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FICCI Frames: Conversation, not content, is king

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | February 19, 2009
Whether or not social networking media is a new media was vociferously discussed by members of the digital world

Various members of the digital world discussed the future of the new media at the 10th FICCI Frames, held at Mumbai, whose theme is entertainment. The issue under discussion was whether or not user generated content is the real future of entertainment.

Gopal Krishna, VP and head audience - emerging markets, Yahoo! India, started off the discussion with certain figures. There are about 700 million users on social media, he said, with 6 lakh being added everyday on Facebook alone. About 34 million photographs are being shared on social media. There are 500 million users who are connected via blogs.

& #BANNER1 & #"Thus, social media is about connecting, conversing and sharing, and therefore, social media is taking over," said Krishna.

Krishna belongs to the group who think that social media isn't a new media, but an evolving one. He validated his theory with a few examples of communication and its subsequent evolution. He cited that earlier, festivals and fairs were a means of social networking, which then gave way to pigeons or messengers on horsebacks, which moved on to pen pals, then phonebooks. In the 1990s, email came in, followed by user groups and chat rooms on the Internet. Eventually, social networks such as Orkut, Facebook and Myspace made a grand entry.

Similarly, blogging has its origins in the past, where clubs/ rallies, letters to the newspaper and radio shows were followed by TV shows, web forums, ratings and reviews, and gradually, to blogs.

Francisco Cordero, general manager, Australia and New Zealand, Bebo, on the other hand, does believe that social media is new. "Like a poet who rearranges words like never before, social media rearranges and uses media like never before," he stated. According to him, Web-specific content, similar to what Bebo has created, is the way ahead in the social media space.

Shailesh Rao, managing director, Google India spoke about how, despite low broadband penetration in the country, YouTube India has had a fairly successful run.

He said that in order to be successful in India, one needs to invest in social media. This is because in India, the medium is a means to interact and connect, as against a means of dispensation of knowledge in the US.

"Indians, in their offline life, are people who will resort to another person when looking for a restaurant or a place, instead of looking at a guide or book," said Rao. He added that the online community has the potential of growing to be a broader community.

Hugh L Stephens, senior vice-president, international relations and public policy (APAC and Canada), TimeWarner, emphasised that in the present cluttered and chaotic media world, the audience is overwhelmed with options. Therefore, reputable brands bear the onus to introduce newer things in the media space. Stephens cited the instance of Myspace, which is a wholly owned entity of News Corporation.

Ankit Maheshwari, CEO, Instablog Networks, was of the opinion that social media requires a new kind of advertising that is more engaging and interactive. This is because in the social media space, people are the real content. "Content is no longer king, but conversation is," said Maheshwari.