"The biggest challenge that
the Indian print media is facing today is that of content leadership," said Pradeep Guha, member, board of directors, 'DNA', and CEO, Zee Telefilms, at the seminar organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Mumbai on September 27. The seminar was on 'The Future of Print Media'.
Guha added, "Broadly speaking, there are three factors that need to be considered by the print media - the consumer's need for uninterrupted entertainment, the advertiser's need to reach out to its TG and the need of the medium to deliver relevant content."
Guha pointed out that in order to survive in the future, newspapers will have to connect with the youth of today by addressing issues that are relevant to them.
Tariq Ansari, managing director, 'Mid-Day', said that while the other media are trying to achieve differentiated content, newspapers haven't addressed this issue fully. He said, "Differentiated content is crucial for newspapers. The ones who achieve it are the only ones that will survive."
Certain senior industry professionals present at the seminar were of the opinion that the competition for the consumer as well as the advertising pie has increased, and newspapers are facing a number of problems in getting their share of it.
Prabhu Chawla, group editorial director, India Today Group, predicted a shift in the role of newspapers from 'news providers' to 'content providers'.
He said, "There are over 5,000 registered publications in India and over 50-odd news channels on television. Besides, the speed of delivery of the electronic media is almost instant, whereas a newspaper operates in a 24-hour format. In such a competitive scenario, content differentiation is a big challenge for newspapers."
Chawla added, "Competition today is not in terms of dishing out more number of stories, what matters is giving better, more credible stories."
On the other hand, HK Dua, editor in chief, The Tribune Group, felt that the print media needn't be alarmed as yet, for it still has a long way to go.
He said, "There is no doubt that the print media will survive in the future. I haven't come across a single television viewer or radio listener who has stopped reading newspapers. But, yes, newspapers will have to better their content."
He elaborated, "By that, I mean that we will have to report 'real' India and not just 'sensational' news. For instance, we report about terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir, but not about the unemployment among youth in that state."
Dua added, "We tend to treat newspapers as products and people as consumers. This is the 'disconnect' that we need to address in order to provide the people of India with relevant content."
Adding to that, Pradeep Gupta, chairman and managing director, Cyber Media Group, said that the 'remote control', or power, has shifted from the hands of the editors of newspapers to the readers.
"The real challenge lies in looking at newspapers as a brand."
Gupta of Cyber Media also raised the point that print brands needed to become global brands, instead of restricting themselves to a local or regional market.
However, Jayant Mammen Matthew, deputy editor and senior general manager, 'Malayala Manorama', differed on this aspect. He said, "The future of newspapers will be to offer local news. And the main challenge will be to make sure that the local news does not go down the road of local irrelevance."
Offering a whole new perspective to the challenges faced by newspapers today, Shobhaa De, writer and opinion maker, said, "The 'Page 3' phenomenon has shaken the print media today, whether we like it or not. So much so that every page is becoming a 'Page 3'. It's fine up to an extent, but one can't overdo it."
De concluded, "According to me, the real challenge faced by newspapers today is how to marry credibility with commerce. It is how to survive in the business, and at the same time, be able to grab the attention of those whom one is addressing."
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