21 December 2008

Whose media? Which People--A perceptive article

Here is a perceptive piece in The Hindu, which questions the way India's media--particularly the electronic one-- is functioning.
The angle is not new--can the media be run like any other business?
The answer, says the author, is no.
So what's new?
I think two things are.
One is the sense of detail with which he rips apart the edifice of some of the bad, insensitive professional practices and social pretensions.
Two, after the recent Mumbai attacks and the way both social and media issues are discussed, it brings back into the limelightlarger issues in a deeper way.

11 December 2008

Online news gains in credibility, but not blogs: survey

There is food for thought...though the process is complex, people are increasingly valuing news from online sources. I think there is tremendous implication from this. Like "Indy" record labels in music, there could be "Indy" news labels soon--even if some of them are controversial, opinionated or biased.
Sadly, in the online world, it is not easy to prescribe to anyone what they should read, and people, I suspect, have a bias for a bias (of their kind) in news. However, there is a clear indication that blogs do not carry much credibility as news sources.
Here is the press release from TNS, on a survey that indicates the rise of online news.


Blogs are least reliable among 13 easily accessible information sources


New Delhi/ India, December 11th 2008 — We now trust the information we get from online news to the same degree as news information from TV and information / recommendations from friends. But we have a poor opinion of blogs, ranking them the least trustworthy way of understanding the world around us. These are some of the findings in a new study entitled Digital World, Digital Life, from global market insight group TNS.

Conducted in 16 countries, Digital World, Digital Life examines online behaviour and perspectives around the world. More than 27,000 survey participants were asked to select from 13 sources of information: online news, blogs, Wikipedia, company websites, trade website reviews, user forum reviews, product comparison sites, TV news, paid-for newspapers, free newspapers, company brochures, industry magazines and friends' recommendations. Respondents were asked to rate a variety of information sources on a scale of 1 (don't trust at all) to 10 (trust completely).

On a global basis, four out of ten of respondents (42%) highly trust* good old recommendations from friends. However, a roughly equal number highly trust TV news (41%), online news (40%) and newspapers (39%). Blogs are perceived as inherently less credible, taking the lowest score with only one in ten of respondents (10%) trusting this source. This is noticeably lower than even free newspapers (19%) and company brochures (18%). Other online sources fared well, such as product comparison websites (34%) and expert reviews on trade websites (31%)
* trust highly is based on respondents rating 8, 9 or 10 out of ten
There were quite marked variations in the levels of trust for particular countries. Chinese respondents were the most trusting of all nations on all but one of the information sources discussed. The exception in China is Wikipedia, with only around a quarter (26%) of Chinese respondents seeing Wikipedia as trustworthy. This is in comparison to respondents in Germany, where just over half (52%) say they trust the site. In Germany, Wikipedia scored the highest level of trust among all the 13 information sources identified in the survey.

Three countries – the US, France and Italy – now claim to trust online news more than they do TV news. In the US, the results were 38% trust online vs 33% for TV news, while for France the figures were 28% online vs 24% TV news. In Italy, around four of ten respondents (41%) trust online news and less than a quarter (24%) trust TV news.  Scandanavians surveyed by TNS have the highest level of trust of all in respect to online news, with around half of all respondents in Finland (54%), Sweden (50%), Norway (48%) and Denmark (48%) trusting this medium.

Other highlights include inherent trust in TV news in Finland (78%) and Sweden (59%), while in the UK a strong distrust of traditional newspapers stands out with only 23% saying they trust this information source, a much lower score than online news (40%).

Arno Hummerston, Managing Director, TNS Global Interactive, said: "It's interesting to note how credible online news has become with respondents ranking this roughly equal to TV news or recommendations from friends. The move of traditional media into the online space has ensured that the trust traditional media have long enjoyed has spread across online-only sources too.  But this is tempered by the lack of trust that surrounds blogs, with this online medium right at the bottom of the 13 information sources we identified.  With no real accountability (save for an invitation to post comments), offline engagement or demonstrable credibility, the subjectivity of this online medium ensures a uniform low score in our survey for trustworthiness."

8 December 2008

Realty TV check: Indian broadcasters in mounting losses

So it seems controversy is an expensive thing as well.

Media is a costly business, and like aviation,investors love it for the feel and prestige...money is just a pretension. A lot of funds ( I suspect) take strategic stakes in media companies because it offers a lever of sorts (conspiracy theories, anyone?). Anyway, here is a story on how broadcasters are in a crunch.

How Mumbai 26/11 shaped the future of media in India

Mumbai, 26/11/2008

Terrorists carried sat-phones
Eyewitnesses used Twitter feeds
TV cameras rolled live
Social activists attacked them on blogs
Citizens rallied around Facebook pages

That was the world's first instance of "convergence terrorism" or Terrorism 2.0 as I said.
It is clear that media will never be the same again.
Facebook groups sprung up against Barkha Dutt, India's most familiar English TV news anchorette. And pieces by activist writers like Harini Calamur (like this took on the media.
Here are my brief observations.

1)Media will never be the same again, because Internet activism is acting as a countervailing influence on conventional media. Even if they care only for viewership, and claim publicly that only viewers matter, there will be some influence.

2) There are still a huge number of people out there who believe the role of the media as a noble "watchdog" purveying facts, presenting it responsibly. Who is going to PAY for this journalism? Can these activists subsidise the high cost of the publishing business?

3) Increasingly, social bookmarking and e-mail are emerging as powerful drivers of attention.
Gnani Sankaran's piece
questioning the Taj as Mumbai's icon became quite a rage on the Net.

28 November 2008

Ban ‘live’ reporting of hostage rescue missions?

Thought provoking post from a respected media blog.

via sans serif by churumuri on 11/27/08

"Several foreign nationals are trapped in the Taj Hotel Mahal"

"The top management of a multinational corporation was meeting…"

"Terrorists are suspected to be on the 9th floor…"

"NSG troops are about to have arrived in Mumbai…"

"NSG commandos have entered the Hotel…"

Some of the information telecast live by all news channels on yesterday's terror attack on Bombay.

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: News channels have an objective—to fetch the latest news and share them with viewers, much before a competitor channel does that. But I feel this habit of indiscriminate live reporting, while a combat operation is in progress, can be catastrophic for the success of the military operations against terror.

Let us just think for a while. Do we really need to know everything on a 'as soon as it happens' basis? I feel not. Whether NSG commandos have just arrived at airport, or have entered the hotel or are on the first floor or second at this moment, is not necessary to be revealed to the general public on a realtime basis.

Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside.

Consider this. The commandos only know that the militants are somewhere inside the hotel, but the militants know everything about the movements and positions of their pursuers through TV.


# Who is on their trail (Army/ NSG/ local police, etc)

# What is their ETA (estimated time of arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin)

# Where they are right now, at the main entrance/ just entered their floor

# How is the world responding? Is there pressure mounting on the government to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed (so that they can act tough during negotiation)?

# How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)?

# What has been the impact of their strike-how many police and civilian dead, the current morale of police, who all as been detained/suspected?

# Live visuals of the street-to assess a possible escape strategy

# What information about them the outside world has (which floor they are in, their head count etc. And much more…

In my view, all this information, while useful to viewers and relatives of victims, also helps the terrorists/ militants to consolidate their position and pose a greater challenge to commandos trying to hunt them down and/ or rescue the hostages.

