While delivering the keynote address at The Future of News, a day long conference organised by afaqs! on August 4, Sanjay Gupta, chief executive officer, Jagran Prakashan, talked about what the Indian publishers can learn from the newspapers in the West.
He started by saying that news is here to stay and will never die. "News will never die and the future of news is and will always be very bright. The question is, what will happen to media companies," he stated.
He said that with social media gaining prominence, the reader will have an option of choosing the medium that best suits his/her requirements.
"This question perplexes many who have put their money in this business. I run a public company and the question of how I foresee the market is pertinently put forward by investors in one-to-one discussions. I'm not a fortune teller, but let's go back seven years. Today should have been the doomsday of newspapers in India and the West, but the industry is growing and thriving in this country."
He said that Indian publishers have defied all the pundits who said that the newspaper industry is nearing its end and will meet the same fate as that of newspapers in the US or the UK. "I'm standing here and I run a very successful newspaper -- and so are many others. News organisations are probably failing in the West because of the excess baggage they were carrying. Their overhead and infrastructure costs were phenomenal. The wastage was very high," said Gupta.
& #VIDEO2 & #According to him, freelance journalism will redefine the way news is gathered. Today, hundreds of freelancers are posting their analysis on the internet and people are lapping it up. Therefore, the need for a physical form (that is, newspapers) is dwindling. This is probably one of the reasons why many large publications in the West are feeling the heat and closing down.
He said, "We have a huge difference in the way our news organisations and societies function. While newspapers in the West were giving free copies or doing newsstand sales, the subscription system was almost finished in the last 20-25 years. However, the door delivery model is the key factor why newspapers are still surviving in India."
According to Gupta, what went wrong in the West was that classifieds, which was a big source of revenue for the industry, was taken away by the digital medium. Newspapers could have survived and remained profitable by denying the "Googles of the World" their news feeds.
"But then, the search engines across the world have become too big to be ignored. And, social media such as Twitter and Facebook have given the power to the common man to be the holder of the information, thereby breaking the monopoly of journalists."
Gupta added that in India, Twitter and Facebook have not disrupted the apple cart of the newspapers and by and large, news organisations are surviving in print and television. "There is money to be made, though it might be slow due to various reasons. But, the growth is definitely there," he said.
However, those reasons, he believes, have not affected the growth rate of the regional and the Hindi press as such. "That is because the kind of people we cater to is very different from that of an English newspaper reader, whose sense of consuming news is very different. They want news as it is and are not in a community newspaper setup," said Gupta.
He said that regional newspapers are read mainly because of the local coverage and not international news coverage. That is the reason why they will always have an edge over English papers. He concluded that since Indian newspapers are community newspapers, they have a bright future.
The event was sponsored by STAR News and IBN Live.