18-24 December 2015 #787

Media suffers blockade

More readers, but less revenue
Xiaotong Xu and Siran Liang

As the Indian blockade enters its fourth month, the shortage of fuel and 
daily commodities has brought life to a standstill all over Nepal. People 
want to know what is happening, so they buy newspapers but the 
newspapers themselves have been hit by the crisis. 

Newspapers have got more readers, but less revenue because 
advertising has collapsed with the economic slowdown caused by the 
blockade. Combined problems of circulation, distribution and 
advertisement are dragging media companies, which had just started to 
recover from the April earthquake, down into an even deeper crisis.

All photos: Xiaotong Xu

“I sell more newspaper during periods of political turmoil,” says Jeevan 
Maharjan who runs a shop selling office supplies and newspapers in 
Patan, citing Naya Patrika as a broadsheet that has increased its 
circulation by more than half since the crisis began.

Maharjan says the taxis queuing for fuel on the street outside are his best 
customers. Indeed, taxi driver Prem quips: “I buy a newspaper everyday 
now just to find out if there is an end to this crisis.” 

Prem waiting for customers in his taxi with broadsheet newspaper.

Even though readership has gone up, newspapers face problems in 
increasing their print runs because of the shortage of newsprint, raw 
materials, diesel for generators and distribution vans.

Ram Bhattarai, the Circulation Chief of Naya Patrika, added that there are 
also problems getting his daily to areas affected by unrest in the Tarai like 
Lahan and Rajbiraj. “Transportation and delivery have become a problem 
to reach our readers,” he says. 

Delivery boys who used to take newspapers house–to-house have also 
been hit by the fuel shortage. Santosh Aryal, Circulation Manager at 
Himalmedia, says he has replaced motorcycles with bicycles, but it is still 
difficult to reach all customers in time.

Most national broadsheets like Kantipur, Nagarik and Annapurna Post 
have shrunk to 12 pages or less, and their content is almost devoid of 
ads. One media manager told us his publication had lost 60 per cent of its 
revenue from advertising and news-stand sales.

Syakar Trading, which sells Honda motorcycles and cars in Nepal, has 
stopped all advertising due to the drop in sales, and also because it hasn’t 
got new units from India because of the blockade. 

“Simply put, we don’t have anything to sell,” Saurabh Jyoti of Syakar tells 
Nepali Times, “and even the raw materials for our other industries like 
agriculture, tractors, equipment, medicines are stuck at the border. So 
there is no point in advertising.” 

One of Nepal’s largest advertising agencies, J Walter Thomson Nepal is 
also feeling the pinch with business almost down to nil, according to 
Managing Director Joydeb Chakravarty.

“No one is buying non-essentials,” he says, “if it is so difficult to find fuel for 
a motorbike, why would you want to buy a new motorbike?” 

Companies like Unilever which manufactures in Nepal and aims at both 
domestic and international market may suffer more intensely, for their 
business relies heavily on imports of raw materials and exports of 
products. The suspension in production and decline in sales also forced 
Unilever to stop advertising two months ago.

Chakravarty explains: “All major advertisers have stopped 
advertisements because consumer sentiment is down. No one wants to 

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