Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just wondering

Sam Zell’s Tribune empire went under and declared bankruptcy and somehow it started me thinking about the state of the industry. In a weird sort of way it shows how Craigslist and Ebay have changed the American media landscape. I won’t say the internet as a whole and definitely will not say ‘blogging’ or the horribly hyped up ‘citizen journalism’, but things are changing. And in that lies a lesson for news
And they are changing here as well and that is evident in the strategies that media companies are employing. I have known Sanjeev Bikhchandani of InfoEdge for years, even before I became a journalist and I have seen the growth of Naukri for a simple listings firm to something so much more is an amazing one. And that is why, despite the horrible Indiatimes mucking up both ToI and ET websites, Times Internet is so important to times. Especially the Jobs and Matrimonials site – heck, they’ve desperately tried to re-brand both. I do feel that the Matri site rebranded as an 'urban' site - 'metro monial' they call it is doomed to failure but I elucidate below. And HT Media, bless them, not so long ago started Shine, their new jobs site, which well, sucks.
But the jobs listings business model has changed, even though Times Ascent remains a tremendously powerful product.
Marriage listings in papers still remain, but even those are changing thanks to the emergence of so many matrimonial websites, however, there is a part of me which thinks that as India changes demographically and culturally, ‘marriage sites’ will also have to evolve. I can’t predict if they will become ‘dating’ sites or something worse, but paper matrimonials are doomed sooner or later. If you think I'm talking bunkum, let me explain with silly anecdotal evidence. I stopped at a In&Out convenio recently to buy a Diet Coke and was amazed at the number, actually the variety of condoms you could buy. I mean, we are getting to Thailand levels of choice.
The iPill, despite slightly dubious health issues seems to have empowered women - though someone should please explain that you can still get an STD even if you can't get pregnant and that overuse is a bad thing. And since I read the India Today Sex Survey for some strange reason, usually to find whacked out survey results - I saw an ad for a paan flavoured condom in it. No really. Now that is seriously f***ed up. So back to the point, the new urban Indian couple is getting friskier and well, while I do not believe that 'arranged marriages' will die out, there will be fewer and fewer.
Unless of course, someone can design an easily searchable mobile site or app. I mean, think about it, the bored mother on a Metro back from shopping can find her son or daughter a match straight from her mobile. But that is for now. Later on, you could adopt some sort of hook-up sortv of app on the phone, ecven though chances are there will be 99 guys for every girl. So maybe, I'm being a bit too crazy, but the matri app could work just now. I’m a genius, though my big mobile application idea, you know the one that will allow me to buy a house in Beverly Hills and retire involves breasts. But that is still illegal in this country. Which is peculiar in a way. TV Networks can show live images of counter-insurgency operations and can get away with it but get banned if they show a sexy Axe commercial, let alone a hint of tit. Sometimes, I’ll never understand ‘Bharatiya Mariyada’.
I don’t know about you, but there is something to holding a paper and sitting on the commode every morning. I love reading a paper during my alone time, and while I must admit that I have experimented with a laptop while on the crapper. It really isn’t the same.
However, on a more optimistic note, I was reading an Edelweiss report which indicates that newsprint prices should head downward in FY10 and already there is a mismatch (in a good way) between spot and contract prices for international newsprint. With international newsprint comprising 75 per cent of buys for several of the larger groups, this is a great sign. However, this does not mean that there will still be some major cost cutting requirements ahead as advertising will still decline.
I am still pretty sure that a newspaper, or least an edition or two, will shut shop sooner rather than later. Anyways, I have stories to file and antibiotics to have.

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