Chennai: Interesting days are ahead for the Tamil newspaper reader. At a time when English dailies are available for Re1 (Deccan Chronicle) and Rs1.50 (Indian Express), the Tamil daily subscribers were paying as much as Rs4 per day for their copies. And now the scene is changing.
Giving jitters to the existing players is Kalanithi Maran's Sun Network, which owns the Sun TV channels. The group, which took over the Dinakaran group of publications, has aggressively relaunched the eveninger Tamizh Murasu. (Murasu means a drum in Tamil)
The eight-page Tamizh Murasu was relaunched a couple of days ago in Chennai as a 20- page colour tabloid. Though priced at Rs2 , the net price works out to Re1 as the paper comes with a free gift - a subscription strategy successfully implemented to boost the circulation of Sun Network's Kungumum magazine.
Interestingly the other Tamil evening dailies -Malai Malar and Malai Murasu are priced Rs3 while Makkal Kural is priced Rs2. However, the number of pages they provide range from four to eight.
The Tamizh Murasu launch was preceded with high decibel advertising on the Sun Networks leading channel with the ad line, nachunu irruku, which translates loosely to "solid punch" in English.
The copies sold like hot cakes on the first day with school children buying the paper asking for nachunu irruku rather than Tamizh Murasu. While the student's interest in the paper could be attributed to the free gift of a ballpoint pen, shopkeepers were flummoxed by the demand even from adults.
It is learnt that the first three days have seen sales of whopping one lakh copiesdaily, even when there was no sizzling news. Normally evening papers get sold out only when there is hot news.
According to media observers, the challenge lies in sustaining this tempo. As Tamizh Murasu hits the news stands at 3:00 pm the edition would have to close atleast by 1.30 pm. And the newspaper has to find the day's spotlight news by that time. However, the Sun TV news channels are there to provide the main news for the paper.
The immediate impact of the Tamizh Murasu relaunch, according to industrywatchers, is likely to be on Malai Murasu, another group publication. Even the English evening dailies - News Today (priced Rs3, 8 pages), Trinity Mirror (priced Rs2, 8 pages) are likely to feel the impact of a 20-page paper priced at Rs2.
The publishers plan to launch editions of the Tamizh Murasu in other cities in Tamil Nadu as well.
Meanwhile, the major Tamil dailies are adopting a wait and watch policy to the planned relaunch of Dinakaran, the third-largest circulating daily in Tamil Nadu after Daily Thanthi and Dinamalar. While industry officials predict an aggressive pricing strategy from Sun Network group, they are not taking any proactive action.
According to an official of a leading Tamil daily, the launch of Re1-Deccan Chronicle in Chennai has not adversely affected the circulation of The Hindu.
The media action, though not as hyped as in Mumbai a few months back, has been no less exciting for readers and media watchers in the South, with talks in media circles invariably veering to "the Sun's ambitious game plans", since in this politically sensitive state, media ownership often translates in to political gains and electoral advantage.