Why is our media helping them by airing live all the sensitive information about the anti terror operations?

The common man does not need to know them on a live basis.

Can't the information & broadcasting ministry think of banning live reporting during a hostage crisis? Let the channels air the news with a delay of few hours, so that the police and security agencies will have a lead time of few hours, wherein terrorists would be as equally uninformed as they are.

Please note that I am not advocating censorship. I am all for free speech and expression. What I am proposing, is that security agencies should have the power to impose a delay of say three to six hours w.r.t live reporting of anti terror operations.

Let the TV channels record whatever they want, but they should be aired only after a gap of few hours. I do not think anyone loses anything with this.

The movie A Wednesday also shares same opinion. I feel the good old days of oncein a day news bulletin was far better.

What do you think?

(This post is dedicated to all the brave police officials and innocent civilians who lost their lives in yesterday's terror attack in Bombay)

Mumbai attacks shows shakeout in Indian TV news

In the middle of a very busy run, here are a few quick thoughts on how TV News is not going to be the same again in India.

Great reportage from the ground on Times Now, Headlines Today and CNN-IBN, not necessarily in that order. NDTV seems to be lagging -- and very fatigued.

Lots of great articulation from the ground by tireless reporters that I have never heard of or seen much. A great new generation of television journalists is in the making.

Hindi news channels turn mainstream, and everybody watches and surfs on such occasions across channels and languages

TV reportage lacks cohesion in presentation, because it focuses too much on images and "on-the-spot" feeds. Leaves something for print to do.

26 November 2008

State of the Blogosphere-A cheat sheet

Here is an interesting insight into the blogosphere, from Mediapost, looking at Technorati

reports brief subscribe home
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blogs And Mainstream Media Intersect

According to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, the majority of bloggers surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month.

There have been a number of studies aimed at understanding the size of the Blogosphere, says the report, yielding disparate estimates, but all studies agree that blogs are a global phenomenon that has hit the mainstream. Reports in 2008 include these estimates:

comScore MediaMetrix reports: (August 2008)

  • Blogs... 77.7 million unique visitors in the US
  • Facebook... 41.0 million
  • MySpace... 75.1 million
  • Total internet audience... 188.9 million

eMarketer says: (May 2008)

  • 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users)
  • 22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12% of Internet users)

Universal McCann finds: (March 2008)

  • 184 million world wide have started a blog
  • 346 million world wide read blogs
  • 77% of active Internet users read blogs

Wikipedia defines the Blogosphere as the collective community of all blogs. interconnected and socially networked. While discussions in the Blogosphere have been used by the media as a gauge of public opinion, Technorati isolates the Active Blogosphere as the ecosystem of interconnected communities of bloggers and readers at the convergence of journalism and conversation.

But, says the study, as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs.

Technorati tracked blogs in 81 languages in June 2008, and bloggers from 66 countries across six continents, finding that Bloggers have been at it an average of three years and are collectively creating close to one million posts every day. Blogs have representation in top-10 web site lists across all key categories, and have become integral to the media ecosystem.

The key findings included such things as:

  • Personal, professional, and corporate bloggers all have differing goals and cover an average of five topics within each blog
  • They use five different techniques to drive traffic to their blog.
  • They're using an average of seven publishing tools on their blog and four distinct metrics for measuring success
  • Bloggers ae receiving speaking or publishing opportunities, career advancement, and personal satisfaction
  • Bloggers are using self serve tools for search, display, and affiliate advertising, and are increasingly turning to ad and blog networks.
  • Four in five bloggers post brand or product reviews, with 37% posting them frequently
  • 90% of bloggers say they post about the brands, music, movies and books that they love (or hate)
  • Company information or gossip and everyday retail experiences are fodder for the majority of bloggers
  • One-third of bloggers have been approached to be brand advocates

Global Snapshot of Bloggers


U.S. Bloggers

European Bloggers

Asian Bloggers









   18-34 years old












Employed full-time




Household income >$75,000




College graduate




Average blogging tenure (months)




Median Annual Investment




Median Annual Revenue




% Blogs with advertising




Average Monthly Unique Visitors




Technorati, State of the Blogosphere, October 2008


Segment Snapshot of Bloggers





With Advertising

No Advertising













   18-34 years old


















Employed full-time






Household income>$75k






College graduate






Average blogging tenure (months)






Median Annual Investment






Median Annual Revenue






% Blogs with Advertising






Average Monthly Unique Visitors






Technorati, State of the Blogosphere, October 2008


Global Bloggers by Gender




Personal Blog



Professional Blog






   18-24 years old









Employed full-time



Median Annual Investment



Median Annual Revenue



% Blogs with advertising



Sell Through a Blog ad Network*



Have Affiliate ads*



Have Contextual ads*



Technorati, State of the Blogosphere, October 2008  (*Among those with advertising on their blogs)

In 2004 when Technorati started, says the report, the typical reaction to the word 'blog' was 'huh?' Today... the blog has forever changed the way publishing works... anyone can be a publisher. The issue is no longer distribution, it's relevance.

17 November 2008

Murdoch sees newspapers evolving -- not dead

Rupert Murdoch is brilliant as ever.
I like the simplicity with which he brings out the strategy he pursues. Mr. Murdoch says newspapers are not dead, and with a subtle sense of humour (which I suspect may not be his own -- but then I could be wrong) shows how the Internet could be an opportunity for newspapers.
And more important, he lays down the limits of bloggers. Now, I have spoken a lot about micropublishing, nanopublishing and blogging in separate lights, and this kind of confirms my views.
Murdoch made his views known in an industry address. Here is the story.

27 October 2008

When it is your NGO, and our content...

What happens when one of the country's biggest firebrand social-environmental activists is accused of copyright violation? Sunita Narain is in a spot because her organisation seems to have merrily used content from Mint newspaper without permission.
Here is what the managing editor says in his blog.

Takes me back to that old expression of mine: Loser Generated Content.

Anybody who thinks content is free or should be, is a saint (which I think I am not), or making good money elsewhere and treats knowledge as charity.
It's time quality content producers become aware of their rights.

20 October 2008

The Net Is No Family Breaker --Survey

Here it is, for those who think Net divides those divided in the age of television!

15 October 2008

A very nice presentation on global financial crisis and India

The Financial Crisis and India

From: pjain, 3 days ago

The Financial Crisis and India
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: bcd bcd5)

A quick and dirty presentation given at BarCamp Delhi on the financial crisis and it's potential impact on India

SlideShare Link

13 October 2008

The Me Video: Musings on business journalism

In my long journalistic career, I usually have been on the side asking questions, not on the one giving (or pretending to give) answers. But there are exceptions in these strange times.
I was interviewed -- sort of -- last week, by a most interesting blog called Murali Listening.
I was on a visit to Chennai, and ended up as a guest in the office D. Murali, who is Deputy Editor at The Hindu Business Line. Murali, I am told, has one guest a day, to whom he shoots gentle but probing questions and records the responses on his Nokia N73. Believe me, over a period of time he has built quite a collection of stuff under "Food For Thought", and the blog runs like a TV channel.
I was fodder for his cannonball run, and fielded questions on business journalism.
I should have smiled more, but then, these are difficult times and those were difficult questions.
Here is the video link.

And then, I must add that Murali's blog is another proof on how theme-based blogs can blaze a new trail in the media.

