Monday, July 23, 2007

Some more points

A few notes on the last post - the EchTee news is correct, but SG has not been made an offer by EchTee and for all practical purposes, Mrs Bhartia is taking over as the boss. Well, she always was the boss, but now there won't be any convoluted structures - the Managing Editor and the Resident Editor's of both main editions (in Delhi and Mumbai) report to her. This change still hasn't yet been reflected on the company's website incidentally! While I have had maintained that American (or any) imports into the world of journalism cannot work very well if you put them in charge, unless they already have a concept of how news works in this country. Will this require a change in the way that Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media works, and particularly recruits senior people? I don't know, but the Jain's and their CEO's - Ravi Dhariwal right now, have never been that 'interfering' with the way their editors function (of late), and ironically the Times has has in-house leadership across its publications.
While Mrs Bhartia's take-over at EchTee is a great thing, the company needs a bootstrap editor, someone to go into the newsroom and confront the malaise of different 'planetary systems' that exists in the place. I'm not being critical, but the Hindustan Times is not an example of how a paper should be run, the place has way too much deadwood and inflated designations. However, the latter is a problem across most media organisations. Make no mistakes, it is a great paper, but I also know that ToI Editors are befuddled at how rapidly their competition is whittling away - too many 'Me' columns. Those are better dealt by blogging than having frankly boring columns.
No media company can ever steer clear of their ownership structure or owners in India. This post for example on another blog highlights how IBNLive was showcasing a frankly irrelevant piece of news on its home page. Now, those in the know about the media and how MTV India and IBN are all tied to raghav Behl's TV18 would know the connection, but nowhere is it mentioned that GBN and Viacom-18 have the same parent and this is essentially cross-promotion - "MTV Networks India is owned by Viacom-18, a joint-venture between TV18 and Viacom. TV18 also owns a controlling stake in Web18, operators of this website." Simple, ain't it? Not quite.
Will you ever read a disclaimer in a Times' article about Kishore Biyani or M Thiagrajan where they clarify that Bennett-Coleman actually has a stake in those companies? Only now have some companies started writing that 'Said Journalist was in whatever location at the invitation of
random company'. My opinions about Junkets can be another post altogether - but essentially, junkets are sometimes are fairly important - heck, you get caught out when your peers in trade magazines, who often learn less than half of what you do are far more well-traveled than you and know far more than you do because their editors don't have to grapple with moral dilemmas. The NYT has started doing something called 'paid-for' junkets whereby the paper covers airfare and hotel costs out of their own pockets for the trip - something some financial news agencies have been doing in India for a while.
Anyway, back to work, but lets see how EchTee progresses over the next few months. Hopefully, it should be able to pick itself up. As long as it stops bleeding personnel from the middle ranks!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Latest Gossip!

According to what I'm hearing, there was a meeting of HT top brass at the Oberoi in Delhi yesterday, where Mrs Bhartiya, despite not keeping too well (the details, the details!) attended, and supposedly (I say supposedly because while the news has been confirmed by six different sources, you never know!) the American Import has been asked to go. From what I have heard this is because of HT's sharply declining numbers against a much-stronger ToI in the capital and the stagnation of the paper in Mumbai, even against an effectively headless DNA (The attenmpts by the Aggarwal family to find an editor is now reaching epic proportions!). Anyway, this does not come as a major surprise to me and to some readers of the blog, and this has been coming for a while. However, HT's sudden decision should get some of the other American Imports, particularly at Papermint scared! Long live the desi!
Anyway, the second part of the story gets even more interesting. According to a couple of commenters on this post, this actually happened a few days ago. Shekhar Gupta has been ousted from the Indian Express after that papers dismal recent performance - both financially and in the readership surveys. Of course, this ties in well with the above story because guess where he goes - EchTee! I don't know whether this will work at KG Marg, but I will say this much, given ToI's rampant expansion something needed to be done. Of course, promoting half of your staff to Associate Editors doesn't do the trick too well!
And guess who comes back to the Express according to the story! The one and only Arun Shourie. I don't know quite what to think, but this is a great positive for the Indian Express, and more importantly it seems that some new cash is also being pitched in, maybe the paper will be able to pay people something slightly more reasonable.
Anyway, yesterday's post was removed due to a request from a friend, and a potential delay in the subject matter of that post, it will be up again soon, and continue to believe that it is a good move. As for EchTee, I hope that paper can pick itself up!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Notes on Blogging Part DLVI

