Ritu Midha: News channels must build differentiators

01 Aug,2013

By Ritu Midha


The event of the week for us in the advertising and media fraternity was the Publicis and Omnicom merger. In the ad world, it doesn’t get bigger than this.


However, when one looks at a broader picture, the merger in its broadest terms would make difference to less than 1% of India’s populace. 0.1% or 0.01% perhaps


There are, nonetheless a few pressing matters that are top-of-mind for the ad and media professionals (professionally) and the people they want to engage and connect with!


While in an average year it would be a festive season that’s occupies centrestage in the media calendar, this year it is jostling for space with the general elections, most probably scheduled for the second quarter of 2014.


While the marketing and sales teams of news channels and news publications might be going in circles to get as big a share of advertising pie as possibly this festive season, sponsored sections and supplements being one nice way to achieve the numbers.


News watchers among us are willy-nilly set for the election drama for the next 10 months, and if it is a hung Parliament with loads to buy and sell, even longer. It is the same reality show – with nearly the same participants on all news channels. What changes is the anchor or presenter or should we call him or her the NJ (news jockey)


Instead of putting the content and intent of news channels under scanner, my concern is more on the differentiators – why would people hang on one channel, and not move to the other. With measurement issues more or less resolved, and all the stakeholders on the same page, ratings would once again call the shots. Would the NJ be the only differentiator? Alas there can be no judges here, save the viewing masses of course.


Differentiation is a must, come what may. And the faster it happens, the better it would be for the news channels, and of course, audiences. Let’s face it, Elections 2014 are emerging as the mother-of-all elections – and credit for the same, to whatever extent, goes to new channels as wells, the number of which has grown exponentially in the last five years.


Another observation is news channels look similar on the social media too. Whey they need to make the most of interactivity, they seriously need to look beyond their followers’ tweets and comments scrolling on their channels.


To their credit, newspapers manage to create differentiators – even if the key headlines are often the same or similar. Interestingly, their social media presence too is, in most cases, better than news channels.


News channels have to realise that the game needs to move beyond ‘The louder I shout, the better I am’.  And remember that they would have just twelve minutes of ad time per hour – if audiences keep surfing from one news channel to another, ad breaks would be the first calamity.


By the way do you think there can be in-programme product placement opportunities on news channels this Election Season?


Ritu Midha is a senior journalist and web strategist based in Mumbai. She is also Consulting Editor and Editor – Special Projects, MxMIndia.


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