11 September 2008

A one-stop shop for PR folks accessing bloggers

 Here is how bloggers are getting together to engage with PR folks.My friend Ajay Jain at TechGazing is doing this.

The site is http://www.blognewsroom.com

9 September 2008

Wow! Can micropayments rescue folks from Loser Generated Content?

via GigaOM by Stacey Higginbotham on 9/8/08

As a business journalist, I have to confess that I love it when money starts changing hands. I can get excited about all sorts of new and upcoming technology, but until people can find ways to create real value and get paid, it's kind of hard to take seriously, like the 25-year-old married to your 60-year-old boss. So that's why two startups launching at DEMO caught my eye.

Photrade is a platform on which photographers can post pics and track their use across the web. As part of that tracking, they can set fees for their photos and/or control which sites can use them. If the photo has been taken from the Photrade site, licenses can be revoked and updated at will. There are a few problems with this model, such as convincing people to use it in the first place — both to put quality images on it and pay for said images — but it's a step in the right direction.

The other is MixMatchMusic, which not only enables online musical collaboration between artists and but payment for such collaborations. The service takes a recorded track of music, analyzes it and suggests other music on the site that might compliment it. Musicians can use this to collaborate remotely, or meet musicians whose work they like. They can also create entire songs on the site and list them for download or commercial use. If someone buys the music, musicians get 85 percent of the revenue. Again, the site will have to get both buyers and sellers to particpate.

We hear plenty about all the people willing to work solely for their 15 minutes of fame on the web, and so far most efforts to help people cash in on their 15 minutes have fallen flat, but it's good to see startups trying hard to address this problem. Maybe users will start taking them up on the solutions.

5 September 2008

Future of FM radio-- a hilarious statement of truth

From Vineet Singh Hukmani, CEO of Radio One.
I really loved this.

4 September 2008

Death of the 30-second (prime-time) commercial?

Now I am right, now I am not.

I was only a month ago wondering if I had spent three years predicting the end of prime-time (as we know it) to eat my words.

Then I thought that live TV will stay with a prime-time kind of feel (I still do).

Now I think could still be right either way. Anything that is recordable need not necessarily be watched live, and hence, the bulk of entertainment programmes will fall into this category.
For instance, now, viewers switch between channels when there is an ad on --while advertisers have to struggle to keep them viewing. With digital video recorders and time-shifted TV programmes, people will concentrate more on the content, with flexibility of viewing more than ever before.
Read this story on the death of the 30-second commercial for more on what things are headed for.

3 September 2008

H.Y. Sharada Prasad R.I.P.

Does the name H.Y. Sharada Prasad mean anything to you?
To a whole generation of journalists, it was synonymous with Indira Gandhi, to whom he was a media advisor. Amazing how the next generation cannot even recall such names. All things must pass, yes.

From sans serif by churumuri on 9/2/08

sans serif announces with deep regret the passing away of Holenarsipur Yoganarasimha Sharada Prasad, aka H.Y. Sharada Prasad, the legendary Mysorean who served as media advisor to three prime ministers of India, in New Delhi, on Tuesday, 2 September 2008. He was 84 years old, and is survived by his wife Kamalamma, and two sons.

"Shourie", as Sharada Prasad was known to relatives and close friends, was born in Bangalore, educated at the University of Mysore and jailed during the Quit India movement. He joined the Indian Express group in Bombay in 1945, and was a Neiman fellow in journalism at Harvard University in 1955-56.

He edited Yojana, the journal of the Planning Commission, after which followed his stints at the prime minister's office between 1966-78 and 1980-88, under Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi. During the Janata government, he worked with Morarji Desai for a few months before being posted as director of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC).

The ultimate exemplar of the "Mysore School of Writing"—not too light, not too heavy—that R.K. Narayan, R.K. Laxman, T.S. Satyan among others exemplify, Sharada Prasad wrote books on Karnataka (Exploring Karnataka with Satyan), on the Rashtrapati Bhavan (The Story of the President's House), and on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (Selected Works).

Is the browser the new desktop?

Remember that old slogan, "Network is the computer?"...that was Sun Microsystems' paradigm-shifting slogan that showed the end of the desktop-based PC era.
Now, with the Internet and Google's announcement of the new browser called Chrome, the new slogan could well be: "The browser is the desktop"
Tremendous implications for your future -- and that of Microsoft and a lot else that we do in a connected world.

Here is the story.

The implications: Before long you won't be reaching out to open an MS Office or any other word-processing/spreadsheet and possibly, even presentation files. You could do it the way you bookmark a page on a browser and publishing directly to the Net.
I am already doing it thanks to a plug-in, but all this is going to be made easier, intuitive and above all, a habitual and cultural thing.

27 August 2008

10 rules for brand builders in the age of social media

\Market madness\

Last week, the Public Relations Consultants Association of India called me for a panel discussion on, "Social Media--Its Impact & Challenges."
Luckily, my home PC conked out and I had an official excuse to skip a PowerPoint presentation. After a long-drawn, patient do-it-yourself kind of persuasion by Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks (who has emerged as a pioneering figure in approaching blogs from the other side of the media fence!), and some words of wisdom from Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama (who sounded more like a good investigative journalist than a I-am-having-fun blogger), I got to speak --and felt a bit like the Prime Minister speaking in parliament on a bridge in Nagaland: half-the house had left. But then, I decided to have fun and rolled on with a 10-point programme for brand-builders, written on the back of the invite-sheet for the session (Backs of envelopes are hopelessly out of vogue, you know!).
So here are my 10 points..actually there are only 9 but I made up the last to complete the magic number.
Here goes my two pennies for brand builders, modified on the fly as I write it. I tentatively called it "Blogs and Banter in the world of brands" -- so the rest of the social media gets mentioned only in passing.

1) Blogs are not about the media, but about democracy

Everyone is a reporter, you know. You gotta deal with it. Imagine a world where everyone had a secret diary which everyone else could read. It is nearly that bad.

2) Blogs are not about recall -- they are about reputation

"Recall" is a 20th Century expression, smugly portrayed by ad men and monopolistic publishers and broadcasters. People will remember your brand, but HOW THEY FEEL depends on what these blogger types think. Think about it.

3) Blogs wear pyjamas

No blue-suits, pinstripes, jhola-carrying kurta journalists, whatever...blogs tend to be informal in general, and defy stereotypes. Media persons and professional corporate-types blog, but so do NRI moms, housewives, whoever..and guess what? Everyone mentions brands, somewhere, somehow. Go figure.

4) It ain't just about blogs; instruments abound in the world of social media

E-mails are part of it all-- if someone forwards them (they do!). Chats, RSS Feeds, widgets, Twitter, social networking pages, random remarks, discussion forums, message boards. Sounds complex? It is simple, really--instruments have multiplied, like TV channels and mushrooming PR agencies. (If some of the things mentioned in these instruments sound alien, it is time for you to learn)

5) Influence the influencers

Does it matter if it is Kantabai, the most glam maid in your block, sending a vernacular SMS? Things are getting there, sooner or later. You've got to understand. Special correspondents are kind of passe (I am trying to be humble, you see!)

6) Kill the press release, make corporate blogs happen

Tell your clients to type. Ghost-write, if they insist. I see a future in which the informality of the medium must be matched by a counter-informality. Google has already done it with its blogs. I am told the world follows Google these days. Even Bill Gates does.

