Monday, June 29, 2009

The End?

The NewsX saga has rolled out to its end with the sacking (‘firing’ whatever you want to believe) of 78 employees. However, as usually happens in such cases there has been immense amounts of back-biting and bitching. Nobody other than the truly incompetent should lose their jobs, and believe me there are enough truly incompetent people in this industry. But whenever there is a drastic purge accusations fill chain emails about why A, B or C didn’t lose their jobs and what their political or apolitical connections are.
Here is the funny thing, emails are possibly the worst way to spread canards – IP logging and all, with Google, MSN and Yahoo more than happy to bend over backwards and provide IP addresses. Heck, Airtel even wrongly sent a techie to jail by handing over data and is offering him a restitution of Rs 200,000. That would not have covered the cost of flowers at Sunil Mittal’s daughter’s wedding. But then again, as some of you say, Apple’s and Orange’s.
The dead-tree industry is not doing much better than the indirectly dead-tree industry (Thermal power plants, I know it is a bit of a stretch, but with little time to blog lately spare me) from what I hear. The Times and ET apparently have so much inventory to spare that they’re handing it over to ET Now by the bucketload and I’m yet to see any signs of life on that front. A colleague who is closely related to someone senior in the channel joked that he managed to see the channel for the first time in Allahabad.
The interesting evolution has been with CNBC-TV18’s programming, suddenly it is less about the markets (Markets are so 2007-2008!) and quite corporate but stories that would have been buried as single-columns are getting mad amounts of airtime. Bajaj’s biggest engine yet is a ten-minute story? No doubt, there are some good stories, but somehow I always seem to notice the bad ones.
That said, with Wimbledon on, I don’t really see too much news TV. Actually, last week with MJ’s death I watched too much CNN and BBC. Actually with Iran and all the celebrity deaths (Billy Mays died last night!) I don’t see the Indian news channels much. The ones I do end up watching are the Bangla news channels because of their Maoist coverage.
Back to CNBC-TV18 in an oft-talked about piece of news that is now final, the network has been given permission to start three new channels – ‘South’, “Gujarati’ and ‘Channel 3’. The first two I can guess, the third I’ve been trying to figure out. Not that I think that I will be target audience for any of the three. And just how much money is there in business news? Enough to support so many channels, or is TV18 copying from the Times playbook and using the ‘flanking’ product idea. Interesting to see if this can work in Business channels, it did not work for UndieTV with city-focused channels. Then again, Raghav B is a bit more adept – but why have The V do a show on business tycoons – that show is a snooze fest for us in the know and ends up sounding like a circle jerk festival.
Back to the start of the tale, I feel bad for people who lose jobs in a weak economy and an even weaker media. Not everybody who has lost a job is truly incompetent or a twat. Some people are nice guys, and I wish them well. As for why I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to, I have generally been very busy of late. My Cover Story run rate has shot up and with several more interesting stories in the pipeline, I find myself spending less time in office. I guess things will settle down, and I must admit not being in office is not a great thing at all in this weather. F***, it is hot and with Anil Ambani not providing us electricity, things might get worse.
One last thing, may Anil Wilson’s soul rest in peace. Amen!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Opinions on ETNow

Frankly, I don'ty have one simply because I have not seen the channel as yet. Not because I don't want two, but simply because despite having THREE (read that THREE) different Direct-To-Home connections (DishTV, Tata-Sky and Airtel) at home I don't get ETNow. I believe that a ton of money has been spent on distribution, but with high-end colonies, presumably colonies with a high proportion of ET readers, having moved over to DTH - have you looked at the (Panchsheel, DefCol or even Bandra West skylines lately?) this is a slight issue. I really would like to watch ETNow, you know! I've seen far too many adverts and not the product as yet. I believe that something might happen before Pranab-babu's 'F*** the Monsoon Failed' Budget. I also know that TAM ratings don't consider DTH households - which make all TAM numbers for English news channels slightly, no make that terribly shambolic. But, I also think that ETNow will trash CNBC-TV18 in the ratings simply because of the amount of reporters that they have. And if ET can manage an 'integrated' newsroom, the demand that TimesNow does the same will only increase, and it should. I know a lot of people in ET read this blog, so please forward this post to someone in Ditribution. Because, if people (almost all my friends are DTH and/or IPTV) don't start seeing the channel soon, we will tend to lose interest.

Monday, June 15, 2009

ET Now

While The Economic Times has turned up the volume about ET Now, including carrying stories by their reporters more frequently, today mornings piece about the edit team and anchors was surprising. Not because of the way people got billing but because Rahul Joshi's name was nowhere in the piece. C'mon, everybody and their uncle knows that Rahul is the brains behind the channel (and recently that has come at the expense of the paper) - I can understand if he wants to be the anti-Arnab, but please. People do like names once in a while y'know.

