PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of The Times of India, have decided to shut down their Kannada edition, published with The Times of India masthead, tomorrow.
An internal email has convened a meeting of all staff of the paper with CEO Sunil Rajshekhar at 4pm on Tuesday, March 9, after nearly a month of rumours of the impending demise.
The March 10 issue of the paper will the last for the paper which has been published since January 2007 under industry veteran Ishwar Daitota.
Rumours are that some of the existing staff of 55 will be absorbed to bring out the proposed Kannada translation of the weekly Crest edition of ToI.
Several versions abound for the sudden closure. The chief among them is that the paper’s rising graph was coming at the cost of Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada paper purchased by the Times group in 2006 along with Usha Kirana and Vijay Times, from the truck operator turned newspaper publisher, Vijay Sankeshwar.
(Usha Kirana was turned into ToI Kannada to exclusively cater for the Bangalore (Market); the paper largely carried stories translated from the English edition of the paper although a skeletal staff produced original stories. Vijay Times was shut and turned into the tabloid Bangalore Mirror.)
Vijaya Karnataka has seen its market leader status diminish in the face of a strong comeback from Praja Vani, the Kannada daily published by the Deccan Herald group. Its ABC numbers have fallen for two cycles in a row. ToI Kannada insiders say their paper was being held responsible for the lack of growth of VK in the key Bangalore market, prompting VK to go in for an expensive relaunch and redesign to stem the damage.
For the last few days, Vijaya Karnataka was being supplied free with ToI Kannada in Bangalore to convert existing readers.
Another version has it that although ToI Kannada was gaining numbers (it was selling between 30,000-60,000 copies depending on who you asked), it was not attracting any advertising on its own; most of its advertising coming from package deals sold by ToI.
Yet another version has it that the management saw little hope for the paper, and only more expenses, with Rajeev Chandrashekhar‘s impending foray into the newspaper world to complete his Suvarna stable.