories. In addition to such children's publications, there were other magazines such as family magazines, women's magazines, political magazines, etc. Annexure 2 gives a brief description of the major publications available in the state. of Titli, it included households which had bought at least once in the last three months.) The study indicated that 70 per cent of Titli buyers were regular buyers and the remaining 30 per cent were occasional buyers. The regular purchase level of other magazines ranged from 20 per cent to 60 per cent, the remaining being occasional buyers. Thus, for Petals, the regular buyers constituted 50 per cent of total users, whereas for Chand aur Suraj, it was 32 per cent. Guiding Light, on the other hand, had only 23 per cent of regular buyers. The study revealed that, on an average, 1.7 magazines were bought by each buyer household. The study further revealed that about 55 per cent of Titli buyers did not buy any other magazine whereas among the buyers of all other magazines, more than 80 per cent also bought Titli, It was also found that as many as 60 per cent of the households which had children in the target age group read Titli. This was because, in addition to the 45 per cent who bought the magazine, another 15 per cent borrowed it from neighbours or friends.
Purchase of Children's Magazine based on Monthly Household Income

Salient Findings of Market Research Study

The report submitted by the market research agency contained several important information useful for Saxena. This study carried out by the research agency was in two phases. The first phase consisted of a survey to understand the profile and reading habits of magazine readers especially that of Titli readers. The second phase consisted of a series of focus group discussions to understand the attitudes, needs, and expectations of children as well as that of parents with respect to children's magazines. The survey was conducted among households with a monthly income of above Rs 750 having children in the age group of 3-14 years. The respondents were mothers or guardians of children. The sample size for the survey was 3,500 respondents representing various regions of the state. The focus group consisted of 16 groups of children and five groups of parents. Some of the major findings of the market research study are discussed below:
Awareness of Children's Magazines among Parents

There was a high degree of awareness of Titli among respondents; about 76 per cent of them mentioned the magazine spontaneously whereas only about 31 per cent were spontaneously aware of Petals, another competing publication. Little flower, yet another competitor, received an un-aided awareness level of 19 per cent among the respondents. The aided awareness level of all these publications including Titli was about 85 per cent.
Current Purchase Pattern of Children's Magazines

The study indicated that about 33 per cent of households having monthly income up to Rs 1,000 purchased any one of the vernacular magazines whereas about 61 per cent households with a monthly income of over Rs 4,000 purchased a vernacular magazine. The purchase pattern with respect to English magazines, however, was found to vary with difference in income. Thus, only four per cent households with a monthly income up to Rs 1,000 bought any English magazine whereas about 29 per cent households with a monthly income of more than Rs 4,000 bought an English magazine. Exhibit 4 gives the purchase pattern of magazines based on monthly household income.
Profile of Readers of Titli

The study indicated that out of the total households, 51 per cent purchased either a vernacular or an English children's magazine and 49 per cent of the households purchased any one of the vernacular magazines. Exhibit 3 gives the percentage of households buying a children's magazine. (The current buyer of a magazine was defined as a household which bought at least one out of the last six issues of a magazine and in the case
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The children between the age groups of 6 and 11 years constituted about 50 per cent of the readers of children's magazines. For Titli too, this group constituted about 54 per cent of the readers. It was also seen that children between the age group of 6 and 14 years constituted about 75 per cent of the readers while for Titli, this age group constituted about 90 per cent of its readers. Exhibit 5 gives the constitution of the readership base of 59

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children's magazine in general as well as that of Titli. The study also indicated that the readership base of the other major competing children's publications was somewhat similar to that of Titli.
Lapsed Purchase of Titli

From the study, it was seen that among the past buyers of Titli, about 45 per cent had discontinued the magazine over the last two to three years. This group of lapsed buyers consisted of households which had children belonging to the target age group. Exhibit 6 gives the lapsed rate by age of children. The study revealed that very few lapsed buyers of Titli were buying other magazines. This meant that when buyers discontinued buying Titli, they had actually given up buying all children's magazines, rather than shifting to a competitor's magazine. The major reasons for this as mentioned by the respondents were as follows: Affects studies; busy with school work (50%) Easy to borrow from neighbours/library (16%) Expensive (9%) Not interested/interested in other areas like sports/English magazines (7%) Outgrown children's magazine (3%) Availability problems (1%) Other magazines better than Titli (1%)

In the 3-5 age group, the children's primary activity was playing with toys. Reading had hardly any relevance to them. In the 6-8 years segment, playing and watching television were the main activities. However, reading as a major activity began at this age although at a lower key. In the 10-14 years segment, reading of books and magazines was a dominant activity, second only to watching the television. Exhibit 8 gives the main leisure activities of children belonging to different age groups.

Major Findings of Focus Group Discussion

The qualitative research using focus group discussion provided insights into the attitude of the children and the parents to reading, expectations from children's magazines, and predisposition towards children's periodicals in general and Titli in particular. This phase of the study indicated that there were three stages in the "life cycle" of magazine reading, each stage characterized by variations in the attitudes, interests, and expectations from reading. These were as follows: Stage of Active Promotion Most children started reading children's magazines on their own when they were in class III to V. This was a stage when parents actively promoted reading habits and the purchase of magazines was mostly initiated by parents. The main interest of the children at this stage was playing with other children of their own age, many times with their own siblings (since they were not allowed to go out of the house). Although the children watched TV, they did not have high interest and involvement in this activity. For most children in this age group, interest in reading was secondary to that of playing. Parents, however, encouraged reading habits as they felt reading would lead to interest in studies. Purchase of magazines, generally left to the parent's discretion, was occasional rather than regular and brand loyalty among children was low. Both the children and the parents expected more entertainment than information from reading. The children, in particular, looked for picture stories, short stories, games, colouring, etc. The appeal of the magazine was as much through its "window dressing" as through its contents; purchase was heavily influenced by offers of gifts, prizes, posters, etc.

