Friday, 13 November 2009

Marathi Newspapers on Internet

(Paper presented by Kiran Thakur at the Indo-Russia Conference, held in Hyderabad, from April 11-13, 2008)

The paper documents status of online journalism in Maharashtra, considered to be an advanced state of India, in the area of Information and Communication Technology. It traces the history of online journalism in the state since Marathi daily Kesari launched its web edition, the first in the state, in 1997.

It is based on the outcome of two studies: the first carried out for the initial phase 1995-98 and the second extending up to 2006 which covered 114 dailies online. Two more dailies were added after the study was complete, taking the total number to 116.

The research concluded that except for a few newspapers, most web editions continued to be economically unviable. Production processes remain unchanged in most newspapers. Contents of web editions are shovelled from their parent print editions.

Readership survey indicated that the web editions are accessed from 63 countries, most of the readers being Indians in India and abroad. The study offered demographic profile of the readers and broad indications about their needs, expectations, uses and gratification. The readers are young, highly educated and more interested in news about India, and more specifically about their native places.

Maharashtra is among the 35 states and union territories of India. It is considered to be an advanced state, compared to most others, in terms of industrial development, trade, education and the progress made in the area of Information Technology. Mumbai is its Maharashtra's capital and Nagpur its twin capital. Besides these two important cities, there are other major cities like Pune, known as the state's Cyber capital, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Nashik and Amaravati.

With an area spread over in 307,713 sq km, the state of Maharashtra is divided into 35 administrative districts and has a population of 96,878,627 comprising 50,400,596 males. Literacy rate is 76.9 per cent, male 86 per cent and female 67.

With the initiatives of charity trusts and support from the provincial government, Maharashtra has a very strong network of schools, colleges, and universities spread over the nook and corner of the state. Some of these academic institutions were founded over 150 years ago and have been contributing, with the rest of them, to create social awareness and development of the people.

Thanks to the spread of education and rise in purchasing power of growing number of families, newspaper industry has also been experiencing a boom during the last decade. Number of newspapers published from the state has gone up as also the circulation of dailies. Mumbai is the financial capital of the country, and it is no surprise that this metro has a large number of newspapers published not only in English and state's principal language Marathi but also in other languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Tamil, Kannada, Tamil and so on.

However, it is not only Mumbai that shows growth in number of publication and their circulation. Cities like Pune and Nagpur have recorded growth in this area over the years.

As per the data from Annual Statements received by the Registrar of Newspapers for India for the year 2005-06, the highest numbers of newspapers (with all periodicities) were published in Hindi (4131), followed by English (864), Gujarati (775), Urdu (463) Bengali (445), and Marathi (328). (

Among language dailies, Hindi lead with 942 newspapers followed by 201 in English while Marathi had 130 dailies.

During 2005-06, the largest numbers of newspapers were published from Uttar Pradesh (1913), followed by Delhi (1133), Gujarati (817), Rajasthan (742), Maharashtra (642) and West Bengal (505).

Uttar Pradesh had the largest number of daily newspapers in all languages (384), followed by Maharashtra (206).

Dailies from Uttar Pradesh with a total circulation of 1,34,92,557 copies were at the top, followed by Maharashtra with 1,05,37,174 and Delhi 88,08,045 copies.
Dailies from Uttar Pradesh with a total circulation of 1,34,92,557 copies were at the top, followed by Maharashtra with 1,05,37,174 and Delhi 88,08,045 copies.

The data, thus, indicates that Maharashtra and Marathi newspapers published from the state enjoyed a lead position in India. This position was acquired by the print media in the state as it kept pace with the development in print technology and met challenges posed by electronic media since mid-80s. The newspaper industry in the state adopted modern techniques of offset colour printing and started using computers that were introduced in the country in this period of the 20th century. The newspaper publishers started using Internet for news gathering to e-mail text and photographs for publication after this new medium was made available in the country in 1995.

It was, therefore, important to understand how the Marathi newspapers used Internet to launch their web editions and how the readership responded to these new developments. This researcher undertook two studies of online editions of Indian newspapers, from 1995-1998 and the second for the period 2002-06. The second study was funded by University Grants Commission and was carried out with co-investigator Dr Ujjwala Barve. Both the studies covered web editions of Indian newspapers in different Indian languages, including English.

