How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right.
View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
"Is there an insidious move to undermine the very edifice on which print is built? That of credibility. Is there an attempt to 'commoditise' news? "
Amitava Guha, GM,, Key Accounts Hindustan Times
The ongoing debate on the state of the media seems to be one where the conclusion is staring at our face. Do we ever debate the fact that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind - or that robbery is a crime? No - simply because we know the answer and there cannot be a debate on it. Similarly there can be no debate on whether news space should be sold or not - no matter what the compulsions are. Why? Simply because the whole edifice of print is erected on a single premise - that of providing credible news. There can be no two views on it.
Why do newspapers need to provide credible news? Once again the answer is simple. Because readers trust us. How often we hear remarks like…' its got to be true - I read it in the morning's newspaper '. Can we betray this trust? Never - and surely not for a few rupees!
At this point I must admit that I belong to a band of professionals who eke out their existence by 'enticing' advertisers to place their ads in our brand of newspaper. Therefore - I felt 'the other side' should also be heard.
Let's first look at the job 'space sellers' do. What are the parameters we 'sell' on? Firstly we talk of the circulation of our brand or to be more precise - the geographical
concentration of our circulation. Secondly we present the profile highlighting the quality of our readers. Now the data on both circulation as well as readership are available to everyone - the ABC figures as well as the syndicated readership data. But what we - space sellers - consider the most important attribute is the content - and more significantly - the credibility of the content. Why do we say so? Because the advertisement is not appearing in a vacuum - it is appearing within the editorial environment of that page. And if the editorial is not credible - there is a fear that this lack of credibility will have a rub off effect on the ad and readers may not trust its contents. In that case it will be self-defeating for the advertiser. Don't we all know of newspapers that boast of a high circulation but not necessarily high ad revenues? The reason is not a mystery - it's because advertisers place a premium on credibility - and newspapers that do not have this factor - tend to suffer.
Much has been written about 'advertorials' and there seems to be a tendency to say that if newspapers can carry advertorials - what's wrong with advertisement masquerading as news? Firstly whenever advertorials are carried - it's a time-honoured method to tell the readers so - either through 'Advertisers announcement' or 'Feature'. But never will a respected newspaper try to pass off publicity material as news.
I am left wondering about the reasons of why should a newspaper 'sell' its news - is it only to shore up their bottom line? But that seems to be a short-term strategy. Is there an insidious move to undermine the very edifice on which print is built? That of credibility. Is there an attempt to 'commoditise' news? After all a reader spends only 10-15 minutes on his newspaper - so how does it matter if the news is not credible - after all there are many avenues for the reader to get to know the truth. So would they really bother about credibility? However a word of caution. To paraphrase the famous saying of David Ogilvy: the reader is not a moron, she is your wife!
Analogies have been drawn about newspapers carrying classified advertisements on the front page in the old days. But what has not been pointed out is the readers were clear that these were paid for - and did not masquerade as news.
I firmly believe that newspapers satisfy informational needs - and this information is both in the news columns as well as the advertisements. To me sometimes the information of the advertisements is more important - especially when I am looking to buy a property or searching for a good educational institution for my only child. During this search - the advertisements have greater value than perhaps the news on national politics. But now imagine if my newspaper carried a favourable story on a particular property developer or educational institute - would my decision get biased? You bet it would. Why? Simply because readers feel that the editorial space is sacred and sacrosanct and they will get an unbiased point of view. Now suppose the property developer goes bust after taking my money? Well I leave that to you.
Finally even if we agree that news can be sold - why be so shy about it? Like the advertisement tariff - let the newspaper openly declare the price of its editorial columns. Today the rot has set in only in the supplements - how long does the cascading effect to reach the business pages or political news?
Therefore to us - space sellers - credibility of our news is what we project to advertisers. There can be no compromise on that. As the saying goes - credibility can get you money - but money cannot get you credibility.