Features Most Liked

The survey of parents also provided some insights into the popular features published in Titli which were preferred by children belonging to various age groups. According to the parents, picture stories like "Friendly Ghost," "Magic Monkey," and "Detective stories" were most popular among children. Exhibit 7 gives the relative preference of various features published in Titli as assessed by the parents.
Leisure Habits of Children

About 90 per cent of the children were exposed to the television medium and this was found to be almost uniform across different age groups. Regular viewing of programmes on the television was found to be about 65 per cent, again uniform across different age groups. It was also noted that the total duration as well as the programmes watched by the children were monitored and controlled by the parents. 60

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Stage of Passive Approval This stage was characterized by a high interest in reading on the part of the children. In general, the children in this group studied in class VI to VIII (age of about 10-12 years). Parental attitude towards reading by this stagehad "cooled down" to that of passive approval, but it was not yet discouraging. Purchase of a magazine at this stage was mainly guided by the children's insistence and the children's choice. The children in this age group also purchased magazines more regularly and were more loyal to specific magazines. Some children, in addition to children's magazines, also started reading science magazines. Although this was due to prompting by the parents and the teachers, they began to genuinely like science magazines. Despite the fact that playing continued to be of great interest to the children, there was a distinct preference towards reading as this was becoming the most enjoyable activity. The parents at the same time were careful to see that reading magazines did not distract the children from studies. Watching of television too was of considerable interest to the children in this age group. Many of them also started some hobbies like collecting stamps, coins, match-box labels, car/motorcycle posters, keeping a pet, etc. Thus, the children in this group had varied interests and activities. Due to a relatively high level of interest in reading, the children in this group exchanged magazines and books between them and even discussed popular stories and features published. The main features in magazines interesting to the children were stories, general knowledge, sports information, etc. The parents expected the children to read stories which would provide moral values and articles which gave scientific and general information/knowledge. There was a marked improvement in the attitude of the parents when children displayed information picked up through reading. Stage of Active Control This was the stage when the children were in classes IX and X. The children in this age group derived a high level of enjoyment from reading; this was an activity 'relished' even more than TV though they had lesser amount of leisure time at their disposal due to increased study load and tuition. This was also a stage marked by a high tendency on the part of the parents to control all the leisure activities of the children. This control asVol. 19, No. 3, July-September 1994

sumed dimensions such as enforcing ban on watching TV, restricting time for playing/reading, etc. The parents were concerned about the children's studies as well as character building at this stage and hence kept a close watch over what the child saw, read, and did during his/her spare time. The children in this age group started exhibiting variations in preferences of features in magazines. They preferred stories which inspired and motivated them; stories which made them "think about the deeper meanings." They were also interested in "thought provoking" articles on general or social issues. The children in this group had a greater desire to seek exposure to the adult world and look for "realistic" values. Parents expected reading to inculcate values of responsibility and develop personality and self-confidence. Reading had a high impact on character and behaviour at this age. The main reading materials for children belonging to this age group were magazines like Titli and science magazines. This was also an age group which indicated a growing penetration of general interest magazines targeted at grown ups like India Today. Such magazines were highly favoured by parents as suitable reading material for children belonging to this group. There was low readership of story books /novels (like Enid Ely ton, Nancy Drew) during this phase. The children regularly 'scanned' headlines, sports, etc. in the newspaper. Image Perceptions of Titli The focus group discussions also indicated that Titli was perceived to be a superior magazine by the children because of elements such as more interesting and diverse stories, more picture stories, more colour, etc. In general, Titli was perceived as a magazine appealing more to 8-12 year old children and, to a lesser extent, 13-14 year old children. Although the younger children were eager to associate themselves with Titli, a few of the older children were embarrassed to be seen reading it as if they were doing something "childish" for their age. Among the parents, the image of Titli was that of a source of "good, harmless entertainment." While some parents were appreciative of the usefulness/informative value of the magazine, the general tendency was to dismiss it as 'light reading.' This tendency, however, was less pronounced among the parents who read Titli and, therefore, knew the contents of the magazine. The parents of older children in particular looked down on Titli as they felt that it was meant for younger children and had no great value for older children. This was one 61

of the reasons for discontinuing the magazine when their children were a little older. It was also seen that the children who seldom bought Titli or any other similar magazine had relatively low exposure to all types of reading. They often belonged to households where the parents did not buy or read any magazines for themselves. These parents were generally passive or unconcerned about reading since they attached little value to reading. Marketing Manager's Concerns Saxena was aware that as the leader in the market, Titli had a significant role to play in the children's publish-

ing market segment. Should Titli be re-positioned? If so, how? Should the target segment for this publication be redefined? If so, which segment should he concentrate on? Saxena was wondering whether he could increase the sales of Titli by taking recourse to such strategies or whether he should consider other courses of action which would be more effective from a long-term strategic perspective. He, however, was certain that any decision taken now would have major implications on the current as well as the future fortunes of the company.

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