Developing media skills in a Digital World

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury , Pearl Academy | In Marketing
Published : October 11, 2018 05:37 AM
Digital is being reborn almost every day with 1200 million cell phone users in South Asia.

The small handheld screen is taking the bigger tele-screen by the horns. From news to entertainment, short video to music video, the anytime consumption of video online is increasing fast, more so in times of low internet costs on handsets. Digital is being reborn almost every day with 1200 million cell phone users in South Asia; almost half of them being active on the internet and social media with smartphones and 6 of 10 internet users being a regular, daily user.

Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury Prof. Ujjwal K Chowdhury

Transition to the digital world, ahead, will be more through Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality which will add visual and conceptual diversity on one hand and may also create stories and visuals which do not actually exist and pass them off as news.

Journalism Skills of Tomorrow:

Hence, in this context, developing journalism skills or news media skills for tomorrow is a major challenge for the learners of today and even academics are falling short in creating syllabi, content, pedagogy, and methods which can help learners ride the next digital news media wave.

There is no alternative to knowing the society holistically with the basics of economics, politics, geography, law, and sociology known too as they constitute the foundation on which a journalist builds his content.

There is also no alternative to knowing the language well - written, spoken and read; the language in which a journalist is expected to write but also reasonably well, the three languages which are in her environment, Hindi, English and another language, depending upon the territory. And, finally, there is no alternative for a journalist to be interested in people, events, news, and challenges of people around.

Having traversed this much, which itself is a big call, to be successful journalists of tomorrow, the news story-teller must know to tell the same story seamlessly through written words in a limited print space, in less than 200 characters on Twitter, in a few minutes of an audio or video story or if needed, through a few pictures shared with minimum words.

With every passing day, each news media is becoming multi-media converging into one bringing print, TV, social media, digital, and audio closer to tell the same stories differently. Producing audio, video and web stories hence, are a necessity for journalists. Recording stories on the fly, documenting in social media, breaking stories into a series, presenting stories followed by views and debates, multi-media story-telling etc. become the skills of the journalists of tomorrow. Empathy, connectivity, stories from the field, stories well researched, stories told by people rather than the messenger etc. will be hallmarks of good journalism of tomorrow.

News consumption is changing fast from print to television, from TV to the handset. A major movement forward, in the domain of television news, is its increasing integration with web or digital news. has emerged to be the 20th largest news portal of the world and, by far, the largest of any TV news organization in India, with its Web First slogan and series of initiatives. India Today takes it to the Mobile First perspective where the content (pics, language and video) are even tailored to the medium's sensitivity. Alongside, editors today, find video for online very different from the video on TV, for the same news since online video is consumed more on a smaller, handheld device. New skillsets should take these into consideration to be relevant in the market place.

Entertainment Skills of Tomorrow:

Entertainment of tomorrow is transcending the medium: from radio to television (both fiction and non-fiction) to cinema to web entertainment. Even including live performance-based entertainment, this communication function is going through a revolutionary overhaul. And hence, those who aspire to be entertainers of tomorrow must know how to use these multiple media from creative and technological aspects and must also know how to amplify any piece of entertainment by converging with multiple media, using social media and thereby, create a stronger impact and possible higher revenues.

Monetisation skills for entertainment are a major need of the professionals of tomorrow. Providing entertainment from the handheld device to the silver screen and creating content suitable for each medium, then releasing and monetising the same together, make the entire product lifecycle of entertainment. In the digital age, these assets can be preserved for multiple use and higher revenues, and that needs newer skills-sets of digital assets or property management.

Earlier it was all about writing a good script, shooting, directing, and editing. Today, along with these (which also vary in style and format from handheld device to cinema), amplifying these and monetising the same are another set of skills that entertainment professionals must know.

The situation for general entertainment channels (GEC) is a tad better than news and the consumption of serials and reality shows is far more on TV than on the handset. But there is a perceptible change herein too. Snacking of small parts of reality shows on the digital medium is rampant now and often, such short videos go viral.

Also, appointment viewing of television programs is on decline as urban consumers specially need anytime viewing due to a hectic short-on-time lifestyle and working status of many. Digital, with its anytime viewing option, is hence, a major way forward, being aided with large and cheap data-packs on phones and home Wi-Fi getting cheaper by the day. Future entertainment skills thus need to be digital and handset-savvy.

Brand Communication Skills of Tomorrow:

It is not enough to produce great content today, whether news or entertainment, it is equally or more important to manage the media operations that produce the content and then market and sell the content to earn revenue which can further run the business.

This blend of creativity and business is a specialised skill in the media of today in the digital world. And this business is enhanced by leaps and bounds through integrated brand communication, engaging advertising, public relations, event management, digital branding, social media marketing et al. Hence, skills to produce branded content, to create campaigns of advertising and PR, to launch road-shows, and experiential marketing initiatives are the third set of skills that a professional needs to know beyond news and entertainment.

Glass Half Full, Half Empty

"The Indian media and entertainment industry story, the big ambassador of Indian soft power, is that of a glass half full and half empty" - Siddharth Roy Kapur. Rightly so indeed. The sector, according to the industry status report released by Ernst & Young and FICCI during an event, touched Rs 1.5 trillion ($22.7 billion) in 2017, a growth of 13 per cent over the last year, while the economy, overall, grew at half that rate. It is all poised to cross Rs 2 trillion ($31 billion) by 2020, which is a healthy growth. On the other hand, a few large areas of the industry, i.e. print, radio, music, out of home, and television, all grew at less than 10 per cent over the previous year; print being at a lowly 3 per cent. Animation, films and digital media grew from 25 to 30 per cent over the earlier year.

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The direct employment in the M&E sector has crossed 1 million people and the total, including indirect and induced employment, is above 5 million, which is a substantial number, but is miniscule before the 1.3 billion people strong nation. A huge majority of this number is under-trained and digitally semi or sparsely skilled, whereas the growth of the digital media last year was the highest at 30 per cent over 2016. Media jobs being non-repetitive and imagination driven, though technology facilitated heavily today, remain an area which will not be largely replaced by machines and hence, are a long-term job prospect. It is a wise investment today to put energies and resources in media skills and jobs of tomorrow.

Re-imaging the Future

The next move of this sector has to be re-imagine itself and in the digital language and space, particularly, to create a global capacity going beyond the domestic market and the NRI-PIO circles (just as seen in the case of Dangal or Bahubali). Media can be the true-blue 'Make In India' success-story with stories, people, technologies and places and force multiplier synergies with other sectors of the economy, all being here and now in India.

(The author is the School Head - School of Media, Pearl Academy, Delhi and Mumbai. He has earlier been the Dean of Media of Symbiosis Pune, Amity Mumbai and Whistling Woods Mumbai.)

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