Sometimes a cursory glance of the editorial pages can lead to surprising finds, like this for example a few days ago in the Times Of India. Nothing that most bloggers don't know, but this was the lead edit and the timing of it got me a bit surprised, a cursory glance of the blogging scene in India leads me to believe that some of the older bloggers have reduced the amount they blogged or stopped altogether, even a glance at Technorati data can lead one to make the impression that people are actually blogging less than before. What I find surprising about this is that India is going through a second internet boom, everybody pouring millions of dollars into new internet ventures, even though most of them seem to be social networking sites or video-hosting sites, and in some cases into gaming sites - but given the profile of games at sites like Games2Win I really wonder what sort of market people are going for - merge the demand for gaming and repressed sexuality in one unipurpose game.
I met Ajit Balakrishnan of Rediff lately and he did not agree that all these sites were money being poured down the drain - even though I cannot imagine the business model for social networking sites, especially since according to what is flooding my inbox - Facebook and hi5 are the latest cool sites, in fact the growth of the former has been rather spectacular and Google's Orkut service pretty pretty much degenerated into an online sleaze service. But Balakrishnan did make one valid point, India definately needs a lot more online content coming on stream over the next few years if the 'broadband revolution' that we have been promised for years is going to happen. I mean look at the numbers, while in absolute terms they're pretty decent, in percentage terms computer penetration isn't working that well.
Why? One reason, is despite the hype, low-cost computing has been quite a non-starter in the home market, because the machines are fairly poorly specified. At the end of the day, I guess we all want a computer which can do something decent. And while I might carry a N-series phone with more processing power and memory than my first Pentium machine back when I was still in school, I still want my computer to kick-ass. Don't know why, but I just do! Low-cost computers and even thin-client machines have been pretty hyped-up in India, but I don't if these machines will work too well in the home environment for two critical reasons - bandwidth -both wireline and wireless, the latter being in a state of extreme flux. And while the telcos don't give you figures, India has over 40 million handsets capable of data connectivity and prices are fairly affordable, but the number of data users out there are fairly limited.
And this is where I come back to Balakrishnan's point about the lack of content online - there is almost no really compelling online content on any Indian site. And while blogging is very often horribly inaccurate and like in this case extremely opinionated, blogging, not just in English needs to increase. Not just for the case of stimulating people to come online. But maybe also to help revive the lost art of Journalism, where newspapers institute awards to award it to their own reporters - true, no-one I know ever applied, but shouldn't awards in journalism be independent of news organisations. Heck, who knows, at this rate Rajat Sharma will institute an award for best Rakhi Sawant coverage and promptly award it to his channel (though Aaj Tak will come a close second!).
Anyway, I know there are tons of people who read this blog, the reason I added the 'Recent Blog Comments' widget was to stimulate comments, and it seems to have done the trick, but guys and gals, lets see you write a blog! Just be yourselves, don't worry about what clowns say, you can always delete comments! I do!
And just a note, if you came here from the IndiaBlogs directory, this is anything but a Political blog, I have virtually no comments on the Pratibha Patil controversy, other than to say I have a strange feeling that the woman will backfire on the Congress.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stuck in a moment you can't get out of!

Why does this man insist on writing on music? And music that people really don't care about. It is almost as bad as his insistence on writing about Chinese food. Writing about music during the 'i' generation is a bit silly. I really don't want to know about an album that was made when my parents were teenagers. Heck, this sort of writing will alienate the newly-literate English speakers that the 'media' is targeting. There is a lot of good music from the 1965-1972 period where a substantial amount of writers think music began and ended. Take a recco from a poor blog writer - listen to Amy Winehouse and Pop Levi. Music hasn't died, it has just gone onto my iPod.
Anyway, that isn't the point of this post. I've had a couple of strange conversations with friends in the profession, and the theme is the same, the lament about where on earth Indian journalism is headed. Honestly, I have no answers to that to that question, but the rise of the 'Yo!' generation in the profession is fascinating to observe from my perch in the middle of the pile. And that is just TV. Print is a different ballgame altogether, and I'm not cribbing about bad copy. I'm fairly fortunate that most of my colleagues are people I can communicate with, even if it is talking about cellphones.
But the direction that journalism is taking is fascinating in some ways. If you watch any of the Hindi news channels in the afternoon - they are more entertaining than putting on Star Plus. India TV is like a daily soap opera that even Ektaa (she has two a's or is that three?) could not think up. At a fairly 'reputable' channel, one complaint a friend made was "The boss can't keep his zipper up, so you have a lunatic 26-year old running the show", and that has obviously led to a lot of the smarter people packing up and packing off.
It is even crazier sometimes at Press Events where everybody rushes for that 'one' bite and everybody misses the point. You sometimes wonder whether some news organisations, particular smaller, newer ones are becoming little more than repackaged Press Release shops. But what can you expect when things are growing at the pace that they are. Have we come to the nadir and now the only way we can go is up? I would like to believe so, but I don't think that will happen until a couple of organisations go under.
And deep inside, and this is despite the pathetic numbers I see, I really hope that the internet changes things for the better. I'm not saying that the internet will be a panacea for the Indian media circus. But, it might just change things for the better because of the way the internet is. But more on that in my next post.
EDIT : To quote The Economic Times recently...
"Jack Kerouac would have loved it, his typewriter being punched furiously but without the manic energy of drugs and jazz. The beatnik would have got the whole book just being on the roads of Delhi. The kill-a-day Bluelines and ramshackle DTC would have substituted for the terrific energy, and Delhi hapless people, at the mercy of the buses and government, would certainly have given the poetic push. And the honking cacophony of statements - by people, bus owners, government - would have equalled riffs of jazz. On The Road put together in Delhi."

