Monday, October 27, 2008

Be worried

Forget the run on banks on the markets the last few years have seen some very unviable investments in the media business. One of the largest media organisations in the country – NDTV –has declared several consecutive quarters of abysmal results abnd the situation isn’t better elsewhere. Even though several print media organisations have managed to keep costs in check – the current meltdown hasn’t seen newsprint prices collapse – as yet, but I am worried about the precarious state of health of certain overleveraged print firms (one magazine publisher desperately looking for a buyer in particular). And we’re not talking about Bennett here, which remains India’s richest media company (can’t be so sure about the entire Private Treaties bit now - but that applies to everyone who got into that bed, and those who got in later got shafted the most), but I’m seeing thinner and thinner issues. Advertising is yet to collapse, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this winter.
And I’m not talking of 20-something’s losing their jobs, we’re talking of 40-something’s with families losing their jobs (as happened at the ill-fated Sakal Times). Unless and until you have demonstrated value, or at least measurable value, to your organisation, be scared, very scared. I’m not scared for my job, but I’m worried for a lot of folks I know. The stories are getting more and more frightening, one recently founded media company which we wrote about a lot earlier this year is not able to meet its second round commitments and with investors cutting their taps to PE firms (the benami way of owning media firms) the troubles will only get worse in 2009. There are already unofficial hiring freezes in place in all major organisations and while the good journalist will still get a job, even those opportunities will dry up.
Remember one thing – an ‘Offer Letter’ and an ‘Appointment Letter’ are two different things altogether. Hey, if you think I’m being a pessimist, I just looked out my balcony and the Delhi skyline is unnaturally clear. And today is chotte Diwali. I think we all need a drink. The good times are over, if you work in a company whose revenue model is flimsy (lifestyle advertising based for example and there are several - backed by realty money then forget it) or still cash-flow negative, you should be worried. Forget new launches (Forbes, Fortune and DNA Bangalore), even recently launched products and channels should worried – hell if you made a statement like this you should be frightened. The recent slience during the various 'Fashion Week's' was an indication that 'Lifestyle' is not a business plan.
Sorry to sound so down on the day before Diwali, maybe because I’m listening a lot more rock – even though I didn’t care much for Death Magnetic, I seemed to like Black Ice. And if you believe this article in The Guardian, if AC/DC are #1 again, times are really bad. And you must try and listen to the new Oasis album.
So go home (I wrote ‘how gone’ there – I’m now convinced I’m dyslexic), open a bottle of nice wine and drink yourself silly (and downturn or not, this is the season for interesting things to flow down from the northern hills) – or just go play cards somewhere. Call a crazy variation like that silly ‘Waterfall with Acid’ (which I still don’t get) that a friend made me play.
Listen, if you know me or meet me, you know that I'm a fairly optimistic person on most things other than my own personal life, which is a frikkin' minefield, but I made my own bed there. Hell, I still believe that Arsenal can win the English Premier League and that Lerwis Hamilton will not mess up at Interlagos. I believed that Nadal could win Wimbledon, but this time last year I realised that things just didn't add up (I wrote this post three years ago). While the media dissed cocaine users (only Delhi reporters mind you, some Bombay reporters knew better for reasons best left unsaid), a lot of the madness can only be explained if it is attributed to crazed cokeheads, because only on coke can you get yourself into such doo-doo (GWB might have given up the bottle, but I'm not sure he gave up the powder). No I'm serious, the last four years saw an explosion in cocaine usage in India - it became the drug of choice, even in media firms.
And see what happened!
Anyway, Happy Diwali folks, and sorry for the negativity. Take care!


Anonymous said...

Jeez man, you make it sound like the end of the (media) world in just a hairpin bend away! I guess when you hire people on salaries that go into multiples of zeroes, it's going to come back and bite you in the ass. Remember the time when HT hired a fancy CEO and his cronies quite some years ago, on fat pay packets and perks, gave them all Hondas (or some such cars). They screwed (no other word here)HT thoroughly and then were packed off (amicable parting of ways?). HT of course, is known to hire CEOs who don't know a horse's ass about the way the media functions. I guess people don't really learn. So if the media houses are feeling the pinch, I guess they asked for it. You rightly said, that in this mess, it's going to be the a lot of seniors journalists, who might end up on the BS and KG Margs!
Very, very unfortunate.

thalassa_mikra said...

Happy Diwali! Don't worry - this too shall pass.