7) Beware of mobiles and big mouths

I have kind of hinted this already. Somebody, somewhere is talking about those brands and it is not all systematic. I have coined a term called "feed-on" to replace "feedback" (I have written a separate post on it)
Market research, word-of-mouth, customer referrals happen on the go over the Net to just about anyone, not necessary companies or dealers or shopkeepers. And mobile handsets, cheaper by the day, will make it all multiply. Confused? You should be.

8) It is not about relationships. It is about Truth, Transparency and Tact

Okay, the PR profession must now stop behaving like lawyers. Hee, hee. You gotta face the truth and tell it like it is. It was always this way, but now you have NO PLACE TO HIDE. Some quantity of spin may just be allowed, though. If you are lucky.

9) Mix now, fix later

Be yourself. That point number eight about relationships ain't all over but relations only help you take the message forward, not fudge the message.

10) Read MediaWatch India

(That is the name of this blog and it needed to be mentioned in order to take the number of points to 10. Not sure if it will improve my brand).

End of story. Comments welcome.

25 August 2008

In the age of Internet, 'feedback' is out, 'feed-on' is in

Just for a lark, as I spoke to some public relations professinals the other day, I invented a word: "feed-on"..in response to somebody, who was asking about customer "feedback"
I am reminded my younger days, when some Delhi shopkeepers had a nice-lil board that said: "If you are not satisfied, tell us. If you are satisfied, tell others!"

These guys must make more sense in the age of Internet, where customer bad-mouthing can take wings and fly over emails, blog posts and sites like MoutShut that specialise in customer opinion. I have seen message boards in social networking sites raving and ranting about bad customer service or instances of short-changing.
Word-of-mouth loops have an authentic ring to them.
A decade ago (Sigh! During those pre-dotcom-bust days!) I attended the launch of a company that fancied itself as having a business model through the Web to connect companies to customers. It was called Planet Customer. It even went through a merger! Here is the story.
And then, the company disappeared. Here is what I found when I clicked the original URL: Just a plain domain site.
Where are you guys, when your dream is happening?

19 August 2008

Kyunki Ekta bhi kabhi Murdoch ki thi?

I just remarked in an editorial meeting today: Wasn't that supplier's credit? In the world of manufacturing, a client helps a supplier with advance payment,like a loan. I suspect the stake that Star TV had in Balaji Telefilms, which has now been bought back is nothing but a smart loan disguised as an equity stake.
I may be overstating the case, but given the non-exclusive nature of Ekta Kapoor's soap factor (she will supply similar-sounding three-handkerchief weepies for anyone who kkkkkcares), it did not make strategic sense for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to hang on. Content is increasingly outsourced to independent vendors, and Balaji and Star must have realised it all. But it must be said that the deal was good while it lasted. A soap queen was born and the frothy weepies gave market leadership to Star.
A Kool Kase of Kash-ing in and Kash-ing out?

17 August 2008

The Medium and the Massage

I have to say a lot, but I am saying very little. This blog has been silent for a week, not in spite of, but because of too much going on in my head. At work, yes -- and that took away my time. My computer was acting up both at home and work --- and that took away my convenience.
But more important, I attended a television awards seminar and function, visited a Hindi newspaper's swank office and chanced by the studio of a well-known channel to meet a friend. Yet, I have not found the time to pour out what I saw and felt.
Above all, I had this experience of an anonymous commenter saying this blogger was "full of yourself" -- which provoked thought -- even if I were to dismiss it as the ranting of a PR person upset over my criticism of her/his tribe (as the post was at the end of a caustic reference to PR)
Of course, this blog does reflect my view of things, but then, this was the right moment to pause. I need to figure out why people see "me" when I see an "it!".
I have learnt a lot writing this blog -- about readers, viewers, peers, partners, technology, Internet and myself.
I have been deeply disappointed -- but not surprised -- by the lack of numbers in comments but then this is because this is not a gossipy blog and it is not even newsy in the what's-in-it-for-me sense that most careerists seek out the media these days, irrespective of what career they are in.
Time was when the media was about a large, wide social interface, and time was when issues were discussed in a broader context.
The movement of this blog gives me a lot about what has changed.
I have also learnt hell of a lot about blogging itself -- and what it can mean to people of various kinds. To that extent, I see it as successful experiment.
No money, no ads, not even rah-rah comments by the dozens. But I still feel richer. There must be something to it.

7 August 2008

US journalists became self-indulgent, says Murdoch

I am not done with the Murdoch visit to India yet. Always looking for telling quotes from the man, whose furrowed forehead and creased smile attracts me as much as his insights into the business.
Here is my takeaway quote from the visit:
Newspapers in America became
monopolistic. Proprietors became lazy, and journalists became self-indulgent because they were writing for each other and lost touch with the public.

Full interview
story from CNBC -TV 18 here

Career challenges for journos in the Age of Convergence

Three years ago, I had made a presentation to media students in Bangalore about prospects and challenges in the age of the Internet in a booming economy. I find a lot of it relevant -- in fact more relevant than in 2005, when I made it.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by madhavan

6 August 2008

Time-Warner segregates content from carriage

The message is clear.

Nearly a decade ago, Steve Case was the big man at America On Line, which, like a tail wagging the dog, acquired one of the world's most reputed media content companies, Time -Warner Inc, because AOL owned the Net connections that would carry content to homes.
Then came the dot-com bust...and then Web 2.0 and all that. It is now clear that content and carriage of content need not be, and in fact, better not be, in the same company.
AOL's carriage part is being separated from the content part.
This is the future of the Net - and indeed the media.
A few decades ago, publishers owned presses.
One decade ago, the pipe-wallahs took content.
Not any more.
My next prediction: Ad sales will be increasingly separated from content. It is happening already on the Web with publishers and ad networks working as partners, and not as one entity.
Why can't that happen to old-world old media houses?
I see it happening, though the pace could be painfully slow.

Nice and cynical...

5 August 2008

Murdoch's baraat goes to Bharat: And what's his message for Indian media barons?

So Rupert Murdoch is going to invest $100 million in India's regional language channels.
I already watch Vijay TV in Tamil in which he has a hand through Star TV. He is now up for Saam TV in Marathi and Asianet in Malayalam, we are told.
This man knows his long-term onions.
I watched Star Plus grow from a 50-50 joint venture with Subhash Chandra's Zee TV that had a strong contract which limited Hindi content, before the relationship ended. Subhashji got rich, but guess what Mr. Murdoch got?
Two things: 1) Freedom 2) Ground-level knowledge.
I do believe that a serial like Kora Kagaz, which ran in the constricted Star TV, as the forerunner of the famous mother-in-law soaps that took Star Plus to new heights.
If I were an Indian media baron, I would be floating a joint venture with other regional satraps.
You know, cricket is not the only thing Australians are good at.

4 August 2008

Is the Net making media investment laws obsolete?

"A lot of countries have restrictions in the media, but with the expansion of the Internet, the rules are getting ridiculous."

"I think in time these rules will be done away with."

--Rupert Murdoch in Mumbai, quoted by Reuters

Here is the story

Journalism books --Easy at Google

Amazing how Google is enriching us in so many ways. I have to grudgingly acknowledge its glory, even though it is becoming a monster of sorts. I have discovered how the books part of Google can help you locate tomes by the dozen on your favourite topic. For instance, I just typed 'journalism' in the books link and it threw up immediately a neat pile of searches, which, unlike the usual Web search, is focused and very rich. Here is what I came up with. I am truly impressed.