I do have a lengthy prose piece planned out, but currently I'm stuck between Twitter and a hard place, so that will have to wait for a while. I'll keep posting on lunatic layoffs and other crazy stories, but for now I have to find a decent Espresso and type out one hell of a lot of stuff on MS Word. By the way, MS Word is 25 years old this year, after browsers it is my most used piece of software and given that I keep on swapping browsers, Word is possibly my highest used piece of software ever. I've argued that Google has become the journalists best friend, but for better of for worse (I like Office 2007 for some reason) Microsoft Word has pretty much become the spouse.

PS: This Shiney Ahuja case is very surprising. Didn't know he would take after Bollywood baddies of note!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I had lunch today with the top marketer of a Bangalore-based company. In case you were wondering, I was surprised at the salad spread at The Imperial, seems to have slipped a bit, the sushi seemed anemic and the wasabi tasted no different than the green maida paste that Moets, Defence Colony, hands out (I have no idea why my friends like going to Moets for food). The dessert selection was, as always, impeccable. But, I’m not discussing five-star lunches, even though I could write quite a bit of prose on lunches. The small pleasures in life, and then I wonder how I never end up losing weight.

Anyway, long story short. Somewhere during lunch we started discussing the state of the media and me as usual started moaning about our plight and silently thanking my lucky stars that the marketing buffon who destroyed our finances and couldn’t pimp a Hollywood Actress in Dubai if you asked him to, works for our rivals now. Again, I digress – that is the problem with stream of consciousness writing – its comes out as an incomprehensible babble.

So, I mentioned layoffs and how they had been rather severe at Archana Complex among other places. Suddenly, my host piped up, “Are things really bad there?” she asked and continued to tell me a rather bizarre tale involving the channel that operates out of a movie hall. It seems that a reporter pitched a story to them, and they seemed agreeable and asked when she wanted to come down. And prompt came the reply that whenever they would fly her down.

Now, all of us travel on other companies expense. Heck, I just went outside the country. But never in a way where I ‘pitch’ the story and then insist on being flown down and wined and dined. So, my host called up the channel boss to figure out why this was so and it seems that this is now accepted policy at this particular organisation. Which made me swallow my ice-cream.

Guys have done bizarre things, and I know costs are pinching but this seems a bit too much. I can understand that the reporter did not want to hand the story over to her local colleague, some reporters, actually all reporters are extremely possessive of stories, well, I’m not but I’m a sort of ‘fire and forget’ sort of reporter and if someone else can do the story, big deal. At least now. I guess that is because a level of pragmatism has filtered into my life.

That said, if the story is good enough I am sure getting travel approvals passed can’t be that difficult. Now if you insist on travelling with a cavalcade (camerapersons) then, well. See, I have some opinions on the future of news gathering and distribution, but this much is for certain, multiple people doing one story is going to become a thing of the past for run of the mill stories – I shoot pictures and do it decently well and am figuring out lights right now. Concept photography and Live TV will still need camerapersons and photographers but not armies of them. Heck, with next-generation networks I suppose we will have live-streaming through services like Qik, I played with the Nokia N97 yesterday and that is what reporters will be expected to do, sooner than you think.

But more about all of that later. This was a surprising piece of news, and coming from an extremely large company, I believe it – they’re more credible than the news channel. And after this piece of news, I wonder how much credibility is left. Then again, isn't that what this blog is all about?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sorry, sorry, sorry...

Now say that as fast as humanly possible about ten times over, and you will get what I want to say. There was a good reason I decided to give blogging a break, the election results unfortunately having nothing to do with that. Frankly, I got bored, and I have been tweeting far too much. And my new Editor likes me a lot and promptly gave me more work than I could handle. He also sent me off to the Orient, which was nice but somehow my fingers have been churning out too much work.
That is no reason for coming back online to this place though. Maybe I needed a place I could come back to, where I could bitch and moan about my work-load, people and things in general. Yeah, some things on this blog will upset some people and other things will confirm the opinions of others. But honestly, I have never written with any malice intended towards anybody, well, sometimes, but not always. My alter ego is really doing a lot of work and I might even have something exciting planned on the side for a while, but more about that is it fructifies. And somehow that read like fruit flies. Ayways, lets back into business...
There are a half-dozen Rajya Sabha seats that open up in August - the nominated seats and according to the grapevine, at least one senior journalist, actually a very senior journalist whose growing bald patch (not the term 'patch' as against 'head') is seen far too often on UndieTV for everyone's good will be getting one of the seats. That and another one will supposedly go to an IT honcho who recently retired and has spoken about entering public life since he is bored of dictating books for other people to write (for him).
As regards the fiscal health of the media industry, things really haven't improved in May and the first half of June. Misguided investments are still dragginmg some companies down and others are having their own issues. Hitherto cash cows are now barren, and the girlie magazines which were always tarty, are now street hookers when it comes to advertisers. Heck, you could possibly afford an advert in most of them (save Vogue). Out on the internet people are still predicting the horrible 'daath' of the newspaper industry but I can't see the entire world buying e-readers anytime soon, though I will write more about that in a bit. The layoffs continue and the salary cuts haven't stopped, some people have been caught in the crossfire, but lets not carry on about it too much...
Plus, ET Now is supposedly launching within the next few days/weeks/months. Do you really care anymore?