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Interview with Kamlesh Singh, Metro Now

Kamlesh Singh is the editor of Metro Now, which launched 5 February 2007, in Delhi, India.

Kamlesh Singh, 34, is the editor of Metro Now, a 48-page morning tabloid priced at 1 rupee (about 2.2 cents) that made its debut in New Delhi on 5 February 2007.

The paper was launched by Metropolitan Media, a joint venture promoted by the two best-established newspaper chains in New Delhi, the Hindustan Times and the Times of India.

Singh’s varied 11-year career in the print and electronic media began in 1996. He has been associate editor (New Delhi) and resident editor (Ahmedabad) of the daily Asian Age; a deputy editor of Today (the afternoon daily tabloid of the India Today group from New Delhi), and senior editor of CNN-IBN, a television news channel.

Metro Now adds substance, spice and variety to the already rich menu available to New Delhi readers (more than a dozen morning papers in English and Hindi, and two afternoon tabloids).

Singh spoke to newspaper techniques about the thrust, rationale and strengths of Metro Now, which is New Delhi’s first morning tabloid. (The afternoon tabloids are the five-year-old Today and the 15-year-old Delhi Mid-Day, which was recently acquired by Bombay’s Mid-Day Multimedia group).

newspaper techniques: What were the main factors that led to the decision to start this new paper, and when did you begin planning it?

Kamlesh Singh: Delhi already has a Metro rail network, which will expand to become one of the world's largest Metro systems by 2010. Besides, the city has expanded a great deal in the last decade.

Commuting to and from the office takes longer than ever.

There is a growing market for a light, easy read in a compact format for reading during the commute.

nt: Could you explain the basic business model / formula you used when deciding to launch it?

K. Singh: The business model is fairly simple. Catch the young, who find the serious broadsheets intimidating. Catch the professional, who has little time at hand to sit with his or her coffee and the morning daily. Catch the housewife who has not been reading newspapers till now.

nt: What are the most important aspects in making such a decision? What kinds of cost calculation / risk analysis formulas have you used?

K. Singh: I would leave this question for the shareholders. But as far as I can see, it seems to be a win-win proposition.

nt: What is your target readership group? We understand that many of them are Metro rail users. What would be the approximate percentage of non-Metro rail buyers of your newspaper?

K. Singh: At present the larger share of our circulation is delivered to homes.

We are targeting everyone who feels young at heart, but broadly the content is more suitable for people between ages 18 and 35.

nt: What is your approach and strategy concerning advertising?

K. Singh: One new approach is that we are trying to get the small advertiser on board. The modest retailer, who has stayed out, intimidated by the figures quoted by general broadsheets.

nt: How is the newspaper being distributed?

K. Singh: Delivered at home with other newspapers in the morning. Cash sales points in the central business district and other transit points sell it through the day.

nt: What are the goals for the publication for its first year?

K. Singh: We already are the third largest selling newspaper in the city. We aim to be the Delhi commuter's first choice.

nt: What is the size of the editorial staff? How many reporters among them, how many at the desk?

K. Singh: We have a small team of 54 people. 40 reporters and photographers. 14 on the desk.

nt: Have your editorial staff been hired specifically for Metro Now, or were they already with other publications of your groups? Is the accent of recruitment on youth, or is it a blend of youth and experience?

K. Singh: It's an ideal blend of youth and experience. Our city and investigations editors have been in the business for over a decade, but their teams are young. Some fresh out of college. The editorial staff was hired specifically for Metro Now.

nt: Do you have female reporters, subs and writers?

K. Singh: There are more women than men in this office.

nt: Where / how is Metro Now being produced? Where are the editorial offices? Is the newspaper being published with equipment that was already owned by the publishers, or did they need to buy some things
specifically for this new publication?

K. Singh: Metro Now has its own office in Express Building, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi. The newspaper is printed at the HT Press, owned by one of the shareholders.

nt: What is the average number of pages per edition? What’s the price?

K. Singh: 48 pages. The price is 1 rupee.

nt: Do you have a formula for content – is it mainly local, local and national, or international as well? Is the tabloid format inspired by any publication?

K. Singh: Can't claim to have a new formula. 13 pages of Delhi news. Followed by 4 nation pages, 3 world pages, 6 entertainment (not restricted to India) pages, food, fashion, sports etc.

nt: The Times of India and the Hindustan Times, which are traditionally perceived as rival newspaper groups, came together for this venture. This represents a synergy between two of India's foremost media groups. How did this unique partnership come about?

K. Singh: The decision to form a jointly owned company was taken by the two groups to create a segment that didn't exist before this product was launched. A segment focused on commuters and young readers.

It also made business sense to do this jointly instead of launching two products fighting for space while creating it.

nt: Will this new partnership be reflected in future as well, through other ventures?

K. Singh: That's for the shareholders to decide.

nt: How has the response to Metro Now been? Can you provide some examples?

K. Singh: In one word: fabulous. We began printing 100,000 copies by the end of the first week.

nt: Do you think Metro Now is influencing the presentation of other daily newspapers in the capital?

K. Singh: It has already begun doing so. We hope to make other newspapers become a little bolder, more experimental and more dynamic.

This interview was conducted by newspaper techniques correspondent S.R. Madhu.

Page first published: 13.03.2007

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