Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yesterday, I spent some time with the publisher of a small-circulation newspaper and we were discussing the internet, distribution and content. Earlier, that day I had spent some time with a consultant talking of future media trends and we spent a long time talking of the Kindle ‘distribution’ model, and the aftermath of that in the light of Amazon’s draconian DRM policies (ironically with Orwell).
Anyway, even though there were some heated discussions with some other people in the room – particularly about journalism and bylines getting devalued, I argued that journalism and bylines got devalued the instant newspapers started to play the ‘price game’ and consumers fell for it. Now, they fall for free shoes and what not, even though newspapers are drastically cutting back on circulation. There is a feeling that the English language press, no make that, the English language media has seen its short golden age ~ 2006-2008.
So what is the new business model that we spoke about, that I also feel might just work? Low-circulation, but free. Sounds crazy, but guess what most lifestyle magazines do, exactly that. Fewer and fewer copies make it onto general stands other than the giant stands – in Delhi these would be in Khan Market, Connaught Place and Def Col. News-stand sales drop down even further as companies don’t want raddi. It also works from an advertising perspective – tell people that these are our 25,000 readers nationwide. New readers are occasionally added by a process of selection. Surrender the bulk of the market to ToI and differentiate. If magazines can pull it off, FHM India has an incredibly small print-run and I believe that Media Trans-Asia is trying to emulate that with Maxim and their other publications as well.
No matter how hard ToI tries, and they are trying, they will always be a mass-market middle-class product and the middle-classes can never be high-brow. Sorry, if this sounds snobbish, and believe me when I say that I read ToI first every morning but that is essentially trying to figure out what on earth is going on in the country and the city. The problem is that being mass has mass costs and increasingly, as mass papers are discovering in the West, those costs will become unsustainable. Especially since, the ‘cover price’ never did cover costs in India, and the ET Now ads are free right?
TV is free already, the problem with TV is slightly different, the only channel that has any sense of gravitas is Undie 24x7, even with the tear-jerking. I’m sorry that RajdeepTV doesn’t but with the wife on air, it never will. But UndieTV is in such financial turmoil, the accounts make for painful reading even for journalists and executives in other media companies. But, I still feel that ubiquitous camera-equipped personal devices coupled with 3G and Wireless Broadband is going to lead to utter chaos in television. Even though, I more skeptical of ‘citizen journalism’ than most.
Yet, while I feel all of this, and believe me this will all play out in my lifetime as a journalist, I still feel that the byline will have some value. I have no clue how much value, but it will still retain something. As The Admiral told me, not everyone can fly every major fighter jet, only air force officers and journalists can.
EDIT: Four years since I stalled the Statcounter code, I've crossed 500,000 page views, not bad. Should monetize but too lazy...


Anonymous said...

"Should monetize but too lazy..."

All these Google ads on this blog, and in RSS feeds too.. No dough?

agencyfaqs! said...

Low circulation and free might be an idea which has already come to pass, but the problem is with publishers who donot admit the first part. I have my doubts about this working, unless a strict, trustworthy audit body comes in to clear the confusion. And advertisers will need to force publishers to get the certification.
In our business, the trade publications like Impact, The Brand Reporter, and Campaign have adopted contrasting styles, with mixed results. Impact claims a hyper 30-40K figure with no verification, the Brand Reporter a 20K number with the claim that advertisers can verify their subscription and compli list numbers which make up a large part, while Campaign has the smallest claim of 7-8000 copies, which because it is relatively so small, seems honest enough not to make me ask for verification.

My feeling is that the difference between all three cannot be as high as these claims suggest. Especially Impact, for reasons too many to enumerate here.
These guys have done lots of interesting things to add value to advertisers who wink at their claims. Impact does it's events and advertiser pictorials, The Brand Reporter guys have been demonstrably pushing reach by making the full mag available for downloads on the afaqs! site which is the biggest in the category, while Campaign has of course taken the long road to success.

Other mainstream magazine publishers need to take their lessons, selectively from the routes taken by these publishers.

Netz Intentio said...

Yes, i agree with you totally because i remember an incident which took place in my place some years back .... i will tell that shortly . . A small boy aged around 5-6 years was bought dead to Govt hospital; even i was over there by that time, they explained to doctor that the boy fell down to an open well when he was playing doc inspected immediately in the OT (even i was standing beside him) and the boy was dead but he was thinking how to tell by that time i went outside and asked one of the fellow who came along with the group (a huge group came to hospital at that point of time) he told me that the boy was playing near the well and fell down, by hearing the sound near by people came and tried to save but failed because there was too much water (around 30fts) and mud below by the time they searched the expert and got his body out he was died by drown but no one had patience [as explained by that fellow-he told me that around 1hr he was submerged in water] and took him to the near by hospital and after doc told them he is no more they went back but the interesting thing was next day in the local news paper the news was like this "Because of the negligence of the doc at hospital the patient died" - according to the article when they bought the boy he was alive and in article they only say that the expert to take boy out was bought from 80kms away after the insident then just calculate yourself can a boy or any one who does't no swimming can survive in deep water may be around 30ft and that too submerged???????? JUST DON'T BELEVE ALL THE ARTICLES IN THE PAPER OR THE NEWS IN MEDIA BLINDLY