This paper documents status of online editions of Marathi dailies published from Maharashtra at the end of the second study. This would offer an overview of the status of online editions of the 114 newspapers in all the Indian languages Assamese (01), Bengali (07), English (39), Gujarati (06), Hindi (17), Kannada (04), Malayalam (07), Oriya (04), Punjabi (01), Tamil (06), Telugu (06) and Urdu (04).

The status may change in case of the online editions of major English newspapers which are part of portals, such as The Times of India, The Hindu, The Hindustan Times and the Indian Express.

List of Marathi Newspapers online
It needs to be realised that the online editions are not to be registered with a single authority, unlike the print editions that are legally required to be registered with Registrar of Newspapers for India. Therefore, among the first part of the study was to list the newspapers that have online edition after searching the web and interacting with the publishers.

The data revealed that only 12 from among the 130 Marathi dailies have online editions until the study was completed in 2006. (These do not include web sites in Marathi that do not have print editions.) This works out to around 9 per cent, which is on par with the scenario the world over.

The Marathi newspapers with web sites are as follows:

Table 01. Marathi online newspapers
Sr. no. Name of Newspaper URL / Web Site Address
1 Dainik Aikya

2 Deshdoot

3 Deshonnati

4 Kesari

5 Lokmat

6 Loksatta

7 Maharashtra Times

8 Pudhari

9 Sakal

10 Saamana

11 Tarun Bharat

12 Tarun Bharat

As part of the research, case studies were conducted to document the status of online journalism in the state, with special reference to attitudes of the publishers, production process and economics of the web editions. Key functionaries were interviewed and a structured questionnaire was filled in to record data at their workplaces.

Following data was made available through these case studies:
Case Study 1: Sakaal (
Sakaal is a leading Marathi newspaper published from 1932. Its editions are published from Mumbai, Kolhapur, Nashik, Jalgaon, Aurangabad and Nagpur, besides the main edition brought out from Pune. The web edition was launched on January 26, 2000 and is edited at the Pune office.

The online section is run by News Editor and two sub-editors on the editorial side. A manager looks after advertisements for the web edition and a software engineer takes care of the technical aspect of the edition. The editorial staff works in shifts from 1000-1800, 1500-2200 and 1800-0200. The online edition is uploaded at 3 a.m. after the main print edition begins printing. The site is updated with breaking news. Average hits are 1,80,000 per day.

Judging by the feedback and e-mails the editor receives, the readers are mostly Maharashtrians abroad, but a sizeable number is also from within India. The readers prefer to read news about the State of Maharashtra, Local, Politics, and Marathi Culture.

The editors receive about 10 to 20 e-mailed responses. The figure goes up to more than 100 where are important issues reported on the site.

Readers are mostly in the age group of 20 to 30 years, working mostly in IT sector. A large number of housewives have also started visiting the site. The readers generally want more news about their home towns.

Case Study 2: Lokmat (
Lokmat is the leading Marathi newspaper, headquartered in Nagpur with multiple editions in major cities and towns in Maharashtra. These centres include Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar.

The web edition was launched on July 02, 1998. It has an Online editor, with his headquarters in Pune. He edits the contents and supervises the uploading carried out from 11 centres. He is supported by a team of ten sub-editors.

Pune’s office uploads contents for main page, besides the Pune online edition. The office works in two shifts, with two sub-editors carrying out the upload.

The other centres are responsible to take care of the upload of contents from the respective print edition. They are in touch with the Pune office all the time, particularly for major news of the region so that these stories are included in the main page of the online edition.

Every edition thus uploads a number of stories (ranging from 70 to 100), besides a number of photographs (ranging from 15 to 30).

Every edition has a Main Page and pull-outs focussing only local stories.

FrontPage has 25 to 30 news stories. Lead story has Introduction with photo display. This is followed by three sub-leads and other news with heading display and thumbnails when pictures are available.

Marketing department of the Pune print edition looks after the marketing of There is no dedicated marketing staff for the entire online activity of the newspaper group.