3 August 2008

The Power of Google--loved this cartoon!


Arushi and the return of the responsibility debate

It is becoming clear that the Arushi murder case in Noida has become a test case in measuring the (ir)responsibility of journalists. The television channels that went overboard in 2007 in their zealous search for television rating points (TRPs) and/or that Big Big Story are facing criticism across the board.
An article by Indira Jaisingh, an eminent lawyer, in today's edition of The Hindu makes that point with the following intro.
"While freedom of the press is vital to retain accountability in the judicial system, the thin line between reporting facts and expressing opinions on them is being increasingly crossed, as it happened recently in the Aarushi murder case. What about accountability to those whose reputations are being damaged in the process?"
Libel laws are weak in India, and even more weak are institutions that disseminate information, such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the police, which often brief the media without knowing the consequences of what they are doing.
Who is going to bell the cat? Certainly not article-writers. I wonder if the Press Council of India can act on its own (suo-motto, as they say in the judiciary).

1 August 2008

The Future of News--debated by ad guys (er, where were the newsies?)

\Ad-libbing news\

The good news on news: somebody was discussing its future.
The bad news on news: there was no newsperson on the dais.
Sounds funny?
Here is the release. If you see it carefully, it is full of ad-biz folks. Nothing wrong with that. But surely, one would expect a hands-on news person to have a thing or two to say there.
Reminds me of the famous Sherlock Holmes story-- where the clue was in the dog that did not bark.
The invitation sent to me earlier mentioned editors among panelists, but apparently they were too busy making or breaking news elsewhere to turn up here.

Here is the news--oops, the release.

New Delhi, August 1, 2008 – afaqs!, India’s leading advertising, media and marketing website, hosted a conference on “The Future of News”. Speakers discussed and debated the prospects of both the content as well as the business of news in New Delhi on August 1, 2008.

The event has come at a time when the very definition of news is changing as is the way in which it is delivered. Unusually, the conference discussed the morphing nature of news across media: be it print, TV, online or mobile.

Among the topics discussed by well known media professionals and marketers were the abundance of news, the localisation of content and whether it translates into revenue, why investors are funding news, an inquiry into revenue streams beyond advertising, a look at how digital content can pay for itself, and whether the tabloidisation of news is affecting the way advertisers view the news genre.

Sreekant Khandekar, Director, afaqs!, said “The consensus of the speakers of the conference seem to be that we will be flooded with even more news brands in all media. We haven’t seen anything. There will be need for many different types of news and many different brands will be born to service those needs.”
Eminent personalities like Ajit Balakrishnan, Founder and chairman, Rediff.com; Lakshmikant Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, LG Electronics; Punitha Arumugam, Chief Executive Officer, Madison India; Ravi Kiran, Chief Executive Officer, Starcom; Santosh Desai, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Future Brands; Shashi Sinha, Chief Executive Ofiicer, Lodestar Universal; Rajesh Jain, Managing Director, Netcore Solutions; Salil Pitale, Head – Media & Telecom, Enam Investment Banking; Shubhodip Pal, Head Marketing, Consumer - Personal Systems Group, Hewlett Packard addressed the conference.

Turn Anything Into a Screenplay--Wired's Wiki shows you how

I stumbled on this rather hilarious, but insightful, piece on how to write screenplays.
1) It seems pithy and funny, but not without wisdom
2) It shows the power of Wiki -- this from Wired mag's how-to wiki
3) It shows how we are in the age of "knowledge manufacturing" -- from reverse engineering of high-value patent drugs to movie screenplays, there are people out there who will crack your formula.

There is a nakedness you feel when tricks of the trade are up there on the Web.
Creatitivity must reinvent itself now!

Here is the piece:

"'If you follow''' the advice of screenwriting guru Robert McKee, almost anything can be made into a great story — even, say, Slashdot, the site run by Rob Malda (aka CmdrTaco).

'''1. Create a protagonist.''' CmdrTaco lives on Netopia, where his people, an enslaved race called the Bots, are forced to feed information into the Great OS.

'''2. Establish what the protagonist wants.''' CmdrTaco wants to be free.

'''3. Be sure to have an antagonist.''' CmdrTaco fears the evil Regional Information Acquiring Agency (RIAA), which polices Netopia for rebels.

'''4. Decide what the antagonist wants.''' The RIAA knows that the only way to keep the Bots enslaved is to stifle all attempts to share data.

'''5. You need a conflict to drive the plot.''' CmdrTaco has to free the enslaved Bots or die.

'''6. Don't forget a beginning, a middle, and an end.''' CmdrTaco escapes the capital, Vistopolis (in a car chase you really have to see to believe). He then tells the Bots of Netopia to log on to the Great OS and simultaneously upload the most useless piece of data in the galaxy: "/." Overwhelmed, the Great OS explodes, taking the RIAA with it.

31 July 2008

Should Scrabulous go to WTO? (And who cares, when it has become the Napster of Facebook?)

Oh, Calcutta!
That was the name of a controversial play involving nudity in the 1970s. The current controversy over the brothers from Kolkata, Rajat and Jayant Agarwala, reminded me of the last time when the West majorly engaged with the now-renamed city.
We have headlines all over that the brothers, on a request from social networking site Facebook, have pulled off their popular word-game Scrabulous following a lawsuit from Hasbro, which owns the official Scrabble game. The brothers have responded with their own version of the game called Wordscraper as this story from Reuters says.
Details of all this apart, two points I wish to make:
The game has been pulled in US and Canada, but does Scrabble enjoy worldwide rights over the game? Should this go to WTO as well? I had remarked some days ago that the Google-Yahoo war over search should go to the World Trade Organisation, because US regulation and anti-competition laws are not adequate or relevant in a larger emerging context.
That brings me to Point Two. Napster started the business of file-swapping, and died a death, more or less. But not before it legitimised the legal transport of MP3 music and on-line sale of songs, as opposed to albums or CDs. Apple's iTunes today owes its existence in a sense to Napster.
Likewise, creative destruction is playing out on the Net in a similar environment. Hasbro will realise that it cannot overprice Scrabble or stick to an old distribution formula. Patents and trademarks will work up to a point. After that, the Net is about freedom.
What is stopping someone from starting a Facebook group called "Out with Scrabble, in with Wordscraper?"

30 July 2008

Crowdsourcing: where social media meets reportage

The other day, I spoke of how Twitter feeds can become a source for reporters covering a hot breaking event -- because people with mobile phones and access to eyewitnesses can instantly put stuff into the World Wide Web.
Now, I have discovered a smart new word for it: crowdsourcing.
Here is the Wikipedia entry for that word.


Are you getting an overdose of social media?

Are we having so much of social media?
Is there too much of a networking thing going on?
Is there excess of content?
Is attention getting meaninglessly fragmented?
For some of us, who grew up reading long articles on lazy afternoons, the overload of Internet content is less about success and more about excess. And guess what? We could be right;-). Here is a perceptive piece from Mediapost

I am tired of people using their BlackBerries in meetings. I am really tired of getting useless social networking updates on people I barely know ("Bob is playing with his dog."). Most of all, I am tired of this self-righteous, misguided notion that wearing a Bluetooth hands-free dongle in your ear somehow makes you important.

