Friday, July 25, 2014

Mutual respect and camaraderie matter much more than TRPs

Lionel Messi may have been awarded the 2014 World Cup Golden Ball as the Best Player of the tournament but he wasn’t quite able to stamp his mark over the month-long sporting extravaganza. In the event, as it turned out, it was Germany’s “miracle boy” Mario Goetze who clinically chested down a pass and essayed a classy left-footer past the diving Argentinean goalkeeper to score the winner and enable Germany to record a historic win – the first by a European team in South America.

All through the World Cup tournament, as in the final, there were fouls galore, yellow cards flashed, and injured players hobbling off. Nothing was quite as saddening, especially for Brazilian fans, as the exit of Neymar who suffered a minor fracture on his back bone while jockeying for the ball mid-air in a match against Colombia. However, despite all the aggressive charges, wild tackles and deliberate fouls, what one saw on the field was spontaneous camaraderie, the shaking of hands and the patting of backs. After Brazil was destroyed 7-1 by Germany, the German players were seen comforting the Brazilians who were weeping in anguish. This is what makes the world of sport so very special. You may fight the bitterest battle but after the game is over, you shake hands, smile, exchange pleasantries and even chat over a drink or two. The media has often played a part in highlighting some of the nuances, friendships and bonds that are forged cutting across teams, nationalities and religions.

I often wonder why we do not get to see this kind of bonhomie in our Indian world of politics. Why doesn’t mainstream media, especially television since it is such a powerful medium, focus more on holding gentlemanly discussions, on bringing leaders from various streams of political thought together? Sadly, on our television channels, prime time, or super prime time, is all about pitting one person or one group against another,– spokespersons of political partiers, lawyers, leading editors and columnists (the same faces are seen most of the time), social and political activists, and, of course, some celebrity or the other. Most of the time it is high drama, with voices raised, people speaking out of turn, some not allowing others to speak. It is a sort of vociferous game, the person with the loudest voice often outdoing the others. Just as the anchors want, for after all, the more dramatic, the higher your TRPs. 

You don’t find this sort of thing on the BBC, for instance. Discussions there are much more sober and calmer. So, as a viewer, you feel like watching. I wonder whether our television channels understand that when there is cacophony, the viewer’s immediate reaction is to reduce the volume and if that doesn’t help, to switch off. Many don’t return any more to view such programmes. We all need peace and quiet. Discussions can be forceful, but they should be held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and friendliness, as football’s sporting heroes have just shown all of us. The channels should actually discourage speakers from going hammer-and-tongs against one another and lay the ground rules for healthy and stimulating debate. Will we ever get to see that happen? I don’t think so. But some of India’s top television anchors and media groups would do well to introspect and change for the better.

Friday, July 18, 2014

As technology segments the news market, we can only wait and watch

A few interesting articles, all of them echoing the same sentiment, caught my eye the past few weeks, thanks mainly to Joe Scaria who chose to retire from a well-paying job in Journalism at 50 to pursue his interests, but still keeps in touch with developments in the field and has me in the loop. 

One of the articles by John Gapper in the Financial Times points to how “advertisers have lost the attention of a generation”.  We have shifted from parents trying to stop teenagers slumping in front of the TV to young people losing all interest in the box. US teens are so occupied with social networks and mobile video that they watch only about 21 minutes of live TV a week, Gapper writes. According to him, the ad industry is suffering from attention deficit disorder – the audience that once sat obediently in front of TV spots lovingly devised by its creatives is hard to pin down. Millennials are out there, on their phones and tablets, but they are as likely to be tweeting angrily about a brand as noticing its ads in the content stream. He adds: Publishers complain that the rates they can charge advertisers are falling steadily, especially in mobile, but this is a problem equally for advertisers and agencies. If digital and mobile ads are not worth buying, despite the migration of the audience from traditional media, something is wrong. Indeed, technology has not helped advertisers but rather, it has given viewers a tool to fight back.

Writing for BloombergView, Megan McArdle says online journalism is suffering print’s fate. She sums it up pithily: dollars in print, dimes on the Web, pennies on mobile. The problem is, advertising dollars are shrinking, she writes, “We just can't charge as much for Web advertising as we used to for print advertising. A decade ago, when I entered professional journalism and began earnestly discussing its financial future, there was a reasonable case that, eventually, digital advertising would be worth more than print advertising. That theory has, alas, been pretty well destroyed by the last 10 years. Advertisers still won't pay print rates for digital. Worse, the money that does get spent on digital advertising increasingly isn't going to news outlets; it's going to Google and Facebook and Yahoo… Digital ads simply have a lot of drawbacks that print didn't. For starters, people either hate or ignore them; the more you try to get their attention, the angrier they get.”

The Guardian reports that newspapers are searching for ways to survive the digital revolution. The newspaper refers to how much of the traditional media is considered to be several years behind in the digital revolution, still experimenting with paywalls, digital technologies and alternative means of storytelling. And Roy Greenslade, in his blog for the Guardian, referring to the third annual digital news report published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, states how traditional news outlets are facing a new wave of disruption as the digital revolution sweeps on. The report, in pointing to new threats to traditional news sources, identifies the smartphone and social media as the most powerful agents of change. Greenslade says while some news organisations are being outpaced by the speed of change, others show signs of rising to the challenge. And rising to the challenge, it seems, is the UK’s Telegraph Media Group, which has announced the creation of 40 new editorial jobs, some of them focused on innovation in digital journalism and expansion of the digital design team.