And Looking Forward…

Prashun Bhaumik |

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

Although most of these exercises are purely academic, a look at the Top 10 stories of the last decade does offer an opportunity to reflect on events and issues. Here then are my top stories of the decade: 2000-2010. Plus a pop forecast under ‘looking forward’.

10. New kings in GECs and News Channels

There is hyperactivity in the general entertainment and news channel space. Having ousted leader Zee with Kaun Banega Crorepati in 2000, Star Plus turned #1 only to be trounced convincingly by new entrant Colors and briefly Zee last year. A differentiated offering helps as was evident in the emergence of Times Now as the #1 English news channel. In Hindi, India TV set a trend of dumbing down but Aaj Tak forges ahead.

Looking forward: There’s no permanent #1 amongst GECs and news channels. The worry is that in this game of staying on top and saying Bingo, whatever happens to the financial health?

09. Bombay dominates TV, print, radio!

Cine stars made appearances on television in the ‘90s too, but it was a no-no for the biggies. But with Amitabh Bachchan taking the country by storm (and resurrecting his own career) with Kaun Banega Crorepati, it meant more and more Bollywood on television. Bombay dominates all other media too, as Mumbai’s bustling film, television, music and fashion icons get pride of place.

Looking forward:  In the great ratings chase, expect more of Bombay in all our media. In fact already stars ‘use’ the media in the run-up to big releases. Like Shah Rukh is offering a peep into his life as My Name is Khan is set to hit the plexes in a few weeks.

08. Internet. Social networks

The decade started with dotcoms set up on greed and creative projection of P&Ls going bust. But it ended with the internet causing the downfall of other established media. Social networks – like Facebook – have spurred the growth of the Net.

Looking forward: See #04 below

07. Magazines!

If you were to believe readership studies, you would think it’s foolhardy to run magazines. But that’s not what the international biggies and homegrown superpowers believe in. The readership may be small, but it appears to work at least in India.

Looking forward: Expect magazines to make monies from not just their publications but add-on activity: events, books and the like.

06. Paid News UnLtd

If you are the leader, you can get away with it. Even the biggest corporations don’t shy away from patronising and thereby legitimising a paid news activity. Readers too haven’t really turned against any of the publications that commentators like yours truly find regressive. Values have changed. There is a need to redefine integrity.

Looking forward: Expect more media players to openly offer news space for a price. And get away with it!

05. Government interference

The government – comprising our elected representatives – does often get outlandish in its thinking, but the fear of it getting out is possibly the only reason why there’s some order. Regulators elsewhere in the developed world (specifically the US and UK) have tight checks. Fact of the matter is that the Indian media often gets carried away.

Looking forward: Don’t expect an Ambika Soni to last at I&B forever. The next minister could bring back nuttier times.

04. Mobile media

No one is telling you this, but breaking news is no longer a preserve of television or radio. It’s the mobile phone. The provider could well be the good ol’ media company, but it’s the mobile – with 3G++ technology – that’s going to rule media.

Looking forward: High end smart phones, pricier than mid-level laptops, better versions of the iPad will be your complete source for your information needs.

03. Money!

Media is still a favourite with moneybags but the slowdown since last year has already driven loads of people out of the profession making people – investors especially rethink their strategies. Except of course for those who want to book losses and enjoy the clout media generates.

Looking forward: Taps won’t run dry for media companies but don’t expect truckloads of money for the media.

02. Blogs, You Tube, Twitter!

No longer is the news media a preserve of only those with deep pockets. Technology has enabled the democratisation of the process and thrown up thousands of closet journalists into the open. Weblogs, You Tube videos and now the microblogging platform of Twitter are already stealing the limelight in the United States and are gaining ground in India too.

Looking forward: The star journalist of the new decade would have started out blogging or tweeting.

01. Will the truth ever be out?

Despite so many news media and journalists, there are very few who actually come out and speak the truth. Most of us in the media shy away from doing it, letting the mischief-makers go scot free. It is of course not easy doing this.

Looking forward: Aren’t we all looking forward to a better world to live in. I personally don’t see things improving very much on Media Story #01, but I am hopeful. Hum Honge Kaamayaab …. soon!?

The writer is group chief editor, exchange4media. The views expressed here are his own. Mail him at pradyumanm@exchange4media.com or tweet him at @pmahesh