I don't care about Bob, or his dog. I also don't care about the boring conversations of Bluetooth-wearing loud talkers. Collectively, we need to get rid of technology as fashion accessory and demand a little peace and quiet.

We have become an ADHD nation. The constant fragmentation of our already short attention span is a really dangerous trend. Not only does it reduce the quality of meetings and conversations, it also creates serious challenges for marketers.

In a brilliant article in Forbes titled "Can You Hear Me Now?" Sherry Turkle of MIT compellingly argued that this new era of hyper-connectedness is just a fa├žade. While we have increasingly more means of instant communication, we are building less meaningful relationships.

We have become a nation that is a mile wide and an inch deep. We use social networking to get updates on people without having to take the time to actually talk to them. We send text messages in place of conversations. Worse, we are often already in a conversation when we send them. And don't get me started on Twitter.
If our society continues to divide its attention into ever-smaller chunks, the marketing industry is in for a rude awakening.

It is not hard to imagine that 10 years from now, all video will be delivered over the Web. Most magazines and newspapers will as well. Consumers will sit behind a fat broadband pipe getting email, instant messages, social networking updates, and text messages while simultaneously consuming Web sites or video. Good luck getting their attention.

While this trend may be impossible to reverse, the solution for marketers is to steer into the skid. Marketing that appears next to content will get ignored. Marketing is going to have to become deeply integrated into the communication platforms.

Most publishers are woefully unprepared for this change. The majority of content Web sites today lack even a basic Application Programming Interface (API) that would allow an advertiser to integrate simple widgets. It is critical that publishers expose APIs to enable advertisers to modify your user interface (within set limitations, obviously), and create widgets or full interactive applications that can run on your Web sites.

Deep integrations will enable publishers and advertisers to work more closely together than they have in the past to capture unprecedented consumer attention — and, more importantly, unprecedented revenue.

Instead of Fandango paying for TV commercials that consumers skip past with their DVR, they could integrate a widget into movie content sites that enables users to get notifications of upcoming movies, buy tickets, and invite their friends. They could be part of the conversation, not stuck in the corner drinking punch and watching everyone else dance.

Why would anyone pay to reach 100% of consumers watching a TV show, when only a small percentage is paying attention? Advertisers that use traditional advertising are increasingly throwing money away.

The attention span problem is already visible in younger generations, who were raised with broadband and multitasking as the norm. It has gotten so bad that college admissions officers are receiving admission application essays with text messaging abbreviations ('I g2g 2 Harvard, I'd do gr8!').

As I become more conscious of my own technology-driven ADHD, I have started to seek changes. Five years ago, I developed an idea I called "real time." Consciously spending a block of time just focused on the moment. Every year since, I have taken a vacation in a location that had no cell phone reception, no Internet access, and often, no running water.

In a few days I am leaving for two weeks in Kenya and Tanzania to climb the Lemosho Route up Mt. Kilimanjaro and then go on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater. I won't have a laptop, cell phone, or Internet access, but I guarantee I will have a lot of meaningful conversations.

Are you tired of always being connected?

29 July 2008

Oh, those irritating PR calls!

\New Face of PR\

I rue the day the mobile phone happened. It may be fashionable for chatty teenagers and people trying to look busy and/or important.
Not me.
I got one call today, asking if I was interested in Henkel doing something in schools. Excuse me!
Another one said: "Infosys has developed this solution...." and I said: "Stop there, and send me a mail"
(It doesn't help if they follow an ostensibly polite line: "Is it a good time to call?" or "Do you have a minute?"...I do want to say: "Yes, I do have a minute. But not for you" or "Never is a good time to call" -- but then, more often than not, I try not to be rude)
Why are PR people calling me about irrelevant stuff? Or stuff they OUGHT TO KNOW is irrelevant or of no immediate importance for me?

Why are rank juniors with no sense, sensibility or experience being foisted upon to make cold calls that would put a credit-card-selling random-dial dumbo to shame?

What are their bosses smoking?

Why can't they first e-mail (It exists, you know!) first on stuff that is less important?

Why can't they call on the landline, if at all it is worth following up?

The problem with being a journalist is that you have to keep your phone line open for that one-in-100 call that makes some sense. But in the name of PR, I get so hear more and more of useless calls.
This is because there is a whole tribe out there which cannot tell the difference between sales, advertising, public relations and media relations.
They are four different things, you know.
And then: I got a heavy-duty load of attachments from a company today: it offered me in JPEG format (Gawd!) about eight press releases --- or was it 12?
They were in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati etc etc.
Could they not individually mail relevant press releases?
Is spam and cold-calling the new face of PR?
You tell me!

28 July 2008

When Bangalore was bombed, Twitterers turned reporters

I thought I had seen it before.
But I was not sure.
Where have I seen this before, I wondered.
Oh, it reminded me of my days in Reuters, when the editorial system saw cluttered reports from correspondents and stringers piling into a box, similar in topic but diverse in style and datelines.
Only, this time, the loop was not closed and secure.
When bombs went off in Bangalore last Friday, the savvier techies were turning to a social media "friendfeed" to make sense.
This is what I read on Ashish Sinha's pluggd.in


"There are ~8 bomb blasts reported so far. Since telco networks are jammed, please use this twitter id to share your status (so that your near and dear ones can know your well being).Or else, use spy to track the bangalore news across social media.

Word of advice: if you are in your office, stay there. Please do not add to the traffic jam/chaos by leaving for home right now!"

What is "spy"?
It turns out that this link is what he was talking of
Click on that, and you are officially evesdropping on stuff related to Bangalore.
On that eventful day, this was like a reporter's dream come true.
Of course, like in all cases, reporters can face hoax calls, crank messages and sundry useless stuff coming their way. And this was no exception.
But it was educative to see how "citizen journalism" had at least come somewhere near reasonable tip-offs for mainstream reporters.
A lot of the messages that day were get-well-soon type twitters or inane kill-those-terrorists rants..but some of it made a lot of sense, as eyewitnesses and alert citizens fed information from the ground -- for ANYONE who cared, ANYWHERE on the planet.
This is what newsrooms must be alert to in the Digital Age.

25 July 2008

Is User Generated Content heading for bust?


There is a quote my father used to cite, though I am not sure who this is from. Possibly Samuel Johnson: "No ass ever wrote anything but for money."

Now, we are living in the age of User Generated Content.
This blog is one example, but then I am told I can make money by using the Google AdSense program (me!).
Yahoo has Answers.
Everywhere, we have social networks being described as the hottest Internet thingie.
Message boards, discussion forums, self-created cartoons, photographs uploaded from the family album.... the list is long.
To this long list may be added this "citizen journalism" thing.
As a professional journalist, I often ask myself: Am I heading for unemployment, sub-employment, oblivion, whatever...?
I don't have the answers, but I can tell this much: It suits the creators of technology platforms, and those who make money on advertisements, to get content for free.
User Generated Content assumes that writing, singing, photographs...they are all done only for fun and self-satisfaction.
Some marginal money is shared through programmes like AdSense to encourage good content, but in the end, I do have my reservations about UGC.
If it is good, it must be worth the right price!
How much does one pay for something that is good?
In the current phase, there is a trend of disruption in which demand and supply are not being properly measured. The industry is, as it were, groping itself to find its own shape!
There are geeks trying to figure out how to get on top of Google Search lists.
There are geeks trying to measure how users consume content.
There are geeks trying to measure hits, impressions and usage patterns of content.
It is the lack of accepted measurement metrics, and the sheer novelty of uploading something on the Net that is creating a culture of "UGC-generated" revenues.
I expect this to settle into a rhythm.
Having seen the first dotcom boom -- and bust -- I expect the din on the side of the UGC evangelists from the technology and publisher side to die down.
Clarity will emerge a while later.
Remember the days when kids had 7 mail IDs?
Remember the days when a new email account resulted in 23 forwards read per day and 4 forwards done per day?
All that changed, and I expect this UGC thing to settle into a simple rhythm. A part of the advertisement revenue will most certainly go there, but a lot of the action will be in the mainstream media business.
Techies and ad-sellers trying to behave like publishers is a passing phase.
Loser Generated Content has its limits.
Just wait and watch.