This has to be other than the occasional article by a certain S.P in a certain magazine got to be the most fantastical opening paragraph I have read in years. Now, keep in mind the article is about Delhi's public transport system, how Jack Kerouac got involved, I still don't know. I don't know if this is someone trying to impress the world, but the article was a goddamn Page 1 anchor! Not an inside page hidden article.
I must starting smoking pot before I read the morning papers at this rate!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Surprise, surprise...

The letter has been around for over six weeks, I forwarded it to all the senior editors I know, but after we write about it here and even post it here, a newspaper picks it up. Not the first time that this blog has found a post making the news, but c'mon a bit of credit please!
In other news, news other than the fact that I will soon plop over from working too hard after most of my organs have been fried from electromagnetic radiation because of my love affair with mobile handsets.
- Dengue has hit home and one of India's top anchorette's has been hospitalised with the disease, of course we wish the affected person well.
- UndieTV Lifestyle has gone live and is thankfully not available as yet on Tata-Sky, therefore I will not pass judgement on doe-eyed vapidity as yet!
- However, if you do have Tata-Sky please catch the BBC series Broken News every evening, seriously, seriously funny!
- Bombay Media Blogdom's favourite journalist quits current employer.
- However, when it comes to his new employer, it seems that the Bengali brothers are fighting about the direction their group should take.
- Govindraj Ethiraj's new channel has been sniffing around and journalists from all over the place, disgruntled with current employers are leaving. A certain P Sharma has joined them as Delhi Bureau Chief.
Anyway, none of these are rumours. I can however confirm that due to certain constraints I have yet to start the 'signed blog' that I threatened I would, but I will soon be blogging under my given name but for my employer. Watch this space!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hard Times

I subscribe to quite a few odd-and-ends feeds and newsgroups about desi media happenings, but I was surprised to see that a letter from Shekhar Gupta to all Express employees made it out into the internet as fast as it did. Keep in mind, most of these letters usually filter through senior journalists, not on an online newsgroup. Obviously, someone wasn't happy about the announcement and frankly after reading that mail, I felt sorry for the paper. Honestly, the closure of the newspaper's office late last year during the 'sealing drive' in Delhi hit them hard. But, the fact of the matter remains, in times like these when people are willing to pay a bomb to recruit people, so much so, that EchTee recruits people from America (again, I wonder if the management thinks that eventually one transplanted NRI will click?) you can't tell everyone, 'Times are hard, no increments!'
I don't agree with the Indian Express' politics, and the paper vacillates wildly from side to side, but it remains an institution and does have some good people working there. Pity that they have no good people in their marketing department. It is quite obvious that the paper would be in even more trouble had it not been for tenders, but as newspaper space-sellers would tell you, tenders don't make much money, and the Express itself has to share most of their tender money with The New Indian Express down south. At the same time, the group continues to flog a very dead horse, their business paper - FE, which has become a sort of training school for future business journalists.
I personally don't think the 'Express' is over, they've gone through a lot worse, but it does speak volumes that a paper which could have re-invented itself in the media boom, did not do so. Hopefully, they will get their act together soon, because if they don't manage, there won't be too many people left. As it is people are already jumping ship!
On another note, Govindraj Ethiraj, who has joined as the boss of UTV's new business channel has been reaching out to his former colleagues at CNBC and those that left CNBC. There has been a lot of movement in Bombay, and according to sources, this is just the start of another insane round of salary increases. And at the same time there are plans being drawn up for another financial daily/weekly by one or both of the R's (Ronnie and Raghav). Let the offer letter's begin!
PS : INX will call their news channel 'News X', what sort of name is that!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

When in doubt....

