DAN e4m Conference: We need more boldness in advertising and journalism: Arnab Goswami

Goswami, MD & Editor-in-Chief- Republic TV, speaks to Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC & Chairman India, DAN, about the digital future, decline of Print and telling authentic stories to bring about change

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jan 24, 2020 9:35 AM

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Fireside Chat with Ashish Bhasin and Arnab Goswami

‘If I owned a print organization I’d shut it down on February 1 and transfer all my resources to digital medium because that is where the future is,” said Arnab Goswami at the DAN E4M report unveiling in Delhi on Thursday.

In conversation with Ashish Bhasin, CEO, APAC and Chairman India, Dentsu Aegis Network, Goswami took a strong stand on several challenges that the media industry faces at the moment-be it the downsides of reporting neutrally or the futility of print as a medium.

In the chat, MD & Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, Arnab Goswami also gave interesting anecdotes on his own brand, his desire to make his digital offering grow, his plans to go global and his experiences of working on stories that don’t just start a discussion but provokes a debate.  

Excerpts:

Ashish Bhasin: We have always marvelled looking at you because in advertising we spend a lot of time and effort getting into insights,  the best of the creative guys in our industry are those who get insights right. But you somehow instinctively manage to get those insights. How do you do it? You also coin very memorable phrases which we pay millions of rupees to our copywriters for. Whether it is Tukde Tukde gang or Lutyens Media these become part of common parlance. How are you so well connected with the consumer?

Arnab Goswami: It comes from a profound belief that you must not deny reality. You know, most of us, at least I can tell you in journalism, where I come from, we want to tell the world what we believe.

We want the world to believe what we believe. And hence even if the world is throwing stones at you, you will believe that they are giving you a warm welcome. You deny the reality, the worst thing that we do, I don't know how it works, but all of us somewhere are in echo chambers.

There are echo chambers everywhere. There are echo chambers in political parties. My experience as a journalist has been to understand and not deny reality.

When we launched Times Now we were told we lost so badly. You know why? Because we went by pre-existing data. When you look at pre-existing data, you are essentially trying to find a creative model around the successes and failures of others. This has a profound impact on creative people. And it can bring the most creative person to abject delinquency. Because you will spend your entire life trying to be somebody else. I was lucky I went through certain experiences, and I went through complete failure.

When I started looking at the data and replicating it into a creative formula, I found nothing, but when I found a creative formula that did not exist in previous days they told me some small things.

Even until date Lutyens media calls me a sensationalist because they say why do that story for four days? But when the people responded to me, in the way they did it told me something. So I started creating data rather than looking back at data.

Also during 26/11, dropping all advertising breaks for four days, refusing to give the details of where people were in which room of the Taj Hotel, stories that were broken as exclusives by other channels. I was not a celebrity journalist at that point of time and the way the people responded told me not to follow data. Create your own data and go by your own fundamental view and break out of the echo chamber of English language journalism. Breakout of it. Your peers will never like you anyway if you're successful. They will give you sympathy if you're unsuccessful and be neutral to you if you're one of them. I hate neutrality.

Neutrality is the worst thing in the creative business. Neutrality is not having an opinion; neutrality is rubbing shoulders with others at some point in time. I think the wonderful thing if I look at it as a cyclical trend somewhere between 2007 and 2014, a group of journalists became pragmatist in the way they read social responses and public opinion. And a lot of changes that happened in our country were because we were doing something and people were responding.

I think what we need is more boldness in both in advertising and in journalism. We do not need to make people happy with us, we must tell them the truth. So I think one of the challenges for advertising in the coming years, especially when you have long-form advertising supported by digital formats, will be the nature of your storytelling. Can you tell a true story rather than just a popular story? The change has happened in films. It has happened in journalism. Now the next challenge is for the advertising industry of India with the new formats available in digital.

The big question is: are storytellers in advertising also going to change their stories? Are they willing to not just attract but also provoke?

Ashish Bhasin: You started off as a print journalist, and today when I see the report, it clearly is showing that print is going to be on a decline. The writing is on the wall in many ways and you can say digital has contributed to it. In some ways, you can say the print industry itself didn't move as fast as it should have. What are your views on that?

Arnab Goswami: I think if the if the people running print organisations are smart, they will close down this year. They must close down their entire shops this year. I read media trends very closely. And I intend to read media trends very closely because we are building something at Republic. You see the floppy became obsolete. If you look back, Sony in 2009, sold as many as 12 million copies of floppy disks in Japan. And then in 2010, it discontinued its manufacturing completely because of lack of demand.

The Government of India discontinued telegram in 2013. In 2012 people were still using telegram, not because of demand but because the media existed. You take away the medium, people will find another way to communicate. Print is going exactly the same way. It has happened with turntables. It has happened with cassettes, it's happened with CDs, it's happening with iPads. Now, why am I saying that the print owners must shut their shop is because unless you deal with an imminent situation in a drastic manner you are delaying the inevitable.

My organisation is growing today 50% month on month on digital. It's not about Republic. Don't get me wrong. It is just the power of digital as a medium. With an investment of just 20% of my time, I recruited 100 people in the last three months only as digital content creators. I have 140% growth in two months. I have 15 billion watch minutes. I'm a TV channel I'm not even a digital hub yet. I have trended in the last several months with 400 hashtags. My impressions created 9 billion.

 My content today is available on Vodafone play, DailyHunt, Hotstar, Jio TV, Ola Play, MTV, PayTm, Zee5, My Airtel App to TV and Tata Sky and this is a two-month story.

Ashish Bhasin:  What is next for you and your brand?

Arnab Goswami: As a media organisation, we are the most independent organisation in terms of ownership. This year we will concentrate on digital. In 2020 we will be both in terms of turnover and revenue, bottom line and top line, the largest news media company beating all those who are operating for 20-25 years and I am proud to say we break even on every project we do in the first month.  Also,  in 2021, we will either through organic or inorganic acquisition or expansion, expand the UK and Western Europe.

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