24 July 2008

Magazine with flashing digital-light cover! Esquire does it in style!

This is technology at work. I had written a post last year about foldable electronic paper and was wondering at it. Now comes Esquire magazine which is flashing its old-world charm in a 21st Century package!
Here is the story.

23 July 2008

A take-off on tech-toys...loved this

M&A comes to blogging...

A feeble poll I set up on this very blog a few days ago ended yesterday. It asked: Can blogs turn into viable businesses? Only four people cared to vote and three of them said yes.
Now comes the news that GigaOM a blog-based content network founded by Om Malik in the Silicon Valley, has made its first acquisition...actually, the acquisition is by his venture-funded blog company, Giga Omnimedia.
In simple terms, the word blog can be misleading. Though its origins lie in the word web log, blogging tools are online publishing tools acquiring sophistication and method everyday. No wonder, quality blogs can and will -- as we see in this merger and acquisition of sorts involving GigaOM -- count alongside mainstream media.
Let's hear it from Om Malik on his deal:
"In the life of every company, there comes a time when it is faced with the choice of how to extend its reach: Either build a new product or service, or acquire the one that's already established itself as the best in its class. Larger companies face that question every day, but it is rare for a nano company like ours to have to make such a decision.
I am pleased to announce that Giga Omni Media, the company behind GigaOM, has acquired jkOnTheRun, a blog started by James Kendrick and Kevin Tofel that focuses on the wonderful world of mobile gadgets, including mobile phones and cloud client computers. James and Kevin will join GigaOM, but will continue to work from their respective homes of Houston and Telford, Pa., and jkOnTheRun will become the sixth blog in the GigaOM Network."
Congratulations, Malik Saheb!

22 July 2008

When corruption thrives, so does satire

Stumbled on this funny take-off talking about allegations of bribery in the vote of confidence in the parliament.
Just a little while later, it was bizarre to see members of parliament waving wads of currency notes on live television. I am waiting to see equally bizarre SMS polls on the mushrooming news channels.
Meanwhile, I decided to do a spot of do-it-yourself cartooning on the Net. A fantasy come true..and a tool just right for the moment.

Is television dying? Or is it prime-time? Or is that the soap opera?

Am I eating crow?
Did I speak too soon when I predicted the end-of-prime-time-as-we-know it?
Have I been betting too much on online video?

A new study by CBS says rumours of the television's death may be premature. It says online video is not going to kill TV.

Did video kill the radio star?
Did movies kill theatre?
Did television news kill newspapers?

Hmmm. I wish to go back to the details of my general drift during the three years that this blog has talked time and again of prime-time.
The emphasis should be on end-of-prime-time-as-we-know it

What it means is that a profusion of easy-to-launch digital TV/direct-to-home channels, online videos seen on PCs and other devices, and mobile videos streamed from a variety of sources (including blogs) will collectively erode the awesome power that 20th Century-style television had for about half-a-century.

This is what I say. Just as theatre, newspapers and radio had to re-invent themselves and undeniably lost their clout, so will television, primarily of the thousand-pound-gorilla-prime-time variety. Some of the soap serial makers like Ekta Kapoor, raised on a diet of greasy parathas and TRPs (television rating points) may wish to reach for a handkerchief, mimicking the ladies of their much-watched prime-time serials.

Now, will audio-books make reading go out of fashion? That's another story.

21 July 2008

US newspapers head south. What will happen to Indian nupes?

American newspapers are getting thinner, local news is up, stock tables have disappeared. So have TV listings. Revenues are down. Picture is expected to worsen.
So reveals a survey of editors in 1,217 -- and only 259 responded.
The survey comes from Pew Research Center under something called the Project for Execellence in Journalism.
More stuff in this in Reuters Mediafile here

Now, I do believe that Indian newspapers will get thinner as well.

18 July 2008

Can you measure journalism? How much is Picasso worth per square inch?

How do you measure journalistic productivity? Can you put numbers on stories executed to judge reporters? What the hell is a good-quality story? Does it involve writing? Balance? Reportage? "Consumer" value? Editing? What is the value of designers/copy-editors? Ideators?
Who should decide the quality? A vice-president with an MBA?
Is this a science? Is this an art?
What is subjective?
What the hell is objective?
No easy answers, but here is an interview with Chicago Tribune editor by Reuters Mediafile, which I am providing as food for thought/grist for mill.

(If I have the answers, I am not going to tell you now:))
And, oh yes! If you read the script below carefully, there is an open acknowledgement that newspapers are in crisis.
That is something that Indian newspapers don't seem to be saying...how interesting!

Here is the interview:

Tribune Co is keeping media reporters and headline writers busy these days with news of how the company is trying to turn around its newspaper business and stay afloat under billions of dollars in debt - all while creating a culture that, as Chicago real estate tycoon and newly minted press baron Sam Zell says, does not take itself too seriously.

That is growing more difficult as the company embarks on another round of job cuts at its papers, sparking fear and loathing among employees, and launches an ambitious plan to redo the papers' sizes and looks. Tribune also set journalism types' tongues a-wagging with its plan to review reporter productivity as a possible condition for staying on board. That might not sound so controversial, except that many people have interpreted that as saying it's not about the quality of your stories, it's about the quantity.

Gerould Kern, Tribune's vice president of editorial and the successor to departing Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, addressed some of these topics in a phone interview with Reuters.

Q: What is your immediate task as the new editor of the Chicago Tribune?

A: As we report almost daily, the newspaper business is in a crisis. And I want to do everything I can in my power to save it. And you know, the Chicago Tribune has played a huge role in the history of the nation and the city, and I know it and I'm proud of it and I want that history to stretch far into the future. So I'm optimistic that we can solve these economic problems, the economic dislocation that faces us and that we're not only going to survive but thrive in the future.

Q: How do you make the business thrive with fewer people?

A: I think it becomes a lot harder and that's going to force us to be a lot more innovative and entrepreneurial and resourceful than we've ever been before. There's been a lot of misinformation and confusion about productivity as a topic. I think the idea's fairly simple. Let's turn over every stone, let's do every smart thing we can to stretch the resources, to use them to serve people and build our audiences and bring in revenue to support journalism.

It means our full-time professional staff is going to get smaller. And that's been happening to newspapers all over the country. And yet we're having to support more local media channels than ever before. … At the end of the day we still will have the largest newsgathering organization in this city by far. And if we are really smart and resourceful about using them we will be able to a fabulous job for consumers in whatever channel they choose.

Q: What do you say to the reporters who say they're scandalized by the idea of being judged on how many stories they produce, rather than the quality of individual stories?

