Hot off the Press: What We Can Learn About Indian Language Preferences from Newspapers and Periodicals Public  

Print media may be a dying industry, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to learn from it. In multilingual regions like India, the abundance of periodicals published in different languages can tell us a lot about how locals prefer to consume content. 

Based on this hypothesis, we have analyzed data from the Indian Statistics Information and Broadcasting sector, made available through India’s National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP). 

It is important to note that this data represents periodical print media. We need to be cognizant of the fact that applying insights from this data to other industries may not be representing the full picture for those industries. However, these data can provide useful macro analysis of trends concerning language and cultural attitudes towards multilingualism.

Top languages in print media

In the below figure, we look at the best-represented languages in registered Indian periodicals. Unsurprisingly, Hindi is the most popular printed language, with 40.8 percent of publications being printed in Hindi. English is a distant second, with 13.1 percent, followed by Marathi at 7.5 percent.

Registered Indian periodicals by language (2015)

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It is interesting to note that after the top three languages, we see that “Multilingual” is in 4th place, with 7 percent, and “Bilingual” is in 6th place, with 4.5 percent. This means that a combined total of 11.6 percent of publications in India are printed in multiple languages, reflecting India’s diverse cultural and linguistic population.

Growth by language

The most recent data available shows uniform growth across the most common languages for all periodicals in India. In the below graph we see the year-on-year growth for periodicals published in the 15 most common languages.

Growth of total periodicals by language (2009-2015)

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Note the sharp increase in “Multilingual” in 2015. While the data does not specify exactly what is driving this increase, we can assume that at least part of this growth is coming from bilingual periodicals adding additional languages. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of bilingual periodicals dropped by 2,093 from 6,863 to 4,770. While the dataset does not specifically state it, we can assume that the drop in bilingual periodicals is related to the rise in multilingual periodicals. As some bilingual publications have decided to add one or more additional languages, they have become reclassified as multilingual.

Fastest growing languages in periodical print media

According to the Statistics Information and Broadcasting sector data, the total number of periodical publications grew by 36 percent between 2009 and 2015.

If we compare the five-year growth rate of individual languages against the industry average of 36 percent, we see which languages are growing at a faster rate than the average, and therefore gaining ground. 

Publication languages that are growing faster than the average industry rate are Telugu, Kashmiri, Marathi, Sainthall, Kannada, Konkani, Gujarati, Bilingual, and Hindi, as can be seen in the graphs below. 

Five-year growth of fastest growing languages (2009-2014)

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Languages with decreasing or slow-growing representation in periodical print media

At the other end of the spectrum, we see which languages are actually losing ground. The number of periodicals printed in Dogri, Bodo, and Maithili dropped between 2009 and 2015, while Sindhi and Punjabi grew slowly.

Declining total periodicals by language (2009-2015)

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What we can learn

We can use language representation in periodical print media to inform our insights into the language landscape in India. Foreign organizations looking to enter India need to check their assumptions about English and Hindi being enough to reach the Indian market. The language landscape is varied and complex, and a multilingual approach is required to maximize your audience. 

When entering a new market, it is useful to look at how people consume information domestically, and also how domestic companies engage with their customers. With the data presented above, we have a clear insight into how local content producers engage with their domestic audience. 

One out of every ten Indian periodicals is published in multiple languages. Multilingualism is built into everyday life in India. The data shows that Indian audiences are accustomed to content localized into their local languages. This is important to keep in mind for any company looking to reach Indian audiences. 

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