Sunday, September 27, 2009

Users of online a small lot, but there's a mobile phone revolution happening

Getting back to the subject of print and other forms of media, one of the questions in recent times asked not only by people in the media fraternity in India but also by those who have more than a passing interest in the changing face of journalism is: will print media eventually die and make way for television and online journalism? Of course, it’s a difficult question for even the experts to predict with some form of certainty. Indeed, if only we had recourse to a forecast we could trust, life would have been so much easier for most newspaper publishers.

“While the online media is growing very fast in India as well, penetration continues to be way lower than print or TV – primarily due to infrastructure and bandwidth issues. This is expected to remain this way for a few years at least. However, the users of online media are a small but influential group of people. The interactivity and vitality of online media make it an ideal tool for various initiatives,” says Rajiv Varma, CEO, HT Media.

Lifestyle changes in the developed countries have had a great impact on India as well. Access to the latest technology is almost simultaneous. There is no doubt that new products and services such as the Internet, Web audio and video, Weblogs and mobile phones are posing unprecedented challenges to the print media, which has been forced to adapt and change.

The arrival of the Internet in the early 1990s, coinciding with the economic liberalisation of the country, saw some Indian newspapers start their own Web sites. The Hindu became the first newspaper in 1995 to offer an online edition. Times Internet Ltd runs www.indiatimes.com, India’s largest Web and e-commerce portal.

Ironically, today’s mobile revolution has brought the reader closer to the newspaper. Times Internet runs a service that is well connected to its print, television and FM channels. So does Sakal, a Marathi daily. Dainik Jagran, Rajasthan Patrika, Hindustan Times, Indian Express and several other leading newspapers all have mobile media channels. Nokia’s association with Malayala Manorama led to the launch of a vernacular news portal, a sort of mobile newspaper. Users of Nokia GPRS-enabled handsets in Kerala get national and international news in their native language, across categories such as sports, travel, music, astrology and movies.

Several newspapers have ventured into FM radio and television as well. Times Now, Zoom TV and ET Now are examples, as is Manorama News. Channel 7 is a popular offering from the Dainik Jagran stable. The Eenadu-Group-owned ETV has a large following in south India, as does Star Bangla TV in the east, a joint venture between Anand Bazar Patrika and Star TV. The Ananada Bazar Group is strongly building on its Internet and mobile properties and developing new models for its mobile business.

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