The online edition has achieved direct telecast, direct videocast, videoclips and podcasting of bulletins of important news stories that can be heard if the readers so desire.

Readership of is spread over 63 countries, including India.

The Lokmat’s online department works in two shifts, from 12 noon to 8 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 2.30 a.m. All the centres upload their editions after 3 p.m. Pune page is uploaded at 3 a.m. and main page at 5 p.m.

Hits range from 20,000 to 30,000 a day. The readers are offered 700 news stories and articles through 63 pages of the website.

On an average, the online edition has 700 news stories, six articles, 100 photographs and 20 advertisements.

Readership is dominated by those residing in India. One third of the total readership is in USA, followed by a miniscule in UK and rest of Europe and UAE.

Readers prefer crime news, local news of every edition, Maharashtra state news, Sports, National, Political, agriculture, Art and culture, science, technology and business news, in that order.

The editor receives feedback from 30 to 50 visitors every day.

Case Study 3: Tarun Bharat (Nagpur) (
The web edition was launched on September 26 1999. There is no dedicated editorial staff for the web edition. The person in the system department looks after uploading of the contents of the print edition onto the web site.

He works for three hours to upload the contents at 7 a.m. and the updates are carried out at 1100 hrs, 1500 hrs, 1900 hrs, 2300 hrs. The web site receives 350 to 400 hits on working days, 200 for non-working days

The web site contents include 20 to 40 news stories, 5-6 articles, 2-3 photographs and has no advertisement.

Readers are located mostly in US and Europe.

Case Study 4: Maharashtra Times (
The newspaper is a part of the Times of India group of newspapers and the website belongs to a separate entity, the portal
The editorial department of the web edition has a content editor who is assisted by two sub-editors. The edition was launched in March 2000. The department works in shifts 1100 to 1930 hrs and 1700 to 0130. The edition is uploaded at 1.30 a.m. and updated when there is a major story during the day.

The web site has around 100 news stories, 15 articles, upto ten photographs and about five advertisements on the home page. Average hits received by the site of the online edition are around 1,10,000 per day.

Preference of the readers is for local news, politics, crime, and entertainment.

Case Study 5: Pudhari (

Pudhari is a leading Marathi newspaper published from Kolhapur, Southern Maharashtra. It has editions published from Satara, Sangli, Solapur, Pune, Ahmednagar, Goa, Belgaon, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg.

Its online edition was launched on May 01, 2000 from Pune. It works in one shift from 2200 hrs to 0800. One sub editor looks after the editorial content.

The site receives about 10,000 hits per day.

Its contents include 20 news stories, 22 articles, 15 photographs, and one advertisement.

Its readers are mainly Maharashtrians outside Maharashtra.

Case Study 6: Belgaum Tarun Bharat (
The newspaper is published from Belgaum, in Karnataka bordering Maharashtra and has editions from Goa, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur.

The web edition was launched on July 06, 1999. It is edited by two sub-editors who work from 1700 hrs to 0200 hrs. The site received average 60,000 hits per day. The site includes 80 News Stories, 10 articles, 15 photographs and two advertisements.

Readers are mostly Maharashtrians abroad. They are interested in local news.

Case Study 7: Kesari (
The newspaper, edited in the initial years by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, was in the forefront in the freedom struggle. It is published from Pune with editions from Mumbai, Ahmednagar, Solapur, and Pimpri.

Kesari was the first Marathi newspaper that entered the cyber era on August 01, 1997.
One sub editor looks after the upload of the contents at 1 p.m.

