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The Times Group which is a leader in the English print market in India is on an expansion spree, and intends to spread its network to tap into the lucrative vernacular ad market. It has met with decent successes in Maharashtra (where it publishes the Marathi newspaper Maharashtra Times) and in Kerala (where it entered into a strategic relationship with Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi earlier this year).
But Bengal is a different ball game. At present, eight newspapers jostle for existence in this market, with Ananda Bazaar Patrika being the clear leader in terms of advertising and circulation. The others include Bartaman, Pratidin, Aajkaal, Uttar Banga Sambad, Ek Din, Ganashakti and the month-old Ebela.
While an ad war with ABP is imminent, especially in its run-up to the launch on the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya (the start of the Durga Puja festival which invites plenty of special ads), Ei Shomoy will take on ABP’s fairly high cover price too. At Rs 5 per copy, ABP is the most expensive Bengali newspaper compared to its competitor papers priced between Rs 2-3. Sources say that Ei Shomoy might be priced even lower, to start with.
TOI has also managed a prize catch in the form of veteran Bengali journalist and ex-ABP man Suman Chattopadhyay, who has been roped in as the editor of Ei Shomoy. In his last assignment, he served as the editor of his own newspaper Ek Din.
Besides this, it is left to be seen how Ei Shomoy positions itself in the mind of the politically-conscious Bengali. While ABP has increasingly become critical of the ruling TMC government, Pratidin is virtually evolving into a voice of the TMC; Ganashakti is alleged to be the CPM mouthpiece and Aajkaal leans towards the Left as well; Bartaman, meanwhile, claims itself as fiercely independent and unbiased.
Amidst all this, Ei Shomoy (as the TVC suggests) looks to carve a niche for itself in the impressionable minds of young readers, who have modern sensibilities and wish to be a part of a new resurgent Bengal. Is it then targeted at the poriborton-obsessed Bengali? Can Ei Shomoy finally drive change in a state which is journeying into the past with each passing day? Or will it place itself elsewhere in the ideological spectrum? Only shomoy (time) will tell.