ROLE OF LOCALIZATION ON THE GROWTH OF DAILY NEWSPAPERS IN ASSAM - AN EXPLORATORY VIEW


Jayanta Kumar Sarma,
Research Scholar, Department of Communication and Journalism, Gauhati University, Assam, India


Abstract
Besides being a mass communication medium, newspapersare also commoditiesmarketed through well-defined production and distribution system. This daily newspaper industry had witnessed a massive growth in Assam during the post-globalization period which was much more than the proportionate growth in the three known factors that influence media growth, viz. population growth, increase in rate of literacy and growth in per-capita disposable income. Available literature hints that localization of content, production and distribution influenced growth of daily newspapers in other parts of India during 1970-2000. There is reason to believe that the unprecedented scale of growth of circulation and readership of daily newspapers in Assam, thatwe call the newspaper revolution, was also aided by the same factor. This paper looked into the role of localization on the growth of daily newspapers in Assam through an exploratory research method to conclude that it indeed had a positive effect.

Key words: Media, Newspaper, Circulation, Readership, Globalization, Localization

1.   Introduction:
Unlike the Western World, where daily newspaper industry is in decline, India had witnessed tremendous growth of various media including daily newspapers both in terms of quantity and quality during the last part of 20th century and 1st part of the current century (Neyazi, 2011, p. 75). Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI)’s data shows that the circulation[i] of thirteen major daily newspapers in vernacular languages grew more than two times in India during 1990s. In five years from 1996, newspaper penetration[ii]in India grew by almost 35%. In twenty years from 1976 the number of daily newspapers per thousand populations in India grew four times (Cody, 2009). During only ten years from 1990, Assamese newspapers grew by 613% (highest among all Indian language newspapers) compared to the all-India figure of 167%. Historian Robin Jeffrey remarked “Assamese numbers seem to hold a story worth researching” (Jeffrey, 2010, p. xvii). He termed this rapid growth of Indian language daily newspaper a ‘Newspaper Revolution’ and attempted formulating a hypothesis for identifying factors leading to the phenomenal growth of daily newspapers in India. One of the factors listed by him was localization.
Commonly believed factors of growth in newspaper circulation are growth in population, growth in literacy and growth of per capita disposable income. “Yet the growth of literacy alone cannot be the crucial factor – the percentage growth of newspaper circulation is higher than both the growth of literacy and the growth of total population in India”(Neyazi, 2011, p. 76). There are other factors that influence newspaper growth andNeyaziargued that the ‘other’ factor was localization. Therefore, localization needs closer examination to understand newspaper growth.
SevantiNinan has defined localization as a series of events that led to newspapers being produced from small towns in India instead of big cities. Along with the decentralization of production, there was localization of content with infusion of more and more news about the immediate surroundings of the reader which created a local public sphere(Ninan, 2007). This view finds support from both Neyazi(Neyazi, 2011) and Jeffrey(Jeffrey, 2010). Ninan also argued that this localization of production and content was supplemented by localization of consumption through a better distribution mechanism.
Writing the Foreword for Uday Sahay edited Making News-Handbook of the Media in Contemporary India, Robin Jeffrey said, “Mass media must be concerned with the local. If you want a mass of viewers and readers, you must have to show people things they want to know, and such things will often be about themselves” (Sahay, 2006, p. xii). Around the world, newspaper producers have known for a long time that local news sells newspapers (Schramm, 1973, p. 173).

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