Contents include news and articles of the print editions. Its readers are located mostly outside Maharashtra, many of them abroad. Their preference is for Local, State, National politics, and business stories. The readers are mostly young, with some connection with Pune.
The case studies based on interviews of the key functionaries of the newspapers thus offered the following data:

Table 02. Contents and Economic Viability of online editions
Newspaper News Stories Articles Photographs Ads Economic
Sakaal 350-400 10-12 25-30 8-10 No
Lokmat 700 6 100 20 NA*
Tarun Bharat (Nagpur) 30-40 5-6 2-3 NA No
Maharashtra Times 100 15 5-10 5 Yes
Pudhari 20 22 16 1 Yes
Belgaum Tarun Bharat 80 10 15 2 No
Kesari NA NA NA NA No
(^ Economic Viability: The column offers response to the question: Has the online edition broken even financially?
• NA (Not Available) means the data was not provided by staff of the concerned online edition.)
• Most newspapers do not get advertisements for the net editions, with only a few exceptions Sakal and Maharashtra Times. The situation was the same in 1998 when most of the 48 newspapers then on the net did not earn much advertisement revenue for the web editions.
• This was the reason, then and now, that web editions of most newspapers could not break-even financially.
• It was perhaps for the same reason that the publishers have not made large investment in manpower for the web sites. The web site is managed by a very limited staff. In most newspapers, the staff pattern is same: a chief sub-editor assisted by one or two sub-editors. In some cases, only a sub-editor working in the print edition has the responsibility to upload the contents after his night shift job is over. Most publishers are content with the arrangement in which the computer systems department staff look after their web sites. The result is that web editions of most newspapers do not contain contents other than what is made available from the editorial team of the print edition. No effort is made to create contents exclusively for the web editions. In absence of a thought process that should go to into creation of contents for the web edition, there is no reverse flow from web to print. The web team simply shovels text and graphics, including photographs, from the print and complete the day’s work.
• There are again exceptions like Sakal and Lokmat that try to exploit the features of Internet. Such editions have audio and video clips that go along with the text or stand alone as interesting add-ons.
• Indian newspapers have not appointed reporters exclusively for web editions.
• Most publishers have not appointed staff to procure advertising either.
• Web editions do not get advertisements because advertisers do not get response or feedback from the readers.

Production Process:
• Production process of web editions in most newspapers have not changed substantially during the last decade.
• A major change in the production process over the past decade is however that most publishers have prepared software that has made the production process and particularly uploading of the contents very easy even for a novice sub-editor. With simple commands, the contents are uploaded within no time.
• The web staff gets contents from the editorial department of the parent print edition through the Local Area Network. Similarly, if there is any ad to be inserted, it is passed on as a soft copy through the LAN.
• In most cases, there are no updates of the web sites for the next 24 hours although technologically updates are possible every minute.
• As stated earlier, the web sections are manned by a skeleton staff. They work in shifts of six to eight hours in various newspapers. Smaller newspapers seem to have shifts starting during the afternoons and ending when the web sites are uploaded early in the morning at around two a.m.
• Volume of contents of web edition varies from newspaper to newspaper depending on whether it is ‘small’, ‘medium’ or ‘big’. A small newspaper may carry a minimum of 30 news stories, six articles and three photographs. A big newspaper’s web edition may contain 3000 news stories, 50 articles and 250 photographs.
• Almost 80 to 90 per cent contents of the parent print editions are shovelled in most cases.
• Based on the feedback received through e-mail, readers of the web editions are mostly young, male, from Information Technology, NRIs based in USA, Canada and Europe.
• Editors receive e-mail responses from readers who generally react to the news stories or pass on suggestions. Such responses range from a few to over 100 per day.

Readership Survey:
The research team carried out a readership survey by placing a questionnaire at the home pages of the newspapers for at least a fortnight. The questionnaire was linked to a database at the web page designed for the research.
Following data was made available through the survey:

Table 03. Sex and Age-wise distribution of readers
Marathi newspapers
(Total respondents: 493)
Male Female
# % # %
Up to 20 3 00.6 2 0.4
21-30 207 42.0 37 7.5
31-40 128 26.0 22 4.4
41-50 45 09.1 5 1.0
51-60 27 05.4 6 1.2
61 and above 10 02.0 1 0.2
Total (% rounded off) 420 85.0 73 15.0

The proportion of female Internet newspaper readers is considerably smaller than male readers. In 1998, the readership comprised 7% female readers.
This means that the majority readership of Internet newspapers is in the age group of 21-40 years. In 1998 also the majority (79%) readership belonged to the age-group of 21-40 years.

