IMC 2013: Editorial vs business: the debate rages on…

18 Feb,2013

By A Correspondent


It’s been an oft- debated topic at most industry forums but one can be assured of a new twist to crop up each time the subject comes alive. It was no different at the Indian Magazine Congress where notable panellists from the fourth estate gathered to put forth their views on the topic ‘Church vs State: Has the wall between editorial and business breached?’


Flagging off the discussion, Khozem Merchant, India Head at Pearson began by saying that the shape and tone of print media has undergone a drastic shift in recent years with the emergence of paid content. A concept that was pioneered by the Times of India, paid content has changed the way the business of newspapers operate while managing to reinforce the state of the advertisers in this country, he said. While on the one hand it has underpinned the economics of this industry on the other it has subjugated the craft of journalism. The good thing to have happened is that there has been a spurt in the rise of niche magazines; this on the back of the Indian print industry managing to do well in recent times, said Mr Merchant.


Terming the debate an irrelevant one, Hormazd Sorabjee, editor, Autocar India said, “In my opinion, the debate is not a valid one. Where we are concerned, we are not influenced at all by the advertisers. We have moved to an era today of high cover pricing and still have audiences who read us. We will in way allow our practices to be compromised.”


But while maintaining editorial integrity remains a priority, for Mr Sorabjee there was a need to reach out to the advertising community as well. “We need to offer advertising solutions that have a reading value. While we do need advertisers to sustain the business the editorial-advertising division cannot be breached.”


Taking off from where Mr Sorabjee left, Krishna Prasad, editor-in-chief of Outlook said that according to him, the Church vs State wall had been breached the reason for that was due to content. While everybody was focusing on the business side of the trade, Mr Prasad highlighted that nobody cared to talk about the core of the business – training journalists in mastering the art. “The fact is that content and journalism are two key facets that we need to focus on. But in India, the market leaders have played a damaging role in getting the toothpaste out of the tube. It is essential that we do not continue to dabble in business beyond a certain limit.”


According to Indrajit Gupta, editor, Forbes India his magazine has always tried to provide journalism that is respected. But he cautioned that it was necessary for editors to see business realities as well. “Before we launched our magazine we spent a fair amount of time researching and understanding what the market reality was. If the focus for magazines happens to be content, then you have to keep the consumer at the centre. The onus lies on both the editors as well as advertisers to make this a reality. But it is essential that instead of reach magazines should be sold via engagement,” reasoned Mr Gupta.


Answering a question on whether editors needed to play multiple roles, Mr Sorabjee said that it was essential for editors to be seen as well-rounded figures. Where his magazine was concerned, it shared a close association with the advertisers as it was a niche offering. After all we are being measured by our readers, which is good but the business reality is that we need to have innovation to enhance value.”


Mr Gupta said that most brands do not carry the conviction that is desired out of them. Adding he said: “While most editors are reluctant even business managers have failed to show creativity. This may lead one to be held ransom by the advertisers. This is the case especially with Events and other such offerings that lack differentiation. At the end, it has to be an editorial-driven activity.”


Adding on to his earlier point, Mr Prasad stated that the troubling part with India’s media growth investment has been its investment in journalism that has been abysmal. “While it’s a fact that owners are making revenues they need to plough it back in the business.”


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