In less than a decade, news shall be read or seen on handheld devices only, either directly or shared via social media platforms. I often get asked, “Who will win the race between TV and digital?” But there simply is no argument. Instead, what we need to ask is, whether news will be consumed in the ‘linear-and-static’ or ‘non-linear- and-mobile’ mode? Asked in this manner, the answer is obvious, dictated by one’s own behaviour; it shall be on-demand and on-the- go. The next question invariably is, whether technology is more important than content. This one too has a clear answer. Truth, credibility, authentic and expert sources all are just as critical now as they were in the earlier era of newspapers and linear broadcasts. But the quotient of technology in the news creating and disseminating process has increased vastly. The multimedia and video tools, the infographic apps, the streaming of incoming and outgoing content, simultaneous multi-point distribution on various platforms, self-publishing newsletters, personalising
content to match each viewer’s revealed preferences; real-time tracking of her geographical location, social media activity and internet movements; and processing a million other data points in nanoseconds using bewilderingly sophisticated algorithms — welcome to the technology quotient of
digital media! But to reiterate, despite all the tech built into digital content, the principles of journalism remain cast in stone (from an earlier era).
The third question is, “Fine, you will win audiences, but how will you monetise and become viable?” Money always follows audiences, albeit with a lag, which is what we are caught in right now — creating this doubt about viability. The most promising one is ‘native content’, where advertisers create
a good story and weave their commercial message within the journalism, unobtrusively and seamlessly, to hook audiences. The ethics of this are still being worked out; and once these are fully curated, I can bet this shall become the gold standard of digital advertising. Finally, digital up-starts can log up half the audiences of legacy giants at a tenth of the cost. So you get the viability, right? The fourth question is, “Who will eventually win, legacy players or hi-tech newbies?” My answer takes a cue from history. Following any past disruption, five players have usually emerged winners in a new
More often than not, three are oldies who are savvy to transform themselves, while two are scrappy start-ups who have the will to survive. So it shall be in this brave new world. Finally, the fifth question is, “Will fake news overrun ethical, professional output?” No. In the news business, your only currency is credibility. While fake news is a mighty existential challenge, I am optimistic that stiffer regulation and technological ‘cleansing’ will ultimately tame this menace. Remember, this monster is less than a few years old and its awesome speed has led to a momentary paralysis. But now that the shock is over, the dragon shall get slayed. Keep the faith!
The author is co-founder, Quintillion Media