Legacy Media Must Leap Ahead

23 Mar,2021

 

By Bhuvi Gupta

 

Bhuvi Gupta

The media industry the world over is in a state of flux. The internet has made us all both publishers and reviewers and the odd part of that is that it has made the world both biased and unbiased in equal measure. It has never been easier to publish and publicise your opinion and it has never been easier to polarise either. But leaving propaganda aside, the fact that we all have access to multiple media in function and form means that media models are themselves obsolete. While the pandemic has accelerate the print medium’s deceleration, aural media has had a comeback with podcasts going mainstream. But noteworthy in this comeback is the role played by the individual creator.

 

This comeback will define what media will come to represent as a whole across the world.  Individual creators will define media because:

 

Traditional Media Measurement is Broken

In India, media as a whole has been slowly losing its credibility. In the earlier part of the last decade both, which I consider a load shed decade for media measurement, both IRS and TAM/BARC overhauled their entire systems to keep up with the times and both ended up getting boycotted or sued – IRS in 2013, and the TAM by NDTV  in 2012, which eventually  resulted in the formation of BARC (LINK – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/ndtv-sues-nielsen-for-fraud-negligence/articleshow/15302393.cms). The latest alleged BARC TRP-manipulatiom investigation highlights the flaws of a system based on extrapolation of a relatively small sample data set, especially in a country the size of India.   This is not to point fingers at a case currently sub-judice but to make a case for system which is not so advertising-dependent, that such misdeeds become commonplace. (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/media/entertainment/media/indian-newspaper-society-rejects-irs-2013-findings/articleshow/29871308.cms?from=mdr)

 

Monetisation Models are Fragmented

The media’s monetisation in itself has gone through many changes.  Once almost entirely run on ads (and later on advertorials as well), media houses realised that their strength lay in the deep networks and complementary relationships they had built with the elite and powerful, which was monetised via events. Then came the digital era when media houses put all their content on the web only for brand visibility with advertising as an afterthought (hence, letting the Google-Facebook duopoly control digital advertising which is now coming to bite them) and now finally the era of subscriptions and donations because survival for media companies has become harder.  What will work going forward is a system based on subscriptions with a content aggregator probably charging the consumer on the basis of the quantity of content consumed

 

Media Biases are Clearer than Ever

While I believe that all individuals have deep-seated biases which are hard to displace even when they try their best, media today seems to align strongly to either the Right or Left. This can become inexcusable when defending a political party in the face of visible wrongdoing.  Once biases become visible by the viewer, especially on major mainstream media, viewers/readers start deserting them.

 

For entertainment, a lot of TV content seems to be scripted for audiences in the 90s – the quality of script, actors and direction especially when compared to international content easily accessible on OTT platforms. That has had an impact on TV viewership.

 

So, Is there a Way Ahead for Legacy Media?

Yes, of course, there is. I feel as platforms like Substack and the OTTs move towards the maturation phase in their product lifecycle, there will be further fragmentation in media consumption and clear market leaders will cease to exist. While consumers who are early adopters might have already given up their legacy media subscriptions in favour of Substack, The Ken et al, the majority of the market is yet to catch up. It is here that traditional media outlets must evolve to remain relevant enough.  They have the advantage of knowing what the audience wants, and robust role models like New York Times (NYT) which in November 2020 generated more digital revenue than print with 7 million digital subscriptions. There’s also pay-as-you like journalism which has been implemented in part by Newslaundry.

 

Early signs of traditional media evolving are there. Today, most traditional media outlets whether Print, TV or Radio have robust video and print teams and soon-to-be-announced podcast teams as well.

 

But as they all put their fingers in more and more pies, I hope they don’t lose the entire plot by spreading themselves thin too soon.

 

 

 

 

Bhuvi Gupta is a marketer with over 10 years across industries, of which the last six have been in Media & Entertainment. She has been a part of many launch marketing campaigns – specifically at the Times of India group, Republic TV and the latest in marketing a Bollywood film. She will write on A&M (mostly marketing, but often on advertising too) every other Tuesday. Her views here are personal. She tweets at @bhuvigupta3

 

 

 

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