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Others Mixed Media: Consuming news without the papers and channels, and happily so

Mixed Media: Consuming news without the papers and channels, and happily so

Author | Pradyuman Maheshwari | Monday, Sep 14,2009 8:00 AM

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Mixed Media:  Consuming news without the papers and channels, and happily so

“Trying to spend weekend without looking at the news channels. Not easy given professional commitments, but must say enjoying the silence!”

Although the message isn’t for restricted viewing, but since it’s a tweet and hence, not exactly for public consumption, I would rather not reveal the tweet-er’s name. What I can reveal is that it was posted by the editor-in-chief of one of the Big 10 news channels sometime on Saturday (September 12) and having revelled in this luxury a few times over in the recent past, I can say that the silence is pure bliss. But should also be a source for worry for those who run the business.

It happened to me a bit by accident. I spent a little over a week in Delhi last month and as it happened, my service apartment caretaker didn’t put a TV in my room, as promised, and also wouldn’t arrange for the papers every morning. I complained on the first day, but was too caught up with work to crib later. Since I was reading Jaswant Singh’s book, followed the news on his sacking on the Web, but nothing beyond that.

For a week thereafter, I didn’t read the papers. Didn’t miss them either. I subscribe to half a dozen SMS alerts and twice that in the form of emailed newsletters. Plus TweetDeck for my Twitter feeds. This included the Sunday morning fix. In fact, I tend to agree with the tweet of another Big 10 ed-in-chief yesterday: “Sunday mornings used to be about endless coffee and poring over the newspapers. Now there’s such little to read in them, just a flip thru.”

My peeve about the current crop of Sunday papers would possibly require separate discussion, but I’ve tried doing what I did for those nine days twice over on two two-day trips out of Mumbai. No papers, no news channels, and I’m no lesser informed than I was ever before or after.

The only thing I guess I missed were the retail ads – deals, new movies in town and a possible play I could catch over the weekend. But, I guess if there was anything dramatic I would’ve known. Or someone would’ve messaged me about it.

So, what is it about newspapers and channels that I didn’t seem to miss? There would be a time when I would pull back the previous day’s papers when there was no edition, but I don’t do that any longer. And this is when I thought I couldn’t live without reading the papers or watching the nightly news.

To answer my own question, I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that there was no hot news development. Jaswant Singh’s sack and the announcement of polls in Maharashtra were hardly inspiring for me to travel a distance to watch telly. Or buy the papers. But it’s also got a lot to do with the way our newspapers and channels are. The Times of India realised this early and reinvented itself, but that was over a decade back. Hindustan Times has done it a few times in the past, with a big one recently. Since DNA and Mid-Day too have changed often, I guess their readers must be happy with the changes.

My view: There are bigger brains at work out there, but cosmetic changes aren’t enough to pull readers back to the papers… in order that they pore over them and don’t do a flip-through.

Ditto with the news channels. I would rather watch a dozen or so damsels in self-inflicted distress on ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ than one of the news shows starring some political lightweights, bureaucrats and retired officials. Guess the shrill and often-pointless (and endless) inquisitions that happen could even see one of the founding anchors of Indian news television to “enjoy the silence” of abstinence.

Complacency and a misplaced belief that the consumer will lap up whatever we offer is a matter of concern for us in the media. I still can’t believe I actually didn’t track news from the traditional media for over a week. It, of course, speaks volumes for the newer media that they were enough to keep me informed, 24x7. I wouldn’t say better informed, but adequately for sure.

(The views expressed here are personal. Post your comments below or email mixedmedia@exchange4media.com.)

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