Malayala Manorama enjoys a readership of over ten million on a circulation base of 1.29 million copies. It is the only daily in Kerala, and one of the few in India, to have such an enormous following. In fact, it is the largest circulated regional language daily in India and reaches 63% of all newspaper readers and 39% of all adults in Kerala.
From a modest beginning as the fifth newspaper in Kottayam, it has consistently occupied the number one position in Kerala since 1969. More important, it has played a catalytic role in stimulating economic change. In a state where coconut farming was the predominant agricultural occupation, the Malayala Manorama brought about a revolutionary change in the 1900s, by inspiring farmers to grow rubber. As a result, Kerala now is India’s largest producer of natural rubber. Similarly, it identified and suggested to the Government in the 1930s the location of the Idukki hydel power project, the biggest hydel project in Kerala. The project was finally commissioned in 1976.
Kandathil Varghese Mappillai in Kottayam, a small town in the princely state of Travancore, founded Malayala Manorama in 1888. An accomplished writer and an intellectual, Varghese Mappillai started the newspaper with a mission to articulate the aspirations of the Pulayas – the untouchables then. The very first editorial in the Malayala Manorama was a passionate plea for the education and welfare of the Pulayas.
From a weekly, the Malayala Manorama grew into a bi-weekly in 1901, a tri-weekly in 1918 and a daily in 1928. After the death of Varghese Mappillai in 1904, his nephew Mammen Mappillai took over the reins and maintained the secular and literary traditions of the newspaper. Oppressive regimes attempted to crush the Malayala Manorama on various occasions. On September 10th 1938, during the Indian freedom struggle, the Government closed down the newspaper for reporting police firing on freedom fighters. After nine years, when India became free, the newspaper resumed publication with Mammen Mappillai’s son, 50-year-old former professor K.M.Cherian at the helm. Since then, Malayala Manorama has steadily grown to become an integral part of a Malayalee’s life.
Over the years, Malayala Manorama has become a part of the daily lives of Malayalees, wherever they are. With twelve editions and 56 time editions, it delivers credible, latest and localised news at the doorsteps in every nook and corner of Kerala and to Malayalees elsewhere. The newspaper has always relied on appropriate technology. From hand composing of cold type and treadle presses, it moved to hot metal composing and rotary letterpresses and then to photo typesetting and web offset presses, all at the right time.
It has been a continual adaptation to change. In 1986, the then ultramodern facsimile system connected its headquarters at Kottayam to the other units for transmission of the newspaper pages. Today, all twelve printing centres of the paper are connected to a high-speed Wide Area Network using fibre-optic cable network. A modern, flexible and fast editorial system links all the centres. Malayala Manorama’s immense readership makes it the ideal medium for marketers to reach the most advanced society in India. In fact, the daily has consistently enjoyed the largest share of the advertising pie, more than any other newspaper or any television channel in Kerala. During the year 2002, Malayala Manorama bagged 45% of the estimated Rs. 3,600 million advertising spend in Kerala.
Malayala Manorama adopts a dual strategy for brand promotion. On the one hand, it aims to further increase circulation and sweep the entire market. The positioning statement, ‘Malayalathinte Suprabhatam’, which can be loosely translated as ‘the good morning of Malayalees’, is an assertion towards this objective. From the perspective of consumer base, its growth is a result of sustained editorial efforts towards credible news dissemination. Towards this end, the traditional medium of word-of-mouth has largely been responsible for continuously increasing circulation.
Apart from being an instrument imparting news, Malayala Manorama has been a voice that nurtures the glorious traditions of Kerala’s literature, collectivism and culture. Its investigative stories – in the 1960s on the plight of nurses from Kerala, the thriving of a kidney racket in the 1970s, travails of Malayalees in Kuwait when Iraq invaded the country – not only helped its image, but firmly established the paper in the hearts of Malayalees. Also, the active campaign launched in support of developmental projects – Cochin International Airport, Kayamkulam Thermal Power Plant – won it committed readers. So did its efforts to spruce up facilities at Sabarimala – the famous pilgrim centre.
Malayala Manorama has sold Kerala as a consuming market. It has ‘owned’ seasons like Onam, when the entire state loosens its purse strings. It has also developed new seasons for advertising like Vishu and Christmas, the other big festivals when Malayalees indulge themselves in shopping. Malayala Manorama has endeared itself to the advertising fraternity with its innovative direct mailers that uniquely convey the message of Kerala’s potential as a market. The daily has looked for novel ways to absorb the inflow of advertising. One such innovation is the twin issues – two newspapers with the same masthead and layout – brought out during festival time, when demand for premium positions is high. This gives the readers two newspapers for the price of one, the advertisers their preferred positions and the newspaper itself, optimum revenues during the peak season of the year.
A history of over a century has seen the Malayala Manorama define the cultural and political conscience of Malayalees. The core value of this brand goes far beyond journalism, embracing the role of an effective catalyst for social change. Its overwhelming presence has made it potent enough to shape and guide public opinion and use that to accelerate economic and social progress in Kerala. From TV Trivia
• Malayala Manorama is the first joint stock publishing company in India.
• The name Malayala Manorama was given by the great poet Kerala Varma.
• Malayala Manorama began in 1888 as a four-page weekly published every Saturday and became a daily 40 years later.
• The logo of Malayala Manorama is actually a slight variation of the Royal Coat of Arms which was awarded by the Maharaja of Travancore..
• In 1938, the Government closed down Malayala Manorama and jailed the editor for reporting police firing on freedom fighters. Publishing was resumed only after nine years when India became free.
• Malayala Manorama was the first newspaper in India to have all the units connected on a high-speed Wide Area Network using fibre-optic cable.
• Malayala Manorama’s children’s organisation, Akhila Kerala Balajana Sakhyam, is the largest democratic institution of its kind in Asia.