Friday, February 06, 2009

Late night

I was sleepy a couple of hours ago, but I rode through the 'sleepy hump' and now I'm wide awake chomping down on Classic Milds and staring at inane stories linked through my Twitter feed. I'm probably numb in the brain - that kind of reflects on the music playing - I've circulated Death Cab for Cutie, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and have somehow ended up with ABBA. I think my current low-carb diet has something to do with this, I swear all I've had to drink are two glasses of Australian Shiraz. Anyway I'm too bored to comment on the state of the Indian media and write long, boring lumps of text on the internet, and I'm sorry if this makes no sense, because I can't be bothered right now about making sense. 
Anyway, Time's Walter Issacson argues that micropayments are the future of the newspaper industry. Er... I don't think so. Not because of the fact that newspapers are not even the worth the paper they are printed on. Really. Currently, with existing newsprint prices, it costs between 5-10x the stand price currently. Blame that on the futures contracts that some of the highly paid managers took out - but then again even the master hedgers at Southwest Airlines, Ryanair and even Reliance got caught out with falling commodity prices. Other than some people I know who bet on gold in October 2008 and are now worth a lot more than they were. 
Anyway back to the point, the price wars that started in the early-90's in Delhi when Times' began its assault on Delhi are hitting hard now. True, no-one wants to pay to read the same story twice, thrice or even four times. Heck, even on television I don't quite get the point of ten channels telling me the same thing. But subscription-only websites that deliver what you want and then you pay for it through a decent micro-payment mechanism such as an SMS won't quite work here (though there have been rather cool experiments with text messaging and micro payments in India). Because a premium SMS costs more than a newspaper. Not just that, while you could contemplate paying a decent sum of money to read something you wish to read, will you do that?
You would pay decent money to read a novel, but even three rupees for a 800-word article? The problem is that news has become so devalued thanks to the fact it costs next to nothing every morning and Rs 10 to get a bunch of channels you never watch every day. The unholy nexus between advertising and editorial exists because of this, and while some bloggers would like nothing better than to expose that, it would be impossible for a daily to raise its price to Rs 5 let alone Rs 10 to cover newsprint cost. Such a product could become a 'thinking man's/woman's' paper but would not survive. Maybe I'm being too cynical. 
Really I should get some sleep. And before that, read Valleywag's retort to the Time article. See you the other side of sunrise IST.

1 comment:

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