The first panel discussion of the Indian Newspaper Congress 2009 was a future-looking session that tabled the possibilities of growth in the new age, where various kinds of mediums are emerging and both competing and collaborating with print. Moderator Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, South Asia, kicked off the discussions by asking what publications should do to attract and hold on to the attention of the digital natives, for whom the multiple media age is second nature. This is the future audience, and therein was the challenge and the opportunity for editorial strategies.
Kiran set the tone of the discussions by asking a few questions. He said, “We are in an era of visual engagement, where the visual appeal matters. Brevity has an important meaning today. You can, in fact, see that when newspapers put out Quick Edits in the front page for readers, who may not go inside for the complete 900-word articles. Are people moving from reading to watching? Is the young audience coming in? What are we doing to readjust our binoculars to see how we create our content, and distribute it?”
Bharat Kumar Raut, Editorial Consultant, BCCL & MP, said here, “In the age of television, when a development takes place at 9.30 pm and the world comes to know of it at 9.35 pm, can newspapers, that don’t come out until the next morning, give ‘news’? If not, then what is the reason for us to survive? The opportunity lies in that.”
He added, “In the changing media space today, we are in a situation where the audience watches Hindi entertainment, refers to English news media and reads the regional newspaper. The role of media has to be to attack the heart and minds of the people. And that you can do better if you are a regional language player.”
Columnist & Editorial Consultant BV Rao added here, “We are stuck in a place today where newspapers are television in transcript. We have as yet not understood how to deal with the fact that news is already broken by television channels the previous day, and the viewer would not be interested in knowing the same thing the next day. While organisations have tried newer things, all innovations in print have been product innovations. It is a known fact that content will drive future retention of readership, but we cannot proceed much further unless our cover prices are more than the price of ‘raddi’.”
The digital age: Is here, is not
Rajesh Kalra, Chief Editor, Times Internet, observed, “The Internet has taught us to be democratic on what we finally offer to the consumers. They may not be interested in what appears to be important. In our experience, we have seen that a Mayawati story on the top may still not be as popularly sought as say a Michael Jackson report, which may not be as prominently placed. But the Internet is a seek medium; you are interactive and you should stay interactive. It truly is the medium that eventually reflects and takes you to what the consumers want.”
On the other hand, Shravan Garg, Editor, Dainik Bhaskar, noted, “The readership in various languages is growing steadily, and you still have to look at print to be able to make the most of that. It would be very rare for someone to have access to information in their dialect on the mobile medium. Also, the availability of space is very restricted today. Right now, the economy is growing, and the budget is growing, there is a discussion on ‘Bharat’ versus ‘India’, and Bharat, which implies going deeper into the district level and village level to be closer to developments, is increasingly becoming important. The young readers of these growing markets will still depend on the print medium.”
Alok Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Nai Dunia, stressed on the need to depend on the team to take decisions to strategise editorially for reaching any target. He said, “It doesn’t matter what you are doing, and what strategy you have to take for the future to reach out to the newer audiences. It is impossible to get anywhere until you have taken a collaborative step. This necessarily also means taking feedback and working closely with your own teams. Credibility was, and will always be, the best strategy to attract readers, but that at one level also means that you keep learning for life – that you stay a trainee for life.”
The event partner was Encompass.
Indian Newspaper Congress 2009: Long live the news