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Dhanya Rajendran and Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | September 18, 2014 | 12.17 pm IST

Last updated: September 18, 2014 | 9.09 pm IST

Even as the Times Group and Hindustan Times are having a public argument over circulation figures, the former appears to be carrying out a similar campaign with a Kannada daily in Karnataka.

For four days starting on September 15, The Times of India and Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka have published one advertisement a day, targeting a newspaper for having exaggerated its circulation figures.

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The advertisements were published in the Times Group’s Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka in Kannada. But what is curious is that The Times of India too published the advertisements in English not just in Bangalore, but also in its other main south India editions namely Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi. 

BCCL had bought Vijaya Karnataka in 2006 for around Rs 300 crore from its founder and owner Vijay Sankeshwar. 

All four advertisements published were accompanied by “a pledge” made by Vijaya Karnataka “to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, advertisers, media planners and buyers everywhere”, but each one had a different allegation to make.

The advertisement was designed to resemble a certificate of merit with the caption “For the ethical marketing of newspapers” written on the top. 

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Advertisement 1: “We will not commission unnecessarily high print runs and then proceed to SECRETLY destroy unsold copies in a bonfire.”

Advertisement 2: “We promise NEVER TO FORGET the difference between sold and unsold copies and therefore NEVER TO COUNT copies that are doled out to dealers to inflate our circulation numbers.

Advertisement 3: ““Sell our newspaper OR ELSE” will never be used as a technique to forcibly convert employees into vendors and thereby achieve incredulous circulation numbers.”

Advertisement 4: “Our associate companies will not engage in BUYING copies in bulk EVERY DAY from our dealers as a technique of adding credibility to incredible circulation figures.”

Who was the target of these ads?

According to a senior managerial official of Bennet Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL) who wished to remain anonymous, the advertisement campaign was aimed at Vijayavani, a state-wide newspaper in Karnataka which was launched just two years ago by Vijay Sankeshwar, after his no-competition agreement with the Times Group expired. When contacted, Vijayavani declined to comment.

The official said that the Vijaya Karnataka campaign was in response to Vijayavani’s claims of a circulation of 6 lakh copies which were exaggerated. The official said that Vijaya Karnataka’s circulation was 6.18 lakh copies and that Vijayavani’s had claimed its circulation was 6 lakh.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the most circulated Kannada daily for the period June 2013 to December 2013 is Vijaya Karnataka, with a circulation of 6.24 lakh copies, followed by Prajavani with 5.58 lakh. Vijayavani comes third with 4.85 lakh. These figures are certified up to August 1, 2014, according to the ABC website.

The results of the survey for January to June 2014 have not yet been sent out to all publications or uploaded on the website, but sources confirmed that Vijayavani had received a certificate from the ABC placing its circulation at 6.68 lakh copies. 

The timing of this campaign coincides with a similar tussle over circulation figures that The Times of India is having with Hindustan Times. The two newspapers are competitors in several areas especially New Delhi, which has long been Hindustan Times’ bastion, and Mumbai, which is TOI’s stronghold.

Read: Paper Tigers: The Times of India and Hindustan Times battle it out in New Delhi

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