Digital media is like a hurricane, it will be disastrous in the end: Paresh Nath, Publisher, Delhi Press
As digital media continues to grow rapidly and provide an ocean of free content, Paresh Nath, Publisher of Delhi Press, talks about the challenges brought about by digitisation, and the future of digital as well as print media. He also spoke about his more-than-four-decades of experience at Delhi Press. Excerpts:
You have seen the workings of a press since childhood. How have things changed since then?
I wholeheartedly started working with Delhi Press in 1970 and gradually took over the editorial department.
In the â€˜70s, we were growing very fast, then for sometime the market conditions were not quite good as whenever cover prices go up, there is a little slowdown in the growth, otherwise, the circulation was growing continuously.
When Indira Gandhi declared Emergency I would read the final print before it was sent to the censor department. There would be nothing in the magazines that was prohibited in those days.
During those 19 months we didnâ€™t use the words â€˜INDIRA GANDHIâ€™. We didnâ€™t say anything against or in favour of Indira Gandhi. We just didnâ€™t say anything about her, thatâ€™s how we registered our protest. Although, there was very little that we could do.
Our business did not go down during the Emergency, the circulation remain unaffected. Commercial advertising was also moderate and we have not been heavily dependent on government advertising at any point of time.
Sarita was quite a popular magazine. How profitable did it prove for Delhi Press?
Sarita was started in 1945, we had started getting ads in Sarita and it was fairly successful. In 1952-53, or even earlier, we got ads of Hindustan Unilever in Sarita. In some issues in 1962, there used to be about 100 pages of ads in Saritaâ€™s Hindi edition. It was one of the most expensive magazines. In 1945, when it was launched it was Rs1/copy and survived on its cover price.
The future of magazines is a debatable topic. How has the going been for Delhi Press?
We were growing till 3-4 years ago but started facing stagnancy in circulation after that. Digitisation has made things difficult for publications world over and it is a cause of concern.
But I continue to have much faith in the print world. It is not writing on sand, it is writing on something which is solid and can be read centuries after.Digital media is like a hurricane; it will blow away everything and be disastrous in the end.
How will Delhi Press adapt itself in the changing times?
Once you realise you canâ€™t tame the hurricane, the best thing is to put up wind mills, harvest the force of wind and save yourself to some extent and that is what serious print media the world over is trying to do.
Google, Facebook and Twitter have enabled everyone to come on board. They have spent huge amount in making this platform easy- for people to abuse, hide behind fake names, appreciate or make life he** for anyone, which wasnâ€™t possible in print media because in print nothing within 140 characters would mean anything. Our headlines are longer than that.
Although, print remains a major source of revenue for traditional media, how long do you think it will survive?
We must understand that ultimately print will survive only if someone is putting money behind it, somebody has to.
If humanity decides that they want everything digital, print will go away easily. You wonâ€™t then read a 500 page book anymore.
Can capturing rural population help to some extent in keeping print alive?
No. We have to go along with the urban population.
Urban population is the richer population all over the world. It is easily accessible; it is better informed and has more access.
You can distribute print material in rural areas but you canâ€™t sell because they do not have the purchasing power.
The main reason is also logistics. Digital media could do so well because they could break the barriers of logistics, print media didnâ€™t know how to do that.
Print has foolishly let digital media highjack itself the world over.
When most content online is for free, how does a pay wall work for Delhi Press?
See, I was very reluctant to go online when there was no advertising revenue initially.
We took it like a game. As long as the digital magazine newsstands are selling our magazines we have no issues but we werenâ€™t comfortable with going online and offering free content.
Various online news platforms are producing serious content. Do you think those could be alternative to print media?
In a society there are various ways of communication. Like there is a way to communicate through print, there is also a way to communicate through speaking. It doesnâ€™t mean that the print has gone down because the speakers are getting paid.
Digital platforms are only about sensational journalism and not serious journalism. But, print is like a tortoise, it is slow but it lasts much longer.
Even if there is a very serious article on any of the websites, it will have a very short life.
How difficult was it to keep The Caravan going?
Very difficult. Although, there has been this fear of will it last or not. But somehow, I believe that it will last in one form or another and I will not have to worry.
So, my fear is if my book will be read because there is so much of distraction.
The news of 1857 revolution in India came in the London newspapers after eight weeks. The newspaper sold around 50,000 copies even in those days, which means people paid for it to read the news and the news organisation had the money to have a correspondent in India. Can a digital site afford it?
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