Sunday, August 25

The making of a Beast: Social Media

Network 18 mass terminated about 300 of its staff. You can read more about it here (http://www.newslaundry.com/2013/08/network-18-skeleton-crew/). A facebook status and the argument that ensued threw up some interesting ways of looking at the things.

It is common knowledge that most media houses are making losses almost every quarter. From NDTV (http://www.newslaundry.com/2013/06/the-last-mogul/) to TV 18, no one knows how to deal with the downsliding market. This is what Outlook group did earlier this month. http://www.newslaundry.com/2013/07/will-all-lifestyle-mags-die/ 

This article (http://www.livemint.com/Politics/DEG6BaujIgGV146TtJWPAN/News-channels-revenues-hit-as-adtime-shrinks.html)  presents the most clear picture of News media industry as it stands today. 

Basically, it is all about surviving. Cost-cutting is the only option. 

What brought this upon the indsutry? 


(The following is a theory by the writer which MAY prove wrong in the long run so if you are nosy about facts, please close the tab.)

It is true that there is little money in this sector and the unplanned growth had to lead to the present-day scenario. But this writer believes that the biggest role in this downturn has been played by social media. When every individual becomes a broadcaster, the ones who are in the business of broadcasting feel the pinch. As the internet penetration has increased and brought in about 130-140 million people (in India) in its fold, the social media users have increased exponentially.

Today, a 18 year old from Saharanpur has as 'valid' an opinion as Prannoy Roy. The halo is lost forever. The industry has responded by featuring 'twitter trends' as news in the name of keeping up with time. When specialists indulge in generalisation, quality as well quantity are hit. If they are going to air news that is already available on Twitter, why will anyone watch it on TV. It doesn't help that the standard of journalism is downright pathetic (in any number of cases). 

Falling viewership is simply a result of 'I'm not interested in News, only the ones that concern me.' People have moved beyond the regular 'Subah aur shaam ko news dekh liya.' Digitisation, which is the industry's big hope, is only going to give more accurate figures, it is not going to increase viewership. 

The situation is going to worsen in the next decade as the internet penetration is going to increase. Industry veterans are already talking about 'niche viewership' but if the new media continues to play the role of a catalyst, 'no viewership' will also become a distinct possibilty. The media will have to react innovatively and creatively. The market is too harsh and won't give anyone a second chance. 

In any case, and the writer genuinely believes, social media will not complement the formal media, it is going to replace it, sooner or later.

The worrying factor is not the 'doom for TV'. It is 'what after social media takes over?' How will it impact the dynamic of a volatile country like India where Freedom of Speech and Expression is not absolute. A backlash maybe? From the ones who'll be left behind in the development race?

It's high time the unchecked growth of social media is taken into consideration in policy formation at all levels. Because the day every individual becomes a broadcaster, there won't be any viewers left. And that day is not too far in the future.

If you think, these opinions/predictions are out of place, please comment.

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