The pandemic has affected societies all over and local businesses have taken a massive hit. Among them, local newspaper distributors and vendors have had a hard time securing a steady flow of income.
Mr. Imthiyaz Abubakkar, a newspaper agent at Sahara News Agency in Kavoor, spoke about how people are scared of buying papers now and how that has affected their distribution. “People have cancelled subscriptions and asked for them to be resumed after the situation improves because they fear that the virus will get transmitted through newspapers,” he said. About 150 to 200 paper subscriptions have been cancelled around the Kuloor-Kavoor area, he added. The agency has contacted local newspaper offices to reduce the number of copies sent to them to prevent excesses. “This has greatly affected our business and we can only wait for this situation to improve for our business to go back to normal,” said Mr Imthiyaz.
An employee of a prominent local newspaper, who wished to remain anonymous, highlighted how the lockdown has restricted movement for reporters and affected stringers, in particular. “Since public events and mass gatherings have been prohibited, no local news is generated, thereby leading to a lack of news stories to fill the pages, he said.
By shifting focus from print publication to the e-news, newspapers have attempted to adapt and turn the situation in their favour. But when it comes to readership figures “the audience that consumes news online is different from readers of our physical papers, so the number of people buying and reading print and the revenue generated from that has naturally come down,” he said.
Low circulation figures means a decrease in payment to vendors as well, he said. “This has also led to a sharp decline in advertisers investing in us since they focus on circulation figures, which has been slowly falling since the beginning of the pandemic and lockdown,” he added.
The number of pages printed per issue has also reduced. Udayavani, a popular Kannada newspaper, with its local special Udayavani Sudina, has reduced the number of pages from the usual 18-24 + 8 in the supplements to editions with 12-14 + 4 pages daily, with the homage and obituary section taking a good portion of the middle pages sometimes.
Many people today consume news online or via television, thanks to the boom in internet penetration, and increased access to social media, and this has also contributed to the cancellation of subscriptions. In areas where subscriptions haven’t been cancelled, the main concern has been the lack of content. “Everyone at home reads the newspaper, including my grandmother, but there is no content in it. News events have reduced and more advertising has replaced it, in a few pages,” said Amalnath, a student.
With lockdown lifted in Mangalore and social distancing norms in place, people are cautious and sceptical about all forms of contact from the outside world, and rightfully so. It is, however, the livelihoods of these people working in professions that require movement and frequent contact with other people that have been massively affected and they have had to look for alternatives to make ends meet.