Launch your magazine in India, especially if your sales begin to take a nosedive and you really have no clue what you are doing in your 'home market', where your reputation has been torn to shreds and blogs now occupy the centre-stage in the genre. No we aren't talking about an automotive magazine (or Maxim), rather we're talking about Rolling Stone magazine. An India edition is on the anvil, and should be on stands by either late-2007 or early-2008 to join a growing number of pointless magazines (OK, Prevention, etc., etc.) which are catering for India's newly-literate and hoping that Indian homes put off buying computers or getting broadband connections for a while - talking about broadband - in case you use Airtel broadband, be sure to call them up soon, bumps (not powder ones, but 'speed') are being offered to subscribers - two megs is decent speed as long as they can maintain it. Back to Rolling Stone, the editor has been decided, he was a former colleague at EchTee, and because it has not been 'officially' announced, I won't break the name here just yet.
On another note, and please do not take this as criticism, after being laid low by a viral for the last two-three days I actually managed to watch a lot of TV. And I'll tell you this much, Prabhu Chawla's interview with Rakhi Sawant was the most entertaining thing I have seen on TV (no YouTube link as yet sadly) in a long time. You have to admire that woman's gumption, and she just stole the show from 'Prabhuji', who was taken aback I guess! This was 'must-watch' TV even though it was on a general entertainment channel - Aaj Tak. And I'm still trying to figure out why Star News is obsessed with casting couches? And really, I do like this new Bollywood blog called BombayBitch, must admit it is rather nice and more enjoyable than the PR fluff that Times or the TV channels dish out! Most entertaining indeed!

And someone asked me which N-series phone I would buy? Might as well give a bit of a phone talk then. I love the Nokia N95, even the GPS has yet to be activated thanks to differential duty rates between mobile phones and GPS devices and the Indian military's insane paranoia about GPS devices (and letting go of 2100Mhz spectrum - until they do no 3G!). That said - these are the mobile devices currently on my table - Nokia N93i, Nokia N92, Samsung D900, RIM Blackberry 8300 'Curve' and just got a HTC Touch. The last device I doubt I'll use because I'm not exactly comfortable with Windows Mobile devices, but I want to see how Mobile 6 holds up. I like the Berry, the Samsung discharges before you can finish your first call, watch broadcast TV on the N92 is a great party trick, though it won't really help in getting a date (as long as your choice PRDM's wanking tool - DD News) and the N93i, well, I've loaded it up with a ton of apps and it actually works quite well, though every once in a while it does decide to turn itself off! The N95 is a far more stable platform, and really, if the device had a touch interface it would be on another plane.
But, the N-series range, a money-spinner for Nokia is entering strange territory, the devices now have a price band which stretches from Rs 12,000 to Rs 35,000. I've sen Nokia's segmentation presentation, and with over 80 percent of the Indian GSM market, Nokia's competition in India isn't any other company but Nokia themselves!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The things you find on YouTube... And posted by European Union no less.

Related story!

I've been reading all this iPhone news, and slowly the fan-boy news is filtering into tepid reviews. Whereas the iPhone might be a lovely device, somehow, out here, given Apple's pathetic reach and sales network and ridiculous pricing - a 30GB iPod which costs $249 costs Rs 17,600 in India if you bought it officially, I doubt it will coming this side of the planet soon. Plus, I'm more than happy enough with my N-series devices.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Work or something like it...

There are times in your working life when you turn around and wonder what on earth the rest of your colleagues do, not just in journalism, even though several junior journalists make it seem like they either edit their publication or produce the Nine O'Clock news. I make no such claims (and if I id so three-four years ago, I apologise because thanks to some recent events I managed to see how much work the senior chaps do).
I just write stories, and I sometimes wonder why certain colleagues are terribly inefficient. Or why some of them insist of letting the entire office hear their pointless telephone conversations. Anyway, this is not a bitch fest, because I'm really not that frustrated at work, but I think I've hit that period in my life when time itself is becoming the commodity I crave most.
sadly though, every free minute I have, and this is the part I have been struggling to understand particularly since I haven't been smoking the good stuff, I have Mika's Love Today playing in my head. That and iPhone news and more iPhone news on virtually every feed I subscribe to. Anyway, I should have a more detailed post about some blabbering or slobbering fool or why I just love marketing for saying 'But THAT is what the readers want!'. And I also have a post due on a major national newspaper.