A: I think it is unfortunate that this has been focused on in this way. I understand it based on some comments that [Tribune Chief Operating Officer] Randy [Michaels] made on the middle of that call. Let me just say this: I talked in a broader sense about productivity, which frankly is the way I'm looking at it. What can the whole organization do that's smart, that's strategic, that's resourceful.

But on bylines: All of our newspapers are looking at all kinds of information to see what is valuable in making some of these tough choices… Some of our newspapers in some departments have been doing byline counts over the years. It's not the first time that anybody's ever done that. From the beginning, we made it clear that this should be viewed as just one data point and, frankly, probably not the most valuable and that it had to be combined with other information. … Everybody knows for instance that you have to evaluate investigative reporters differently than other kinds of reporters. Because reporting takes a long time… And everyone was aware of that.

In the end, the information and the judgment calls [were] left strictly up to editors in the newsroom and that's where it will remain. So, I think much more is being made of it than really is there.

17 July 2008

Editor & Publisher mag to offer electronic edition

I remember my days 20 years ago, when I used to visit the American Center library and thumb through a magazine that stood for a vibrant newspaper industry in North America. It is now available in an electronic "same-as-print" edition, thanks to a partnership with Hyderabad-based Pressmart. Pressmart is an amazing company which is putting some of the world's leading newspapers into online editions that look the same.
Here are some details from the media statement:

E&P Publisher Chas McKeown said "the Pressmart state-of-the-art solution will provide our readership access to Editor & Publisher on multiple digital distribution channels including eEditions; Podcasts; Mobile devices and eArchives."

Editor & Publisher is the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North American newspaper industry, including business, newsroom, advertising, circulation, marketing, technology, online and syndicates.

Based in New York City, the magazine dates back to 1884, when The Journalist, a weekly, was founded. E&P was launched in 1901 and merged with The Journalist in 1907. E&P later acquired Newspaperdom, a trade journal for the newspaper industry that started in 1892. In 1927, E&P merged with another trade paper, The Fourth Estate. In January 2004, E&P switched from weekly to monthly publication, while revamping its Web site to offer more breaking news and content on a daily basis.

E&P Online (www.editorandpublisher.com) offers breaking news free to all visitors in our Top Stories section. Each week, selected proprietary stories from E&P staff are made available free to all visitors, but the majority of our analysis, industry news, features, columns, and trends are restricted to E&P subscribers.

16 July 2008

See, I told you? Video Entertainment in 2013 Will Be Less Than 50% Traditional TV

More market research in the US reveals more about Life After YouTube (and Hulu, and broadband, and mobile video!).
TV is fading away in the sense we know it.
Mediapost, quoting Solutions Research Group on a study covering US media consumer behaviour, says: "While daily time with TV will remain close to 4 hours, traditional TV's share of the total video entertainment pie is projected to shrink from 63.9% today to 47.1% by 2013, given the overall increase consumers' in total video-based entertainment consumption"
It kind of validates a lot of stuff I have been writing on this blog since it began in 2005.
Am I supposed to say: Watch this space?

What the Long Tail did next?

The Long Tail, did you say?

How about the tail wagging the dog?

Here is a company which is trying to aggregate chunks of the long tail and converting it -- or trying to convert it -- to a thousand-pound gorilla.

Or should I say, a hydra-headed monster?

Here is the story

15 July 2008

How to fool the media..lessons from Helion VC

Now, now.
Ashish Gupta is a nice bloke. He is the guy who co-founded Junglee.com which was sold for a reasonably obscene amount to Amazon.com. Ashish has gotten rich, and he was always clever (You know, IITK, Stanford, all that). He is one of the key blokes in Helion, a confident, smart venture capital fund.
Ashish also knows his Hindi well. He probably has heard the story of Ashwathama from the Mahabharata (Read it here)

To cut a long story shot, Yudhishtra does not lie but wants to weaken Drona. So he announces the death of an elephant called Ashwathama in a manner that conveys to Drona the impression that his son is dead.
The story is now re-told in the age of venture capital funding.
Helion has supposedly denied funding SMS Gupshup -- a hot Internet startup founded by some very smart guys of whom I have written.
The so-called denial, which is reproduced below, came after very respected technology blogs including GigaOM, TechCrunch and others reported it.
Please read it below, and then read my comments that follow, which I have marked in bold letters.


Well last week the news of Smsgupshup being funded for 10 Million $ by Helion Venture Capital and Charles River Ventures was published all across the leading digital blogs in India. It all started with a plug by pluggd and spread to medianama which also had an excellent article on why Smsgupshup would need the 10 Million $ (medianama is started by the earlier editor of contentsutra), vccircle and contentsutra itself (which aggregates news from vccircle now a days for the lack of an editor). Also techcrunch seems to have picked the news up as well and linked to pluggd as the source. They have an update as well terming it as an unconfirmed story. (thanks raghav for the techcrunch update)


While all this was happening WATBlog was trying to get in touch with both SmsGupShup and HelionVC on any official update on the status of the funding if any. And here I am publishing the respective responses from the concerned parties on the issue.

Response from Chirag Jain, VP India Operations "Thanks for your mail. Unfortunately we have not issued any notification and are not in a position to make any comments at the moment."

Well the above diplomatic answer was expected. But what was not expected is a categorical denial from Ashish Gupta, Managing Director - Investment Advisor of Helion Venture Capital.

ashish gupta

Ashish Gupta

When we emailed Ashish the following "Just wanted to confirm this story and if possible get some bytes from you on the same. SMSGupshup has raised 10 Million $ funding from Helion VC. Will await your response on the same.

Ashish sent us the following one line reply "the line below is incorrect."

On probing further with this question "Would it be correct to say that helion has participated in the 10 million funding? Will await your response."

Ashish Replied "we have not done any funding for Gupshup."

So as far as we know and from the Horses mouth itself and not from any reliable anonymous source the funding has not happened through Helion Venture Capital atleast till 4th of July and thats when we recieved this denial from Helion.

So did blogs report something on speculation? And why didn't Smsgupshup deny the story? And who are these sources that are confirming the story when Helion itself seems to be denying the same! No one will know until and unless both these parties come forward and speak up. On the issue of Smsgupshup's funding I have no doubt that they both need and to certain extent even deserve the funding given that smsgupshup has taken off as the premiere group sms service provider. But who are these investors we shall hopefully know soon


My take: Please read the above carefully.

1) Ashish denies funding Gupshup -- What he does not say, in true Yudhishtra style, is that the company that owns SMS Gupshup is Webaroo Technology (India) Pvt. Ltd.
You don't fund a Website -- you fund the company owns it

2) Helion routinely issues newsletters and tom-toms its investments. If it has not done so in this instance, it is because the funding has not tied up, or the news got leaked before the deal could be ready for announcement. It probably is still in an advanced state of negotiation.

3) There is no outright denial -- If the deal was closed with no funding from Helion, it would have been more forthcoming in its denial

4) There is a vague, cryptic sentence that says "The line below is incorrect" -- What line? Why be cryptic?

It is very clear that the balloon got out of hand before it could be filled with Helion's helium...so we got a lot of hot air.
Smoke and mirrors?
We shall wait the final and official word. But I will stick my neck out and say the original story was not a plug.
Blogs attempting to break new ground in journalism need to read through the spin and denials.