Ever since ace journalist Arnab Goswami announced his venture, Republic TV, in December last year, he has constantly been in the news, be it controversy over the channel’s name, its aggressive digital strategy, his high-powered public-speaking appearances at industry forums and youth campuses and even legal proceedings to stop him from using the line ‘The Nation wants to know’.
While the Nation definitely wants to know what his entrepreneurial venture Republic TV will be like, the man behind the furore is in complete ‘launch mode’, as he calls it, amidst content discussions, and people who demand his attention every few seconds. Goswami and his core team have been working till the wee hours of the morning, and he confesses to having wrapped up work at 3 am on the day we meet him for this interview...
‘I WAS ALWAYS AN ENTREPRENEUR…’
Has the impact of his own entrepreneurial venture sunk in, we can’t help but ask Arnab Goswami. “I was always an entrepreneur... even at Times Now, I was an entrepreneur. We went out and raised funds, built it from scratch, built a business plan, put out a channel, made it credible, and it did very well. In that sense, this is the second entrepreneurial stint for me. It is not like it is completely new, but doing it ground upwards is always exciting,” he says.
The notable difference between the two, according to him, is that he was earlier working for a corporate media company, and today he is working “only for journalism”.
“The last four months have been fantastic. Recruiting a bunch of new people is always exciting, moving around the country, evangelising the channel, establishing the distribution network, setting up the basics of the organisation, getting people to connect with each other, and now in the final stage, the plan to put the news together,” he says, with quiet excitement in his voice. “I was really looking forward to it; the last time I did this was more than 10 years ago. It was very exciting for me... 2006 was when I started Times Now, and now after more than 10 years, I am starting this, all over again.”
BRAND-BUILDING, THE SOCIAL WAY
Unlike a lot of news channels, the whole evolution of Republic TV has been extremely youth-centric, right from using social media platforms to recruiting talent as well as building its viewership base. The channel has received immense traction across all social media platforms. #RepublicTV, #Republic, @republic, and #workwithArnab are some of the popular hashtags that were shared widely with many people seeking to join the team and registering their support for the channel.
This approach has helped the channel cash in on Goswami’s loyal followers both offline and online in a cost-effective manner. The online push was supplemented by Goswami’s appearances wherein he gave passionate speeches at colleges across the country, garnering further support from the youth.
Interestingly, we also saw Goswami on lifestyle magazine covers and in mainline newspaper interviews—an avatar that we hadn’t seen earlier.
“I am talking openly on any media forum that allows me to reach my audience. All these interviews are a way to put my message across. I am setting up a news channel; I don’t have a larger budget for my marketing expense. Therefore, if I get a way to reach my audience and talk about my journalism, I will do that even if it means wearing expensive suits, which I don’t wear typically,” he explains.
‘THE PRESSURE IS ON OTHERS’
On being asked what he has to say to naysayers who caution that the first six months are crucial for Republic TV, and then it will be interesting to see how the channel fares, he replies, “It would be crucial for anyone. Post six months, we will be fine. I am ready for a marathon. The biggest lesson I have learnt in these last four months is that if you have the people’s support, you don’t need anything else. Media houses are not built on money or clout, but on belief.”
Now, having created massive buzz and huge expectations from viewers and the industry, what is on his mind, just days before the launch? “There is no pressure; the pressure is on others. It shows by the number of legal notices we are getting. They should overwork their news team, not their lawyers. The news team must work more than the lawyers, who should relax,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Goswami tells us that Republic World will be the most dynamic digital presence across all news networks, expected to take interactivity to a whole new level and why he chooses to work out of Mumbai due to the city’s open environment:
It seems that you have leveraged the power of Brand Arnab to build Brand Republic...
I don’t see myself as a brand, but a philosophy in news. If there is a brand value attached with me, that will help the launch of Republic TV... we will do everything possible to extract that. There is no Brand ‘Arnab’ without Brand ‘Republic’ anymore. My entire brand, if there is any, has been handed over to the organisation.
What does ‘Republic’ stand for?
Republic stands for complete journalistic independence. The ability to do stories without fear, I have always done it that way but now it is complete independence. As they would say, this is the poorna swaraj moment for Indian journalism. It also stands for building a new generation of journalists that will take this form of journalism forward to a new era. Republic World is also the coming together of Television and Digital media in a far more aggressive format.
What was your initial game-plan in terms of media visibility? Your youth campus speeches and aggressive strategy on Digital seems to have worked, without any traditional form of advertising until the last phase before launch…
There is no game-plan. The feeling is that the people of India believe in us and the journalism we do, so how do you talk about it? You just spread your message by speaking in different places and then people get absorbed by their own vision of what media can be, eventually a lot of people in the country want a new vision for the media.
They want a dynamic shift and they want to move away from the past. They want to get into a better future for journalism. I was basically busy putting together the anatomy of the organisation and now am in a position where it can launch. So it is nothing unusual, the only difference is that I am up against players who are still thinking traditionally and they have tried this ‘block and tackle’ childish tactics with me and all those tactics have failed.
So they should stop trying so hard to block me, because eventually the viewer will decide what to watch. You can’t push content on people anymore.
What is the content format for Republic TV?
It will be the best in the industry; I would rather not talk about it. You can’t construct news in a ‘X’ way or a ‘Y’ way... it is just news and eventually it will just be the news. I can tell you that I’ll be on at 9 o’clock on the new channel as well. I hope people watch me.
We have seen how the 9pm slot has created affinity for channels through the day as well. What is it that Republic is going to do differently, supplemented by Digital for audience engagement?
Republic World will be the most dynamic digital presence across all news networks; we are going to take interactivity to a whole new level, with innovations on a different scale altogether, including surround sound and few things that have not been done in the past. We are collaborating with a few groups internationally to produce this. So RepublicWorld.com will be looking at all facets for Digital natives, it will also have fantastic live-streaming of our channel, and will on its own collaborate with third party providers. So Republic World is a completely separate company on its own and will be launched together with the channel.
What are the learnings from your previous role that you will apply at Republic TV?
All that I have learnt is from my reporters and editors. I have not brought into this organisation the values of any corporate media group. I carry my values with me.
You have made a conscious decision to be based out of Mumbai.
I like to work in isolation and generally there has been too much geographical force around Delhi. I want to have a little sense of balance on that and that is why we are located in Mumbai. It is a conscious choice, it is free and independent and there are many professionals who choose to work out of Mumbai rather than Delhi. It has an open environment.