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Thursday, June 30, 2005

India: the raging Mumbi newspaper war

It's getting ugly. Amidst multiplying circulations and conversely, increasing salaries and advertising sales, Indian newspapers have also been experiencing betrayal, and overall, mud-slinging in Mumbai. An article in the Asia Times Online paints the scene, showing that most of the diatribe is aimed at the Times of India (TOI). Agencyfaqs! has declared that the Times' response to the popular tabloid Mid-Day entitled Mumbai Mirror, has been a failure. A former employee of the Times who was the genius behind a very successful marketing campaign has defected to Direct News & Analysis (DNA), a rookie English publication set to knock TOI off its pedestal. Abhijit Bannerjee, owner of Wavelength Communications which is booked to print DNA said, "The most important development is that the Times of India monopoly is being broken." Vir Sanghvi, editorial director of Hindustan Times, which is also trying to push into the Mumbai market, commented on the Times' apparent arrogance with, "Readers in India's most prosperous, cosmopolitan and modern city... are tired of being taken for granted and treated like morons." Whoa! Maybe TOI, who just published an article saying that it's the biggest selling English broadsheet in the world, should call for reinforcements. The Asian Times article, which makes TOI out to be the villain, also warns against the possible decline in journalistic quality and a financial bubble which could be inflating around the industry. If it pops, many of the journalists now enjoying irregularly high salaries may soon be out of work.

Source: Asia Times Online

Posted by john burke on June 30, 2005 at 03:49 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I used to read web edition Times of India until few months ago daily but now with so many news papers online presently I actually prefer Hindustan Times.

Posted by: Sriram at Oct 24, 2007 3:48:25 AM

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Posted by: br at Jul 24, 2005 7:29:55 PM

As a reader there is little new in the Mumbai edition of The Times of India, Hindustan Times and Mumbai Mirror. But then how many pages of news can one milk from one city.

Both ToI and HT have about six pages of city/metro news. Identical stories covering the middle-class and the uber rich who are the "target audience".

Nothing substantial may be expected from these purveyors of fluff. Cancer patients are being denied expensive drugs that were available to them till the Indian government signed the new patent laws early this year. But the two biggies look away like the aristocrats before the French revolution.

In Nagpur, orange farmers are chopping down trees for wood to cremate dead bodies. But no dearie, it is not news if it is not happening in Mumbai.

But just outside Mumbai in Tarapur six people died last week after poison gases leaked from a plant. But daaarling I need a visa to go beyond South Mumbai. Or better still I need bottled water/oxygen to keep me going.....

We write for the reader not for other journalists, one wise editor from the big daily told me recently. I can't help wondering who is the reader. The moron, the bimbette, the social butterfly with oodles of cash to draw advetisers.

But what about the silent cerebral reader with a social conscience? Can't these blinkered appendages to the suits from marketing wangle half a blessed page for serious stories?

Posted by: Shiv Kumar at Jul 16, 2005 8:40:29 AM

Whoa ... it seems to be an all ladies' debate!

I have completed a thesis on the newspaper industry and the impact of Internet on the same. Some of my findings are mentioned below.
1. The Internet has lowered the long term profit potential of the newspaper industry.
2. Newspapers have to give more analyses, rather than just facts as well as become compact as the media consumption pattern is changing (not in favour of newspapers) and people have already got the news from other media.

In India, the newspaper market is growing because there is a "primary demand affect" happening within the entire media industry. This is because the Indian economy is growing and literacy levels are on the rise. There is a direct correlation between GDP growth and Advertising spending. Also, rising literacy levels means more media consumption.

One final comment ... Newspaper houses are respected, credible institutions that facilitate the democratic process, learning and have committments to the society. So, please don't fight.

Posted by: Mahesh Marathe at Jul 8, 2005 7:43:34 AM

Interesting to watch TOI smart at Mr Sanghvi's comment. The truth usually hurts. As for HT following the TOI formula, it's a case of falling for TOI's endless and tiresome campaign. Right from some silly experiments like 'highlighted editorial comments' alongside news stories and the ballyhooing all over town about going all colour, TOI's content changes have always been marked by what their publicity pitch for that particular month was. All colour, all colour they yelled, and after a few weeks, when the campaign stopped, there was a healthy number of B&W pages. No-one reads the edit page they yelled, we shall now ‘comment’ on the news stories..duh..that had an even shorter lifespan. It’s accepted by both reader and journalist that in TOI, content is more about controlling the consumer’s choice and less about news. Readers very much understand that too.

The Mumbai battle will be fun. It’ll be icky if it disintegrates into one of bumped up figures and ad revenues alone. HT’s far too steady and non-maverick to fall for gimmicky short term goals. At HT, we still believe that a newspaper is read, not merely looked at. We still believe that readers don’t worry too much about design, but want more in terms of news. At HT we believe in the reader. In some other papers, they only believe themselves.

Posted by: nandita sengupta at Jul 7, 2005 9:05:01 AM

The Times of India is like a huge mango tree. You can't stop small boys from throwing stones at it. The difference in the current pelting is that it's not being done by contemporaries smarting from yet another winning strategy, but by the wannabes waiting in the wings.All of them will undoubtedly accuse the TOI for the ``Death of Quality Journalism" even as they rush to buy copies of the same murder weapon.The Times has dominated the rich Mumbai market for decades, so the sniping is boringly predictable. I have great regard for Vir Sanghvi so I am both disappointed and surprised at his comment. His paper, The Hindustan Times, assiduously follows much the same formula as the TOI in Delhi, where readers would not take too kindly at being ``treated as morons". As for the all-new Daily News & Analysis (DNA) one does not need to wait till its launch date of July 21 to guess that it will be a slickly packaged product targeting exactly the same kind of readers as the Times of India's. Its advertising blitz throws off the fig leaf with an impunity which might make the `arrogant'' TOI blush,proclaiming loud and clear that it is positioned for only the right kind of reader who alone pulls in the right kind of advertising. After all, its moving spirit, Pradeep Guha, made his formidable reputation at the Times on this mantra.
As editors across the globe have discovered, ``dumbing down'' is the first howl to greet media success. The Times has made the news more acessible with all the globally accepted tools available. It has been at the cutting edge in upgrading city coverage in all its editions across the country, and upgrading cities themselves in the process. A couple of months ago it added an 8-page International section, all colour yes, but with a manifest emphasis on hard stories;more recently Times Nation was similarly beefed up using its extensive network of correspondents.Reader empowerment is a continuous process. The paper has chosen not to go the adversarial route, but if it were less of a newspaper for that it would not be bought by 2.4 million people every day -- and it would not be so eagerly imitated by its peers.

Bachi Karkaria
National Metro Editor
Times of India

Posted by: bachi karkaria at Jul 5, 2005 12:44:22 PM