Newsweek to Launch Pakistan Edition

By Farhan Bokhari, Financial Times, March 4, 2010

Newsweek, a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company, is to launch a title for the Pakistan market, marking the first such move by a prominent Western magazine in the country.

Newsweek Pakistan, which will offer international and local content, is expected to hit the stands by September under a license agreement with a local media company.

The English-language newspaper and magazine industry in Pakistan is far smaller than in neighboring India. Some estimates suggest only 100,000 copies of English-language publications are sold a day in a country with a population of 180 million. Existing English-language titles include Herald, Newsline, The Friday Times, Dawn, and The News.

Pakistan imposes fewer regulatory restrictions on Western media than India, which limits foreign ownership. In Pakistan, Western media are able to enter the market and the only apparent restrictions are on Indian media organizations.

The media industry in Pakistan has become increasingly robust in the past decade as privately-owned television channels have sprung up. Mainstream newspapers have increasingly adopted more liberal editorial policies.

The restoration of Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court last year, two years after his controversial sacking by Pervez Musharraf, the former president, was assisted by a groundswell of public opinion that was fueled by pressure from the media.

Young consumers from the middle and upper class are increasingly keen to access well-produced content in print and TV, according to market surveys conducted by advertisers. “Pakistan has a very vibrant media,” said Rhona Murphy, publisher and managing director of Newsweek International, adding that the launch of Newsweek Pakistan was part of a strategy to broaden out into different markets.

Newsweek currently publishes three international editions. Newsweek Pakistan will be its eighth local edition published under license in a country. It will start with a print run of 30,000 copies, four times its present circulation in Pakistan.

Newsweek has a circulation of 7,500 per week—higher than any local news weekly or monthly—and this easily doubles when Pakistan makes the cover,” said Fasih Ahmed, chief executive of AG Publications, a privately-owned media company that will publish Newsweek Pakistan.

Ms. Murphy said she expected the success of Newsweek Pakistan to prompt “our competitors to look at this market more closely … Pakistan is not a market where we have ever spent much energy developing. Clearly, there is an opportunity here.”