Some rules of journalism just don’t apply in the digital space: Kalli Purie, India Today Group

In an interview with exchange4media, Purie also spoke about the relevance of mobile journalism, competition from social media platforms, issue of fake news and her vision for the India Today Group as she takes on a new role

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Oct 27, 2017 8:09 AM

Having been appointed as Vice Chairperson of the India Today Group (ITG) recently, Kalli Purie, who was earlier the Group Editorial Director (Broadcast and New Media) at ITG, is on a mission mode to give Aaj Tak and the India Today brand a digital first identity too.
The launch of the seven new mobile channels is in many ways the beginning of this transformation. For Purie, technological innovations have become fascinating opportunities for media houses to stay relevant and she firmly believes that the India Today Group is leading this change.
In an interview with exchange4media, Purie also spoke about the relevance of mobile journalism, competition from social media platforms, the issue of fake news and her vision for the India Today Group. Excerpts:

What prompted you to invest in building a mobile journalism (Mojo) platform and launch seven new mobile channels at this point in time?
Well a whole lot of new audience is coming in that are engaging with entertainment and information through their smartphones. I think repurposing content for them and not creating it new for that particular platform is a disservice to that platform.
Being in the media space, we felt it was a requirement of the hour to do that and we feel that millennials are engaging a lot with content, but their choice of platform is the phone. So it was necessary if we wanted to stay on with the millennial audience and also to connect with them on their platform.
Is the Indian market mature enough for the practice of mobile journalism when traditional mediums are still very relevant?
I’m very keen on mobile journalism. In fact we tried to take one of our channels-Dilli Aaj Tak completely Mojo. However, the challenge we are facing is the fact that if you trying to go live for 45 minutes, the phone heats up too much, so that is the problem. I think the next generation of phones will be better and allow us to do more. I would say we are ahead of the curve and the technology is not keeping up with us.

Is the pattern of news consumption witnessing a certain shift with the coming of new devices and technologies?
Yes it is. It’s offering a completely different way of looking at journalism. It’s not something that we expected in the beginning. Some of the rules that apply in journalism just don’t apply in the digital space. People expect you be casual, raw, organic and they expect you to connect with them much more and not be formal and behind the desk looking very smarted up. Like you do on television. I also think that they expect things to be far truer and less dressed up in all ways, and that works. They also expect it to be fast and they want you to show it as it is.
With social media feeds offering news on their platforms, how are individual publishers leveraging this scope?
The news is discovered on social media but is provided by independent players. It’s not that social media is creating any of its own news. More often than not, news created by social media handles, which is not verified, brings back traffic to main news websites to check if it’s true. I think social media adds another element to your journalism and becomes another platform which you can use. I think social media platforms have taught us a lot and in turn they have learnt a lot. Facebook has learnt that they can’t run a newsroom on algorithms and they had to go back to hiring human editors. We worked with them during the elections and they realised how much they didn’t know.
I think we rely a lot on data to know the engagement levels. It’s just about working on those algorithms to make it better and we have learnt just by doing things. We are one of Facebook’s Beta partners and over time we have learned so much from them to know what works on their platform.

How is the use of data redefining journalism?
Data drives journalism online because it gives you a good indication of what people are reading. I think along with the number of page views advertisers also look at the quality and environment. And I think our job is to make sure that we use the data as an indicator, but at the same time not follow it blindly. It is important to put your own layer of judgement on it.

Much has been debated about the need for speed and news credibility, how are you balancing the two in your newsroom?
We are a very journalistically driven organisation and we take our journalism very seriously. The free and fair has to stay. The fact that we are fiercely non-aligned also has to stay. Moreover, every news in our organisation is controlled by the assignment desk. The assignment desk follows a very strict process of double checks for ready-for-air (RFA) news. So they have to get the news and confirm it from two different sources. Once they have done that only then will we make the news ready for air. Even our digital sites can’t take it unless it has come as RFA from the assignment desk. For us credibility is more important than speed. In this crowded news space it is even more important that you hold your credibility and stand for verified news.

Having been appointed as the new Vice Chairperson of the India Today Group, what are your top priorities?

My immediate priorities are really to make sure that we are ready to take all the new possibilities and opportunities that are coming our way. I feel that we have finished the process of consolidation and we are now in a very stable place and should just take every jump we can to leap forward. The launch of the seven digital channels is the first step towards that. We are taking the Aaj Tak and the India Today brand forward into the digital space.

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