A report on EPW’s advertisements

A report on EPW’s advertisements

“The Intelligence Bureau and It’s not Very Intelligent Report on NGOs”  by a former Union Secretary is a very interestingly written article in the “Economic and Political Weekly” (EPW).

The article defines NGOs as follows:

“NGO – dedicated individual working selflessly among the people without any external support…or a foreign funded agency working in line with the donor’s objective. …several corporates have tried to leverage their donations to choke competition and create favorable markets for themselves.”

This issue dated 28 June 2014–5 July 2014 has more interesting pieces apart from the above-mentioned article. The issue has been published in two volumes.

The first volume comprises 670 pages and the second runs into 560 pages. The normal issue of EPW is around 100 pages. This issue also has almost the same number of articles like the rest of the regular issues of EPW.

So what does the rest of the pages of these mammoth volumes contain?

Answer: Advertisements.

That leads to yet another question: who sponsored those advertisements?

The answer to that question forms the rest of this essay.

But first, let us look at the following table, which gives a description of these advertisements.

Sl No Page No of Advertisement No of Pages of advertisement Advertiser Place of Incorporation of Advertiser
1 98 to 132 34 Antwerp Diamond Bank Belgium
2 134 to 183 49 Deutsche Bank Germany
3 184 to 218 34 American Express Bank USA
4 220 to 267 47 J P Morgan Chase Bank USA
5 268 to 303 35 Scotia Bank Canada
6 304 to 328 24 Bank of Ceylon
7 330 to 357 27 National Australia Bank Australia
8 358 to 388 30 Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
9 390 to 435 45 BNP Paribas France
10 436 to 472 36 The Bank of Tokyo-Mitshubushi UFJ Ltd. Japan
11 474 to 501 27 SBER Bank Russia
12 502 to 545 43 Credit Suisse
13 546 to 566 20 Krung Thai Bank Public Company Ltd. Thailand
14 568 to 607 39 Shinhan Bank Korea
15 608 to 663 55 Barclays Bank Plc UK
  Total 545    
Sl No Page No of Advertisement No of Pages of advertisement Advertiser Place of Incorporation of Advertiser
1 18 to 57 39 Credit Agricale France
2 106 to 143 37 United Overseas Bank Ltd Singapore
3 144 to 170 26 A B Bank Ltd (Arab Bangladesh Bank Ltd)
4 172 to 209 37 Common Wealth Bank of Australia Australia
5 210 to 245 35 UBS AG Switzerland
6 246 to 290 44 DBS Bank
7 292 to 325 33 ANZ Australia
8 326 to 365 39 Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait
9 366 to 397 31 Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
10 398 to 467 69 Standard Chartered
11 468 to 497 29 Mashreq UAE
12 498 to 553 55 HSBC Hongkong
  Total 474    

Needless, all of these are banks and none of these advertising banks are Indian. The grand total runs up to 1019 pages of just advertisements by a total of 27 banks.

The Economic and Political Weekly website ( pegs advertisement rates thus: Full Page Black & White rate at Rs 30,000 per page. So, even if we hypothetically assume that the advertiser obtained a discount of 50 per cent, then the total advertisement revenue earned by EPW will amount to One Crore Fifty Two Lakhs Eighty Five Thousand Rupees.

There are other one page advertisements in the issue, which are sponsored by entities such as HUDCO, Dena Bank, Cambridge University Press, O P Jindal University, Indian Institute of Banking & Finance and NSE.

I couldn’t get last year’s copy of the EPW issue published during the corresponding month, but I was told by friends who subscribe to it that EPW publishes one thick issue every year around this time but that it has never published two volumes in the past. This is the first time it has happened.

And then I looked at some other recent issues of EPW.

  • The issue dated 7 June 2014 was of 128 pages and had an AXIS Bank advertisement from pages 42 to 95–53 pages.
  • The issue dated 14 June 2014 was of 164 pages and had an ICICI Bank advertisement from pages 56 to 107–51 pages. It also carried advertisements of HSBC OMAN SAOG bank from pages 118 to 152–34 pages.
  • The issue dated 21 June 2014 was of 84 pages with no major advertisements.

Typically, the objective of advertising is to reach the target audience of the advertiser. One wonders which target audience were these foreign banks attempting to reach by advertising in EPW. The other reason for advertising in EPW could be that some are statutory advertisements given to any low cost publication. In that case, there are several other publications whose costs are much cheaper than that of EPW. It also merits a deeper inquiry as to how all these foreign banks decided to advertise with EPW?

One possible reason that I personally suspect is this: the outgoing government made arrangements for the survival of EPW for the next decade or longer. Of course, there could be other reasons but given the aforementioned facts and the enormous sum of money involved, this suspicion is warranted.

As per wikipedia:

“The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is a left-leaning weekly Indian magazine published from Mumbai by the Sameeksha Trust, a charitable trust. As of 2010, EPW has around 12,000 print and 1000 online subscriptions of which 5000 are institutions. In 2014, it is estimated that these numbers have increased to 13,000 print and 5,000 online subscribers.”

There are lessons and cautionary tales in this saga. The key lessons:

  • Nationalist/non-Left magazines and publications don’t get even a fraction of this kind of support.
  • Either such non-Left magazine publishers don’t know how to get this support or they don’t want this support, because it is “considered unethical (sic),” as someone I know told me.
  • More importantly, there are enough donors who can support non-Left/Nationalist publications but these donors don’t extend their support for reasons best known to them.

So, is that a big issue?

The issue is that both the publishers and the authors of nationalist or non-Left magazines struggle lifelong to survive.  It has reached a stage where some of these publications ask their authors to get advertisements in order to be published.

I hope some lessons are learned from EPW and a course correction happens.

(Sandeep Singh heads