Table 04. Country-wise distribution of readers
Country Marathi newspapers
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
India 296 60.0
United States 99 20.0
United Kingdom 19 03.8
United Arab Emirates 13 02.6
Canada 5 01.0
Rest 58 countries from where the web sites are accessed Less than one per cent

A major change is noticed in the domicile of readers that participated in the present survey. In 1998, 62% readers were staying in USA and 10% were staying in India. The present survey shows almost a reverse trend. Majority (60%) readers are residing in India and 20% are in USA. Almost 80% readers stay in either of these two countries (as against 70% in 1998).

Table 05. State-wise distribution of readers residing in India
State Marathi
(Total respondents: 493
Residing in India: 296)
# %
Maharashtra 235 79.3
Karnataka 22 07.4
Delhi 6 02.0
Tamil Nadu 1 00.3
Andhra Pradesh 6 02.0
Uttar Pradesh 6 02.0
Other states Less than 02 each

Further division of readers residing in India shows that majority of them are from Maharashtra. Readers all over the country access Indian newspapers on the Internet. The readership is more in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh probably because of the penetration of Information Technology in those states and also probably because of the high number of IT professionals working in those states.
The high percentage (79.3) of readers of Marathi newspapers from Maharashtra shows that such readership within the state has grown in the last few years during which Internet connectivity has been made available in more urban and rural centres.

Table 06. Educational Qualifications of readers
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
Master 244 49.4
Bachelor 174 35.2
Doctorate 32 06.4
Diploma 27 05.4
HSC 10 02.0
SSC 6 01.2

Reading of Internet newspapers seems to be closely related to level of education. The more educated a person is the more he/she is likely to read newspapers on the Internet.

Table 07. Employment status of readers
Marathi newspapers
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
Employed 401 81.2
Not employed 47 09.5
Self-employed 45 09.1
Almost no change is seen in the employment status of readers in the last 8 years. In 1998 79% readers were employed whereas in 2006 almost equal proportion (77% and 81% respectively for English and Marathi newspapers) is employed.

Table 08. Frequency of reading the newspapers
Marathi (Total respondents: 493)
# %
Everyday 396 80.5
Occasionally 37 07.5
Once a week 16 03.2
Twice a week 44 08.8
The fact that most readers read newspapers on the Internet regularly shows that reading newspapers on the Internet has become a habit for the readers.

Table 09. Topics read in web editions of the newspapers
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
News 484 98.17
Editorials 246 49.90
Opinion Articles 175 35.50
Book/ film/ theatre reviews 123 24.95
Advertisements (Display) 52 10.55
Horoscope 93 18.86
Religious/spiritual discourses 67 13.59
Advertisements (Classified) 39 07.91
Matrimonial Advertisements 15 03.04
Sports 17 03.45
Business 9 01.83
Science and Technology 5 01.01
Features 148 30.02
Photographs 2 00.41
Readers' letters 4 00.81
Politics 3 00.61
Supplements 4 00.81
Weather 2 00.41
Cartoons - 00.00

It is clear from the above table that readers read the newspapers for news and views because highest preference is given to news. The term 'news' includes news about all fields: politics, sports, business, science and technology, art, culture etc.) Almost an equal number of readers read the views expressed in the newspaper. The combined percentage of readers of Editorials and Opinion Articles is high Book/film/theatre reviews are also read by a considerable proportion of the readership A significant number of readers of Marathi newspapers (18.8%) read the Horoscopes-related column in newspapers.
Advertisements, whether display or classified, are not among the top favourites with readers.

Table 10. Readers' Areas of Interest (Region)
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
India 319 64.7
World 154 31.2
Home state 314 63.6
Home town 287 58.2
Asia 70 14.2

Around two thirds (64.7%) Marathi newspaper readers want to know news from India; 58.2% Marathi readers are keen on reading news from Home town.
Table 11. Readers' Areas of Interest (Categories of News)
(Total respondents: 493)
# %
Business and economy 273 55.38
Politics 281 57.00
Science and Technology 240 48.68
Social Development 228 46.25
Human Interest 157 31.85
Columnists' Columns 138 27.99
Sports 181 36.71
Environment 159 32.25
Rural Development 204 41.38
Art and culture 181 36.71
Celebrities 081 16.43
Crime 091 18.46
On-site Poll results 044 08.92
Obituaries 012 02.43
Business and Economy, Politics, Science and Technology are the first three areas the readers like to read about.

