PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The Times of India group has unveiled its latest product in Bangalore: Vijaya Next, a broadsheet, all-colour, Kannada weekly for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population“.
And like Crest, the product offering has the usual “upmarket” mix of relationships, health, education, sex, travel, food, fitness, films, celebrities, automotive, gadgets, and sport.
The strategy behind the hurried launch of Vijaya Next, according to insiders, is essentially the same as ToI’s Crest: to slip it along with the group’s flagship Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka every week and get more out of the customer’s monthly newspaper bill without increasing the cover price of Vijaya Karnataka.
Vijaya Next is edited by Deepak Thimaya, a well-known TV anchor with almost no newspaper journalism experience on his resume barring a few columns, and is produced by residual staff from the Kannada edition of The Times of India, which was shut down in early March at a day’s notice.
(The Kannada edition of ToI had itself been launched in quest of a similar “upwardly mobile” Kannadiga audience after shutting Usha Kirana, the Kannada newspaper that fell into the group’s lap when it bought Vijaya Karnataka and the now-defunct Vijay Times from BJP parliamentarian Vijay Sankeshwar.)
Vijaya Next has been grandly proclaimed in a full-page ad in today’s Times of India (Bangalore market) as the “first-ever Kannada weekly“, although what that means is unclear when full-fledged features weekly magazines such as Sudha from the Praja Vani group and Taranga from the Udaya Vani group, have been available for decades.
Also, there are innumerable Kannada weekly tabloids, part news, part features and part crime, such as Hi! Bangalore, Lankesh, Agni and so on. Most of them do not carry advertisements as a matter of policy and are priced at between Rs 12 and Rs 15 per copy, giving Vijaya Next a price advantage.
But there is little confusion on what the brand managers mean when they say that Vijaya Next will take an “entertaining look” at the world and stories and issues that matter to you.
“Now read all di stories that matter, nimmade bhasheyalli (now read all the stories that matter in your own language),” reads the copy of a half-Kannada, half-English, half-page ad that runs in Vijaya Karnataka, which has lost considerable ground to the Deccan Herald-owned Praja Vani in the last two rounds of the ABC.
If nothing else, Vijaya Next will muddy the waters before Rajeev Chandasekhar‘s Jupiter group begins ploughing in money into Kannada Prabha, in which he bought a stake recently. It will also perhaps prevent him from finding people to staff the paper. Many of the ToI Kannada staff were absorbed in Vijaya Karnataka as a preemptive measure.