Dear MxM by Jaisurya Das: Newspapers are a Religion in India.. they will never die!

26 Nov,2015

By Jaisurya Das

Hey, it’s good to see you back with us on Dear MxM. To an incredibly

fun-filled  week ahead.

 

Someone quite recently asked me if I honestly believed print media would survive in India. I understand he was told by someone that there is a strange human being who calls himself a media evangelist.

 

After a good cup of coffee, I decided that it would be advisable for me to answer this gentleman. However, before I could even start, he threw the next one at me which was more than quite ‘in the face‘ material.

 

How are you going to survive when there is no media ? Who will you offer your services to, JD? What will remain to be evangelised? India wants to know!

 

You know, sometimes I think it’s advisable to have a drink rather than a cup of coffee. There is at the least faint hope that the discussion can be veered onto more mundane pursuits, such as the benefits of red wine, or some such thing. Yet, evangelise I must, since I believe in what I say, irrespective of its seemingly absurd reasoning.

 

The print media is slipping the world over, what with giants in the business falling over 25 percent in advertising revenues. There aren’t new readers and the old ones are fading away. Online and mobile technologies have paved the way for almost anyone to become a media owner and serve news.

 

However, in India, what sets us apart is our quest for news. It’s almost as though our lives depend on it, and the newspaper remains the most credible source to rely on.

 

Now this isn’t what I think, but it’s the majority, and that’s what makes the difference.

 

The newspaper is much like the toothpaste one uses. You’re not crazy about it, yet use it till the last squeeze! It’s a habit that you cant give up. Your day begins with it. Toothpaste and yes, the paper !

 

Most of the world may start their day with prayer but in India it starts with the newspaper ! Mood enhancer, dampener, companion, and laxative.

 

So much so that I once had an irate customer call me (during my stint at the TOI ) and tell me that he is suffering from acute constipation thanks to us shutting down for 48 hours. After five minutes of intense verbose display of emotion, Behram Mistry calmed down when I intervened to invite him to my office for a cup of coffee. I told him that this way we can have a more meaningful discussion on the pressure (!) he is facing.

 

He did come and I took him all the way to our press to show him what the problem was. He was thrilled and said when he finally left that i should be informing readers all these details along with photographs etc.

 

He said: “Arre, Mr Das, You don’t have brains or what. You know just carry photos of this problem with necessary explanation then readers will understand. Am I clear, should I repeat, Mr Das?

 

Yes, it’s crystal clear, Behram, my friend. I didn’t have the heart to remind him that there was no paper to inform the readers as he desired.

 

The good news is that, I heard that Behram de-pressurised the very next day when we were back at his doorstep. No suppository, no nothing.

 

Just pure newspaper.

Yes, The Newspaper is a Religion.

And religions don’t die.

They live on, no matter what the world think’s of it.

 

Take, Kerala, for instance. It has absurd circulation numbers for newspapers, be it the literacy or the sheer emotion associated with news, but, oh boy, do they sell!

 

You may not get your brand of smoke at the corner cigarette shop, but you can be rest assured that the newspaper will be available. There is passion, there is infinite interest, there are over 10 news channels and yet, the newspaper is staple diet much like the tapioca and fish.

 

Which is why sometimes it is advisable to forget logic and follow the heart.

 

In India, Newspapers are a Religion. Respect it.

 

After this longish introduction, I think it’s about time we get to the core of Dear MxM which is ‘Your Questions & Our Answers ‘. As always crisp and hot.

 

Read on…

 

Sir, I have worked in the media for 25 years, having started out as a sales executive. While I am doing reasonably well currently, the entrepreneur bug beckons. Many people have advised me that it’s not the right time to strike out on one’s own. What is your view?

Hi and thanks for writing in!

 

Honestly, I don’t think there ever will be a right time. There is always a swing as far as the market goes, irrespective of what business you are in. Business per se is so relative and hence when you feel you’re doing well, it could be terrible for someone else.

 

I wouldn’t really bother much with all that however it’s important to check how well your relevant target market is poised at the moment.

 

What’s crucial is what you offer to your prospective customers. Work on building a top class bouquet of brands or services which has the unique edge somewhere. Audiences react to niche now. You need to be exclusive, unique and flexible. It’s a buyers market after all.

 

Once you do have all this in place, then the time is right to go head on!

 

All the very best to you in your entrepreneurial foray.

 

Sir, please allow me to ask a second question on the same day: Why is it that pure content sites aren’t getting the kind of valuation which precariously built e-commerce services are able to attract?

We don’t normally take two questions but you are certainly convincing!

 

To answer your question: Human beings of this time, are getting more flirtatious! Do you and me flirt with news? No, we don’t.

 

The tendency to flirt with brands by browsing shopping sites and window shopping at malls are all a manifestation of character, flirtatious essentially.

Our basic primal instinct veers towards titillation of our senses.

One way or the other.

 

So, unlike what you may think, it’s not the strength of a business model as much as their ability to keep the audience at a constant high. So full page advertisements, to push messages on your phone and what have you!

It’s tough to stay away from temptation when you are made curious as a race.

 

Having said this, let me add that there is always space for a wholesome content model. Whoever thought for instance, that a simple model like news in 60 words could work so well. Quickie, as I call the inshorts app, is a perfect example of simplicity being such a great driver of consumption.

 

If you have a brilliant model, anything will work. Universal truth.

 

A friend in HR advised me that it’s impossible to rise beyond a point in the same organisation. And that I should look beyond the place where I have worked for the last seven years. What is your view, Sir?

No, this is nonsense. I can give you a dozen examples of people I know, who have stayed on, and have hit the top. So this isn’t really a factor at all for someone who is highly competent. Nothing limits competence. Nothing.

 

Yes, you tend to be taken for granted, if you aren’t in the news within your organisation from time to time. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

 

Today’s world expects you to outperform yourself day after day. Yes, there is no sanctity in legacy any longer. You are only as good as your performance yesterday ! Challenge is something that one has to brace for. This is the world and there are no shortcuts unfortunately.

 

Hopping jobs can push you up the ladder a lot when it’s done judiciously, yet there is a point when you hit the ceiling. That’s when the sieve is used.

Craft comes into play, else you fall right through.

 

Your work environment, quest for learning, your peers, leaders, all make the difference. This is what should drive decisions, and not pages of your calendar being ripped off.

 

My wedding anniversary fell last week, but my boss refused to give me a day off to spend it with my wife. I am very upset and want to quit the organisation. Am I over-reacting?

Oh boy ! Haven’t you heard of viral fever and gastrointestinal infections??

 

If it was so important for you (am happy it is !) then you probably needed a viral fever to hit you at the right time. Need I say more?

 

Honestly, giving leave or refusing leave is a very boss-led decision and there is no hard-and-fast rule. I do agree that companies and leaders need to be sensitised on personal events, and the need for people to spend time with their spouses and family.

 

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done !

 

So forget about it, and celebrate when you have a day off. The date really doesn’t matter as much. Am sure your wife only wants to get enough time with you.

 

And yes, before I forget , once you are the boss, do approve all the leave requests you get for anniversaries, birthdays, festivals, functions, parties, ceremonies and funerals.

 

You will be popular overnight. Wish you both a splendid anniversary, though belated! God Bless.

 

So, simply enjoy yourself this weekend and do all the things that you want to do. To hell with what anyone thinks. It’s your life and your money, hopefully !

 

We shall go chill too and get set to come back,Thursday next with yet another edition of India’s favourite Agony Uncle online!

 

Dear MxM…  simply because, we care!

 

Inbox your questions to editor@mxmindia.com with Dear MxM in the subject line

 

 

 

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