Guest Column: 'Generation Swipe' and the future of online media: Parul Sharma
It would be foolhardy for traditional media to ignore the meteoric rise of the digital space and the rate of news consumption by the young, says Parul Sharma, Head of Corporate and Marketing Communication, Star India
By the end of the 90s, many of the largest and seemingly unassailable Indian newspaper houses had rolled out school-focused ‘catch them young’ initiatives primarily aimed at winning future readers whose age and environment defined news as personal choices of what you want to know and not what the press thought you should know.
It ensured that print media survived (for the present)the frightening mutating online media that is so rapidly transforming the Indian mindscape.
In 2016, Indian newspaper circulation per day stood at 62 million copies a day - that was 23.7 million copies more than a decade ago. That's probably a sign that newspapers' ‘catch them young’ initiative had paid off. However, this should be no cause for comfort, complacency or self acclaim.
By 2025, print media could well be dead or in Jurassic Park. Or, they will adapt as others around the world are doing from the legacy of print to the leadership of online editions.
According to a recent Telenor India survey, around 98.8 percent of school-going children have access to the internet in urban areas. Among them, 49.5 percent of the children access the internet from home after school hours. Nearly 43 percent of school-going children access the internet via smartphones. This is followed by laptops, desktops and tablets. Studies show even at this young age children are obsessive social media users. That makes them the indisputable future revenue engines for telecom operators and information service providers.
Siddharth Varadarajan’s Thewire.in and Shekhar Gupta’s The Print are examples of highly successful conventional journalists acknowledging the potential of online news consumption. The fact that a number of bright young reporters and correspondents have chosen to leave secure jobs in print to be part of these startups is a sign of the future.
‘The Print’ has got the country’s leading businessmen willing to put their money into this venture, an augury of the future they see coming.The Quint, Scroll, Inserts, Daily Hunt, Khabar Lahariya, News in shorts and even the nascent Newsd all represent the changing consumptive habits of a new Indian generation of news devourers.
Last year, the New York Times online edition racked up $1.59 billion in revenues approximating $50 in revenues per scan second. The newswire behemoth Reuters, a service that most readers encountered on the pages of newspapers, saw a staggering online revenue of $12.6 billion with a huge spurt in online subscriptions and growing readership of Reuters news accessed by online surfers of news.
The Pulitzer prize-winning Huffington Post is a great example of a complete novice entering and owning the fiercely digital interactive news media market with editions spanning several countries including India. Generation Z doesn't really care if so-and-so newspaper has been around for a century or more. All they do care about is if they speak “our tongue.”
While Indian newspapers still represent the second largest media type after television in share of ad revenue, digital is growing at a robust pace.
Digital is the fastest growing media type in India, growing 31.5 per cent in 2016 and forecast to grow 39.6 per cent in 2017, according to the CARAT report.
It may be too early to write off print just yet. Yet, the digital clock is ticking and it would be foolhardy for traditional media to ignore the beacon of digital news as a whole generation begins to instinctively swipe their screens and not turn their pages for devouring news customised to their needs.
Parul Sharma is a leading communication specialist and former Head of Corporate and Marketing Communication, Star India.
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