Monday, May 25, 2009

Interwebs, media and such…

Horrible load-balancing problems struck every large Indian media site on counting day, one even boasted that their ‘servers went down’. Doh! The biggest and most dramatic failure was Election Commissions own site – – and I wondered why on earth NIC can’t set up a load-balancing server set-up for themselves. Try accessing the budget site on budget day, impossible. But NIC knows that there are occasional spikes and really should gear up for it.

Media companies on the other hand don’t. And this led to serious issues during the MumbaiAttacks in November where several sites collapsed under the stress. But is changing and spending massive sums of money for the internet worth it? That question is being answered in very strange ways by different organizations and a couple of them are saying, ‘You know what, it isn’t!’

What does not help is that traditional reporters, including yours truly, don’t really want to contribute over and above for online editions. The argument being that our jobs are stressful enough before you add the web to the mix. The honest reason being that most reporters are seriously lazy, heck you see that in the rampant ‘stealing’ that takes place every day, so much so that using the internet to find a story and then rewriting it has become par for the course. Attribution and acknowledgement have become dirty words. I’m a features writer, so believe me I know the pain of seeing data and facts you dig up stolen by imbeciles. But like Indian highways, all you can do is shrug your shoulders and move on and hope that sooner or later things change.

So, back to my point, there is still a severe shortage of genuine and good online content in India. Most news sites carry the same Press Trust of India rehash, and some sites prioritize story A over story B. Which, given PTI’s habit to hyperbole and claiming things that might or might not have happened is usually entertaining. Blogs are just blogs, opinionated examples of bad writing, and I would put myself in that bracket as well. I don’t really think too hard when stringing together paragraphs here, and only do so when I have the time away from talking about technology.

But technology is moving towards more and more access devices but access to what is the question? There ain’t that much to see online in India. Yes, there are some really cool blogs and sites, but nowhere enough content to satisfy a content whore such as me. And then again, far too many of them are discussing the rights and wrongs of what was discussed in India, so you have a situation where people are stringing together half-truths to debate the half-truths broadcast and printed in the mainstream.

The mainstream, where if reporters wanted, genuinely good web content can be created doesn’t really give a shit. Heck, on counting day both HT’s and ToI’s websites were far, far behind the channels. Updates from reporters were slow in coming and there was still far too much of sameness, too much PTI.

And then you have the features magazines, where there is decent content but no clear direction on ‘how to’ monetize that content. Putting everything up on the internet really doesn’t seem to solve the problems, instead it creates some that didn’t exist before. But, I do believe that features writers can take a lead on news writers when it comes to the web, because so much more work is going into the story. There are so many pictures that are not used, so many quotes not used and so much more than the 4,000 words that were written. Heck, equip everyone with a Nseries phone or suchlike and put A/V content based around the story. Think out of the box, Fortune is.

You know the biggest problem with the media internet in India. A lack of people. It is the same group of idiots who hop, skip and jump from one group to another. There has been little in the way of fresh thinking or communicating to the core assets. Internet newsrooms don’t work, your core assets are still the main reporters – get them to contribute – make web reportage part of the job.


Anonymous said...

hi k,
plz don't mind but who is stopping you from practicing the preachings.
Certainly, if you become the pioneer your employers won't be complaining, will they?

shyam somanadh said...

Ah, the gospel that I have been preaching for a while now, which also happens to be something that few in the higher places would admit to.

1. The Indian internet market is vastly inflated, even at the more modest 50 million users number.
2. There is massive potential in the market but the current approach won't unlock it.
3. Same goes for the current crop of products. Beyond buzzword compliance, they won't find much traction.
4. Content creation in India has to be federated, bottom->top than top->bottom.
5. Which means, you won't see much money being made for the next 3-years at least, i.e if you start now.
6. Expect fewer and fewer consumer-facing properties; forgive the ones who are launching them, lord. they know not what they do.
7. PE/VCs are to blame for a lot of the mess, but nobody will mention that.
8. The content model is broken in multiple places, but it can be fixed.
9. The fix won't probably happen with the usual suspects.
10. Don't discount the kids (the .txt generation), else we will already become history.

Anonymous said...

you are aboslutely right. to think web content you have to have people who are unafraid and excited to put out snappy stuff that ain't appearing in print or at least that goes beyond print or electronic. working on a web team of publication is still considered to be the backwaters. within news organisations they are treated as cut and paste guys. and then you have most of these web outfits headed by completely non journo type of people who are either wannabes or climbers or so called tech experts. whereas all you need is content, content and more content. look at they launched so many products - portfolio tracker, desktop alert and then internet radio - all flops not just in terms of monetisation but also hits and visitors. traffic dropped. when all that was needed was some really good content that was independent of what their print (in this case) mint provided.

Anonymous said...

Your point about a shortage of good online and original content is very valid and spot on. This is what I find rather disturbing is that there is no real focus on covering smaller towns, the real day to day issues and on analysis type coverage including investigative analysis on a subject.

It is invariably (in most media, particularly TV) on topics that will get the immediate attention

Nice blog and keep it going


Smartass Numero Uno said...

You're right, freedom of the press has been abused to the point of no return... And often a reporter's emotions are being spilled into his work, which isn't the real motive behind news. It's supposed to state the facts and let the reader make an opinion instead of forcing the publication's general opinion into the reader's face.


Anonymous said...

A little known magazine has ripped the pants off the big media. See at the bottom of this article.

Anonymous said...

Hi K,

Where are you lost... No update since long....

Gifts India said...

Ya you are right.. they all are telling us that we are using good tech on site & also other side they are really not using anything & cheat with us..
Send Gifts to India

Anonymous said...

After BJP gone done..u also vanished.We can imagine how heartbroken you , specially in Delhi 7 -0 washout.
don't worry your time will also shine...since all are same evil..

Anonymous said...

K, are you alive?