Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Regional Spread

One of the more unique things a small paper like The Pioneer has done was to spread out to smaller cities. The paper today has editions in places like Rand Bhuwaneshwar, not exactly places where you would expect larger papers to reach out to. Maybe a 'Dak' edition with a stringer or two, but as someone pointed out maybe my view of the media is very Delhi-Mumbai centric, and that is a fair point, so am I missing out the story of the rise of the smaller Indian paper? Not exactly. I know The Pioneer story well for reasons that are rather obvious, but I also do not believe that the vanguard of Indian journalism will come from smaller cities.
I have not missed the Jagran and Bhaskar story (though I should have mentioned it in the last post), in fact I have interacted with Girish Aggarwal of the Bhaskar Group quite a few times. Jagran and Bhaskar have done well for a very simple reason, which I believe was by sparking energy into a moribund segment, which included better salries for journalists and bringing in aggressive ad-sales teams into the language media. Both groups are also at the forefront of online language content, Jagran's website which is a tie-up with Yahoo is possibly one of the better Hindi portals out there, though I do like Josh18 also.
Back to the point I was making, whih is that I think smaller towns will drive the English print media in the next few years. Rather incremental growth for large established papers will not come from major cities, other than the Times' Chennai edition which launches next month, and the possibility that Hindustan Times might sort out internal politics long enough to launch a couple of editions in the south, most of the growth will come from the Bhuwaneshwar's and Guwahati's of the world. There are several reasons I think this will happen, the first of course is demographics, more young people who speak English coming from smaller towns. And the second is the rising income levels in smaller cities. Technically speaking, most 'small' Indian cities would be classified as large cities everywhere else in the world (bar China), and these cities are growing rapidly.
The unfortunate thing is that the English media scene will become far more homogenous. And that will be tragic. If the small English newspaper is to survive, and they should survive, because smaller newspapers are an essential part of the media landscape, they will have to spread out their reach beyond their home turf. Look at Kolkata's Telegraph for example, there was a time when that paper could have spread out of the city, instead it got locked in and as the Times of India closed in, not just in Kolkata, but now in the North-East as well with a Guwahati edition, the paper has gotten marginalised, but then again so has alsmot everything in the ABP Group. What is the betting, despite some rather silly 'Open Letter's' that the Times won't decimate local competition in Goa.
Anyway, don't you think that the Budget brouhaha has been a bit more 'sedate' this year! And to continue my argument that the inetrnet is a challenge the Indian media will have to face up to, check out this excerpt from Wired Ed-in-Chief Chris Anderson's new book.


Anonymous said...

The media boom is having some undesirable side-effects.

One major issue is talent shortage. While this is much hyped in the big cities, the story is much more painful in the smaller towns.

For instance, in Goa The Times has had to hire its metro editor from a regional newspaper. Though the guy's grasp of the English language can be described at best as tenuous, the paper hopes to make use of its networking skills while importing editing talent from outside.

The sad story is that reporters and managers in the small towns will come increasingly from the language media. Those with fluency in the English language will be pushed to positions on the desk.

Though every trainee with an MA English (Hons) would be bullied into desk jobs, the trend will get worse in the days to come.

Meanwhile there is report floating somewhere which said Chennai is becoming a favorite spot for outsourcing of KPOs in the publishing field.

So expect more poaching of people who can eat, drink and breathe English.

Anonymous said...

K, what's up wid Times Now. Heard folks are quitting periodically. Sundar is now sports editor at TN. What's become of their sports ed Faisal Shariff...Anyone.

Anonymous said...

Bhaskar group rarely pays well. They are quite liberal with giving out high sounding posts though. I know a couple of papers where Hindi journalists are now writing for English papers. The papers have hired translators. Unfortunately, the results don't seem to be very encouraging if the quality of the stories is anything to go by. In the meantime, I am available if someone wants ;-)

Anonymous said...

The comment above about the shortage of people fluent in english goes obnoxious when it goes on to say that "The sad story is that reporters and managers in the small towns will come increasingly from the language media. Those with fluency in the English language will be pushed to positions on the desk."
Why yaar, why it is sad? If some people in the regional media are better in networking and netting good scoops, why they should not be hired? Just because some clerks know better english than them? Or just because the writer of this blog very proudly says : "Yeah, but I am an English brat." But let me tell you that the blogger despite being what he calls himself is very well conversant with the Hindi media scene and I am sure he would know better about what I am saying.