Electronic medium has not been very kind to the business of ‘News’. There are roughly 200+ channels in probably all mainstream and regional languages on the menu of the Indian consumer today. Consumption of news is growing and yet a significant number of them face challenges, in terms of content choice, distribution and finally economics.
News ,the mainstay of Print media,has always been advertisement dominated with a very small subscription charge which was largely to cover distribution costs. The broadcast version followed a similar model with all the channels being advertisement led. With more channels in the fray most of the channels have difficulty in covering distribution costs which is largely placement cost in key markets where they expect to be seen. The viewership is essential to attract advertisements. Also unlike Print medium, English is not the preferred mode of consumption and the preference is more for Hindi or regional languages,therefore the offerings being more vernacular led. In addition the TRP system for Ad rates, has not been kind to the News offerings. Broadcast model therefore has had and continues to have challenges as a profitable model. This in turn has affected the the quality of content which in some cases has been reduced to the lowest common denominator in order to attract viewership and hence advertisement. The rise of the online and digital delivery medium is further hastening the demise of the broadcast model. Clearly very few channels are surviving on positive cash flows from normal business cashflows but rather from strong backing of either business groups or political interests who want a voice to be heard though not necessarily a fair voice! News will survive but whether the broadcast version will survive in its present form is the question?
‘News’as a genre is per a general view is not going anywhere. It’s distribution formats may have changed from print to electronic and now digital but its consumption continues to grow. Print still continues to grow as well as sustain in India and electronic broadcast news will also be there. The ability is then to choose and present the right content for the right distribution format. While there is lot of talk of anytime, anywhere content and personalisation the appointment viewing is still very relevant. It’s good to go back to your content and see what can be categorised as Breaking news and what is more detailed,what is entertaining and finally what is an opinion. Each of these types may be good for a different type of distribution and a future news company needs to have all the mediums at its disposal. All these different types need to feed into a single brand where some content is free to air and some on subscription. Lastly the ability to present content free from apparent bias is the key regardless of balance sheet or other requirements.
‘News’ is too important to be no News!!