State of the Trade Media: Pre-Crisis Alert

05 Mar,2021



By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorNews about government guidelines on content regulation and ‘censorship’ in the digital space, including social media and the OTT platforms, has been dominating the trade media over the last week. This topic has been in the discussion for a while, and continues to get written about extensively in business newspapers and online trade websites.

But it is not as if the trade media covers digital content only when there are regulatory developments. There has been extensive reporting on content itself, including show launches, slate launches, content analysis, the works. For years, the trade media was largely focused on linear television as its primary industry of analysis, and print got its share of coverage as a secondary medium. But now, digital media is right up there, ahead of television, in terms of its visibility on top media websites in India.

From an advertising perspective, free platforms like social media, YouTube and AVOD offerings of OTT players form an important domain to report on. Digital advertising is growing, and is shaping the future of how advertising may look like in a future. But SVOD platforms do not interest advertisers as such. And yet, they are being covered extensively. A platform like Netflix India gets more trade coverage than big TV channels whose daily viewership is 20 times Netflix’s India subscriber base.

Evidently, it seems the digital story is an exciting one, especially because it’s evolving, and everyone, including the platforms, are learning on the go. Consumer tastes are still shaping up, and data is not easily accessible, which opens up the topic for explorations in various directions.

While the extensive coverage given to digital media makes a lot of sense, the contrast between how digital media is being covered far more meaningfully in the trade than traditional media has been a pet peeve for me for a couple of years now. Search the internet for pieces on Indian television or print industry, and you will largely get press releases, or interviews that look more like plugs than actual interviews. As a student of media, if you looked towards the internet for some knowledge, you will get ample to read on the digital front, but very little insights coming your way on television or print. There is hardly any content analysis or marketing stories on TV or print brands, for example.

The situation has been worse for the other traditional industry, i.e., films. Reporting on theatrical content has been limited to a few box-office and film trade sites. The latter are more promotional platforms than knowledge hubs. For the longest time, I thought this was the case because the theatrical medium is not ad-driven, and hence doesn’t interest the trade media. But with so much coverage on SVOD content, that argument is not valid either.

Even at an overall level, trade websites have generally been reduced to being information disseminators than thought drivers. Very few like MxMIndia have regular guest columns from industry experts. Views, and not news, shape up the thinking of a human being. Young executives entering the industry can definitely do with more of them.

Because of my work, I often get to speak to media trade journalists. If I were to make a list of those who truly understand the medium, the audience and the business, the list will come to less than a dozen.

We may not realise it yet, but the Indian media industry is running into a crisis of poor reporting around it. This problem may even be linked to the larger issue of falling levels of journalism across domains. But B2B journalism doesn’t even have the excuse that it needs to cater to the lowest common denominator!

Let’s hope that this growing industry gets a more nuanced B2B media ecosystem in the coming years. It surely deserves better.

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