We are in it already. The year 2009 started on a make-believe note. For, while one saw a fair bit of pomp and gaiety, it possibly happened with the sentiment that there may not be much to celebrate about a year hence.
Making beginning-of-the-year predictions is tricky. Especially in the case of the news media, which is a truly dynamic space. However, I see some as no-brainers and a few that are purely on the basis of my own hypotheses.
So, here goes:
1. More bloodbath and consolidation: We haven’t seen any shutdowns of large entities yet. But don’t be surprised if you hear of them. At least half a dozen of the current crop of ‘national’ news channels seem to be on a weak wicket. In fact, their sale/closure could well shore up the bottomlines of their promoters. As for newspapers, the non-profitable editions of large newspapers will shut, quite like their add-ons. Channels and publications may be acquired, newsrooms merged. There will be greater sharing of resources wherever possible within large organisations and even between media companies.
2. Convergence on trial: It will be put to test with the launch of the Times Now business channel (ET Now?), but while one hope it works, I’m not sure how much of it would be applicable elsewhere. For one, not very many newspaper companies are looking at getting into TV news. Vice versa? Well, we could see Network18 getting there, but it just may take some time for that to happen. Some convergence attempts could’ve been seen with newspapers/channels on the Internet, but this may well be a casualty of shrinking budgets.
3. Mobile to grow as a medium: If telcos don’t up revenues to content providers on their own, regulator TRAI will effect it. Television, text and interactive content can be expected to take a quantum leap as mobile technology advances. And since marketers find cellphones an excellent tool to reach consumers directly, this is a medium that will be patronised more.
4. Ratings and readership chase to increase: It’s a case of too little money for too many players. With the stakes high, naturally scoring high ratings and readership numbers is critical. But along with it will also be the interpretation and attempts will be made to push these on everyone.
5. Personal publishing to flourish: Until now, we’ve not had too many audio and video blogs, but with equipment getting cheaper and methods to upload them much simpler, expect to see more personal TV stations. Or generated by a group of citizens.
6. Thankfully, for mainstream media, not many blogs have been able to go the whole hog in creating quality content, for if that happens, even advertisers and funding will follow.
This is the election year. We could well see a new prime minister and a new agenda for the nation in the second quarter. But it will be difficult to reverse some of the rapid strides that media has taken. May the smartest player win!
(Note, the views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the exchange4media Group, where I am Group Chief Editor, exchange4media.com and impact. Want to add on to my forecasts for the year? Mail me at email@example.com)