Table 12 Purpose behind accessing newspapers
(Total respondents: 493)
To know about--- # %
Latest happenings in India 361 73.23
Progress of India in various fields 285 57.81
Views of India about world affairs 194 39.35
Changing lifestyle in India 202 40.97
Business opportunities in India 140 28.40
Information about hometown and home state 017 03.45
The question about the purpose behind reading newspapers on the Internet was included in the present survey, based on the findings of the 1998 survey. That survey had indicated that a majority of readers (90%) of Indian newspapers on the Internet lived outside India. Therefore while living away from India, they were anxious to know about various aspects of Indian life. Hence some questions in this survey, especially the present question and the options provided in response to the question were phrased presuming that readers were residing outside India.
The present survey however shows that maximum readers of Internet newspapers (67%) are currently living in India. As such they may be experiencing life in India and may also be exposed to other conventional news media (print newspapers, TV and Radio channels). Therefore it is difficult to interpret the response to this question.
At face value however it seems that in accordance with earlier responses most readers In 1998 also the main purpose indicated by most readers was to keep themselves updated about developments in India.

Table 13. Reasons for reading newspapers
Marathi (Total respondents: 493)
# %
Access archival material 177 35.90
Participate in on-site polls 69 14.00
Kill time 77 15.62
Overcome homesickness 103 20.89
Send greeting cards and Gifts 44 08.92
Chat with other readers 18 03.65
Real estate transactions 24 04.87
Transfer money to India 8 01.62
Send e-mail in Marathi 40 08.11
Besides the main purpose/s behind reading the Internet newspapers, some other factors also prompt Internet users to read newspapers on the Internet. The most frequently cited reason is 'to access archival material.' Those who are away from India/hometown/city also look upon it as a tool to overcome homesickness.
Though Marathi Internet newspapers provide the facility to write e-mails in Marathi only a small proportion of readers (8.11%) visits newspaper sites for that reason. Same is the case with other facilities like sending greeting cards/gifts, chatting with other readers and real estate transactions etc. provided on newspaper sites. These facilities are used marginally.
Table 14. Problem with font
Marathi (Total respondents: 493)
# %
Never 152 30.83
Sometimes 136 27.59
Very rare 130 26.37
Often 35 7.10
Regularly 23 4.67
Can not say 17 3.45

In case of Marathi newspapers on the Internet downloading the proper font used to be a major problem in the early days of Internet newspapers. In 2006 such problems are either not encountered at all or are encountered very rarely (57%). 27.59% readers sometimes encounter font problem and around 11% encounter it more often.

Some Observations:
Journalists in Marathi newspapers face difficulties in mastering the skills in typing in Marathi (Devnagari) script, compared to those who work in English newspapers. The problem is with the keyboard layout, which has not been standardised by producers of the application software.

The script used by one newspaper differs from others. The text can not be easily converted in the script used by other computers, as can be done in case of English (Roman) any where in the world.

Journalists in most rural areas do not have access to computers and Internet. They still write their stories by hand and fax them to their newspaper offices where these are keyed in the DTP system. Photographs are similarly sent by courier, although in many cases, journalists use digital or mobile phone-camera to take snaps and mail them through cyber cafes.

This is the case with most newspapers in non-English newspapers in India.

About the author: Dr Kiran Thakur worked as professional journalist for over 30 years in India. He joined academics in 2001 and retired in March 2007. Among the books he wrote is Dr N B Parulekar, A Pioneer in Modern Journalism in Indian Languages. Dr Thakur's doctoral thesis was on online journalism in India during the initial phase (1995-98). He, along with colleague Dr Ms Ujjwala Barve, continued to study web journalism with support from University Grants Commission. The present paper is based mainly on their findings of this study and data collected subsequently.

1 comment:

Mohit Singh said...

Nice post .very good details are providing by the Marathi News Paper author Kiran Thakur .she has lighten some prolems of non english newspapers's journalists.