One of Dhirubhai Ambani's nicer experiments, or well rather one the times he let his younger son have his way with the loose change was The Sunday Observer. Now, I don't lament the passing of the Sunday Observer as a journalist, I was far too young to have worked there during the good days, but the paper, whatever you say about it - even call it the Ambani's propaganda rag - much like a certain television channel is today was usually - particularly during the time of the first two editors, very good Sunday reading. And for me, as a pre-teen kid those days, despite going through a fairly troubled part of life (my pre and early teen years were more screwed up than most peoples, thanks to my parents' marriage going haywire) was fairly good reading for children in the 12-16 age group in a regular newspaper. And that is something I do not see in ANY Sunday newspaper today.
None whatsoever, because they try to outcompete each other in being cerebral and lifting ideas from GQ. Talking about lifting from GQ, this month's UK edition has an article called 'Absolute Insanity' about chillies and 'hotness' (of the chillies not of the models in the Kingfisher Calendar), a few days after I read the article in my bosses cubicle, the country's self-proclaimed 'best' food writer does an article on chilles. Now, this gentleman is a great writer (no doubt about that) and no part of the aforementioned GQ piece was 'copied' per se, but information was copiously used. I was not the only person to notice the timing, at least three other people I know who read the UK edition of GQ mentioned this me, just finding the timing a bit ironic. Anyway, inspiration can come from anywhere and I am not making an accusation of plagarism - that is exclusively the terrain of two-bit and half-wit movie reviewers.
You might argue that DNA makes an attempt - but DNA is going after the Cartoon Network crowd, not 'TweenAgers'. A year or so ago, maybe less, a former colleague had done a story on this market in India and how it is booming, but somehow, despite the massive explosion in the media, there seems to be almost no reading material - rather daily or even weekly reading material targeting the 8-18 market, and that seems to baffle me.
I'm fairly sure that I am not alone when I say that the early years of India Today's Target magazine were brilliant. Of course, the magazine did lose it towards its later years and its second avataar as 'Teens Today' was one of the Group's more colossal publishing disasters - because it tried to go after both the early-teen and late-teen market. As any marketer with half a brain will tell you, the 13-14-15 age group is quite a different proposition from the 16-17 age group and the 18-19 age group is a different kettle of fish altogether. target actually had value propositions that appealed - thanks in no small part to Ajit Ninan's great cartoons and I hope that Times of India asks him to restart some of his strips - or maybe start something new altogether - to a wider variety of readers. However, in a fragmented market like today, such a scenario is not possible.
Now, the reason many magazines and newspapers don't start publications for this segment of the market is because they feel that the market is either too small or that they will not get advertising. The latter reason is more crucial - publishers will tell you that they're competing in the age of TV and the internet and people don't read. They don't? That is news to me, I read when I was young, and by the time I got to middle school, cable TV was in India in all its glory - I mean I had MTV with VJ Nonie and 24x7 of Rock n'Roll.
Yet, by the time I got to that stage I had finished most of Gerald Durrell and started out on Wodehouse and I was still buying Hardy Boys Casefiles books (I discovered much to my surprise I still have a lot of my Hardy Boys books along with their impossible and improbable plots - but they were fun, and in a cupboard in Calcutta I still have some old Target and Indrajaal comics lying about). Those were good days!
But young people read, maybe less nowadays because of blogs and the internet, but I've said this before, a well-produced and well-written newspaper or magazine will give you in half an hour what most people take half a day to find on the internet. I mean, the printed word or page, whichever way you look at it still has the ability to surprise. After all, I plonk down a significant amount of money to read GQ, even though I can find a lot of the content online, because I want to. I like Nerve, but Nerve would be cooler if I could hold it. And no matter what you say, a Playmate in a three-fold foldout in Playboy, looks a lot nicer than scrolling down on a monitor, even if you have a 19-inch LCD. Maybe I'm old-fashioned or maybe I'm like this because I get my genes from a journalist on one side and a publisher on the other, or maybe I'm environmentally callous and like the feel of paper.
Maybe I'm just growing too old! I have to drive a car at 200 ticks to put a smile on my face nowadays! But thats just me!