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NewsNext 2015: Is profitability in the news business possible?

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NewsNext 2015: Is profitability in the news business possible?

News broadcasting has hardly been able to spin profits for the investors, and because the monies are bleeding content is suffering. News gathering, especially from international markets is literally non-existent. The most cost effective way being daily panel discussions. What can attract investment in a news broadcast for the growth of news as opposed to ownership through corporate and political influences? How much of an effect does this investment have on the News Broadcasting? Should the ‘Ownership’ entitle a say in the daily functioning of the channel? Will this ‘change of ownership’ prove to be the biggest asset or the biggest loss the industry has seen?

In a heated panel discussion at exchange4media’s NewsNext 2015, a panel of top veterans for the media fraternity debated over the business of news, and what can be done to make it profitable. The panel was chaired by Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now, and was moderated by Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV. Shachindra Nath, Group CEO, Religare Enterprises, Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, and Ashish Kashyap, Founder & CEO, ibibo Group were part of the elite panel.

Relevance is key

In a rigorous debate over all aspects of news as a business, session chair, Arnab Goswami, discussed with some thought provoking ideas. “I feel one should put one’s money in a channel one believes in. I do my journalism with a gut feel. People say you must be having a marketing strategy of the audience, but honestly, I don’t. The biggest question is will the audience remember the headline from my channel. Will they remember the content from my channel. The news business is all about the fact whether you are in the mind space of the viewer? Do people remember you? Do they believe in you? Do they trust you? That will create loyalty. At the end of the day, what does the advertiser want—that I am of the right vehicle. One should advertise on those channels that lead the conversation. I know we can’t make money through Twitter. But I do know that the number of times your news, your headline is retweeted, your channel’s relevance goes up. Everyone is a seeking relevance,” he said.

Biggest issues

Salil Kapoor acknowleded the biggest issues faced by the TV news fraternity. “There is an important issue which is much bigger than serious news for news channels. There are very few channels which actually make money. The rest of them are surviving hand-to-mouth. The acid test of any news channel in our country, where the average revenue per user (ARPU), that is the money you pay to watch TV. We are one of the lowest ARPU countries in the world. $3-$4 is where we are stuck against about $80 in the US. If there are enough subscribers who will pay Rs 20 per month extra for a channel, consider that channel to be successful,” he said.

Business mechanics

“People think that they have the right to decide what they have to deliver. Journalists, per say, have this perception that they can decide what people should listen and read. And, that’s where they get disconnected,” said Shachindra Nath, Group CEO,
Religare Enterprises.

“People don’t understand that the Indian audience has changed. It is the fundamental principle of business—whether your product is relevant to the market—that decides whether the business is going to work. It is the content that decides whether the channel is going to make money or not. Another topic of heated debate these days is what happens to channels which get funding from big corporates. People think the audience is foolish. If a corporate pumps in money in a news enterprise, and starts using it as a front for its own business, it will become irrelevant eventually. So, this entire worry about corporatization of news is moot. It is the audience that decides what they want to consume,” he added. 

Content to drive growth

Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, pointed out that almost 389 news channels in the country fighting for a 25 billion ad pie of news. “We wonder when we plan, saying how do so many channels survive. The ad pie is shrinking. Clients, today, come up and say we want the best band for the buck. I feel profitability for a news channel is driven by three factors—advertising, subscriptions, and content syndication. In terms of subscriptions, I don’t think we are up there vis-à-vis the West. Most of the revenues still come from advertising for Indian channels. We have not really entered the subscription game yet. The most important thing is that if a channel is not profitable, it impacts the quality of the content. So we really need to figure that aspect of the news business,” she said.

The multi-screen phenomenon

According to Ashish Kashyap, Founder & CEO, ibibo Group, the consumption of news has changed a lot since the past ten years. “It has become more of a multi-screen phenomenon. The latest power that is emerging is consumer-generated content. For a marketer, when one looks at news channels, the numbers don’t add up. The reach of internet as a medium has surpassed TV massively in a concurrent manner. Besides, ofcourse those blips when there is breaking news or a Newshour. If users find value, definitely there is money to be made. I think news channels should think of reinventing themselves, not just on the TV medium for marketers to realize the value of news channels’ content on multi-screens. Another thought is, can’t news be crowdfunded?”

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