Times have changed and so have the rules of journalism. The balance of power has shifted from editors to marketers, which is the reason why the pre-eminence of content has become diluted. However, aren’t editors guilty of going down the slippery slope and trivialising news? The animated deliberation in the second panel of the exchange4media Conclave 2005 on the topic “If Content is King, what is the role of sales and marketing?” saw content heads and media marketing professionals introspecting on how far they can transgress into each other’s turf in the process of selling news.
The discussion made a slow start with eminent panelists like Rajat Sharma, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India TV; Chandan Mitra, Editor-in-Chief and MD, Pioneer; Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media; Rohinton Maloo, MD, Cutting Edge Media; Abraham Thomas, COO, Red FM, speaking about harmony between the editorial and marketing forces in a media house. But the one to literally initiate a ‘big fight’ was Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, Broadcast News. Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd, moderated the panel.
The initial observations by most speakers was that content is no longer the king. In fact, as Thomas said, “the king is subservient to the queen, who truly is the viewer/reader”. However, Mitra said that “there is unhealthy disregard for true content today with marketers bringing in aspects such as TRPs, circulation, etc. However, it’s essential to understand that it’s important to package the product right and therefore if content determines character, the marketers package the character and sell it to the viewer.”
Sharma had a different take on this. He said that there has been different school of thoughts wherein editors and marketers have analysed whether content is sacrosanct or should it be looked at as the “business of media”. However, at the end of the day, Sharma stated that the dilemma has diluted and it’s a happy marriage between the two.
Nayak also stressed the fact that there is a very definite role for marketing to play. “Who are the people who will tell you what content will sell? Who are the people who will give feedback from the viewer? Who are the people who will tell the world what great programming you have? Who are the people who will study viewership patterns and navigate the viewer?” questioned Nayak.
Thomas and Maloo also agreed that at the end of the day, it’s all about producing good content and selling it right. However, the twist to the panel discussion took place when Sardesai rested his case, stating, “News is not a cake or soap and cannot be one, which is why the marketing guys in the news industry must understand that news is a different kind of product. You can’t one day market credit cards and then next day market news.” Taking a dig at his own tribe, Sardesai emphasized that editors over time were guilty of ceding their role to the marketing department. “There is no co-existence or happy marriage between content and marketing today. It’s a true case of marketers triumphing over content,” he said, adding that “the synergy will happen only if the intelligent marketer does his job well and the editor sticks to what he is meant to do.”
While most panelists agreed that it was necessary to “adjust content as per marketing requirements”, Sardesai’s idealism brought a twist to the consensus.
Lulla summed up the discussion saying, “If it’s good content you can optimise further and an intelligent marketer knows exactly how to do this.”
The session ended with the panelists agreeing that there is a thin line between the two streams and both sides ought not to violate this line. Both have a specific task to handle and the only way forward is if both content makers and marketers observe their “line of control.”