To ponder over the state of Hindi media in India and its future, exchange4media Group had organised a Round Table Conference in Delhi on February 5, 2010. The Conference, which was part of the run up to the launch of the Group’s Hindi media and advertising news portal samachar4media.com, witnessed the participation of prominent media stalwarts like Shashi Shekhar, Paresh Nath, Shravan Garg and Maheshwar Peri. This apart, Sameer Kapoor and Aunindyo Chakravarti from NDTV India and Arun Sharma of Airtel were also present at the Conference. Satyajeet Sen of Zenith Optimedia joined the discussions to give a media planner’s perspective. exchange4media Group Editor Pradyuman Maheshwari moderated the session.
Raising a key point, Paresh Nath, Group Editor-in-Chief, Delhi Press, said, “The rates of English dailies and magazines are very low as compared to Hindi journals. It shows that very few people read English journals and their popularity is less than Hindi journals.”
Emphasising on the issue of language, Nath commented that the English used in many of the news journals was not up to the mark. Even people, who used English language in their blogs, use ‘SMS language’. “Very few people are comfortable with the English language in our country. Hindi newspapers will grow if they will focus more on their language, spellings and grammar,” Nath pointed out. He then asked, “Why did only Hindi newspapers get money for paid content during the elections?” Replying to this question himself, Nath explained that Hindi newspapers had a wide reach in the market, and the political parties knew that elections could be won only with the help of Hindi newspapers because of their reach.
Shravan Garg, Group Editor, Dainik Bhaskar, said, “Dainik Bhaskar is hardly present in the Delhi market. In other metros, too, our presence is negligible. However, Dainik Bhaskar has been able to get reach in regional markets and is performing well. This shows that Hindi newspapers can work in regional markets very well.”
On a similar vein, Maheshwar Peri, President and Publisher, Outlook Group, cited Outlook’s example and said that during the Arushi murder case, when they had published the picture of her dead body with blood sprinkled on the front page, the copies sold well and they saw high growth. Same happened when Rakhi Sawant was on the cover page. It was the reality of present times that these things attracted people more, he said. Peri added, “But I still believe that only good products sell in the market. Publications that are mainly dependent on advertisers have a fear in their heart at all times. Hindi is the biggest market in the country that’s why we decided to launch ‘Career 360’ in Hindi as well.”
Taking the discussion further, Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-Chief, Hindustan, started off with the definition of ‘News’. He said, “If there is news, then definitely there is truth behind that. If you put something in that truth, then it is no more news, but a simple story.”
He further noted that these days television and newspapers were running behind the incidents and this was a big threat for the industry. “We need to decide is TV journalism distribution or content. Also, we need to realise that editors are among the four tyres of a car. They alone can’t run the car,” Shekhar said.
He noted that in Hindustan, they had decided not to follow just incidents, instead they had divided news into sections such as Business, Education, Health, Transport, Electricity, Agriculture, Traffic, RTI, and so on. They had started chasing all these sectors to raise core issues of every sector every day.
Optimistic TV players, advertisers, media planners
Newspaper and magazine editors and publishers are not the only ones predicting a bright future for Hindi media in India. People who are the backbone of media business, such as advertisers and media planers, too, are optimistic. Giving an advertisers’ point of view, Arun Sharma, Media Communication Head, Airtel, noted, “Anything that pays, stays.” Citing the example of Hindi movies, he explained that if Hindi language could work well in Bollywood movies, so could it in the Hindi news domain.
He further said, “The last decade was the decade of metro cities, and next growth is going to happen in small towns. Then, that will be the bigger market for Hindi publications. Most of the regional language newspapers do not market themselves well and their quality was also bad in terms of content and design. Then how do they expect to get ads? They need to invest more on their content and design.”
Satyajeet Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia, commented, “The market is going more regional these days. Just take the example of MS Dhoni, talent is more in the regional market. Because these markets are growing, so will media grow. In many Hindi newspapers, ads are generated from the local market and there is a ray of hope for the publications.”
Representing the Hindi news channel domain at the Conference, Sameer Kapoor, CEO, NDTV India, said, “I don’t see any reason why Hindi publications will not grow. There is space for good journalism everywhere, be it television or in the print domain. NDTV has been able to get ratings for its credibility. Every newspaper or channel has its own core audiences and we rely on that.”
Aunindyo Chakravarti, Managing Editor, NDTV India, put forward his points candidly and said, “We (NDTV) are known for our credibility, in-depth reports during elections, the Budget or any other big events. That is our strength. But yes, in terms of live news coverage, we may not be as good as other news channels. We have our core audience and we rely on them. Each channel has certain strengths and drawbacks, but if credibility is in place, then in future, viewers will definitely pay for watching good TV content. Hindi is here to stay and I see a good future of Hindi media in the country.”
Concluding the event, PK Khurana, Editor, samachar4media.com, delivered a vote of thanks to the panelists and the audience present.