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Smartphone has revolutionised the media ecosystem: The Quint’s Raghav Bahl

Addressing the M&E industry at FICCI Frames 2015, Bahl believed that the idea of prime news time is dead as audiences are connected all the time

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 30, 2015

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Raghav Bahl, who recently launched the mobile-first news service, The Quint, believes the growth of smartphones in the last few years has changed everything. Addressing the gathering at FICCI Frames 2015 on the concluding day, he said, “The smartphone has revolutionised the media ecosystem. The primetime is dead as audiences are always connected via their multiple screens to receive content.”

“Till 10-15 years ago, our days were defined. Get up in the morning, read the newspaper, listen to radio on the way to office, come back, and watch primetime news. However, now all that has changed. Today, we are connected all the time,” Bahl said. Content in the digital space is moving from exclusive and breaking news to news pieces that are re-purposed with stronger in-depth analysis. “It’s also about the creation of content versus the packaging of content. There is also an emerging section in the digital news media segment called the ‘Light-Fun-Weird’, which is the new news category where news is narrated far different from the traditional form,” he added.

Bahl felt that “As massive content is bombarded on the Internet, except for community news and large scale entertainment format on the static screen, it will completely change the landscape. Language will now have to become edgier and it will have to become the language of the young, because the audience today has a point of view.”

Elaborating on The Quint’s format of news gathering, Bahl informed that he didn’t need to send a reporter on the field. Providing an example on how he would approach a plane crash story, he noted that he would prepare multiple smaller packets of news than one lengthy story from various sources. He would come up with stories like the age of the aircraft, the mindset of the airplane pilot and so on. “I am investing more in the technology behind it rather than a TV channel network, which spends on ground reporting,” he remarked. He also pointed out that earlier, a journalist’s report used to be the first information report (FIR), but it is changing now. “Anyone with a mobile device can file an FIR. The individual journalist will have to become an expert. Journalists today will have to be expert in their field. You cannot cover financial markets and terrorism,” he stressed.

Talking about the power of video and its standing against the printed word, he said that print was very important, but video was exploding. “Print was dying, but digital helped in its resurrection. However, a video gets ten times more hits than written words,” he pointed out.

Summing up, Bahl believed that three kinds of advertising models would thrive in the digital domain, including programmatic advertising, native advertising and display ads.

‘Brand Building and engagement in a digital world’

Discussing the topic on at the event were panellists Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network; CVL Srinivas, CEO, GroupM South Asia; John Heinsen, CEO, Bunnygraph and VP, New Media, Producers Guild of America; Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO, Culture Machine; and Aditya Swamy, EVP and Business Head - MTV, Viacom18 Media. The session was moderated by filmmaker Rohan Sippy.

Srinivas believed that the world was moving towards programmatic buying and advertising. “Most of the advertising media is getting automated on digital. It has huge implications on the brands,” he said.

Bhasin felt that many brands were getting caught between digital and technology. He believed that many brands in today’s time were going wrong. “The principle of any brand is to identify the consumer’s needs and fulfil them,” he remarked.

According to Heinsen, integrating traditional media, advertising and technology were needed to build a brand. “As content creators and story-tellers, if we have all these factors only then can you entertain, engage and influence the audiences.”

Swamy added that brand management had now become a 24x7 and 365 days activity. He noted that if people are not talking about your brand, it is considered that your brand has not made it to the hearts and minds of consumers. “People are just playing with all kinds of formats. There is not one fixed formula to it, but people are just experimenting and waiting for it to hit the right chord,” believed Swamy.

Talking about brand engagement beyond the on-air period, Swamy said, “When Roadies was launched, we noticed that there was buzz only for that time of the period till it was on-air. Offline, there were no conversations at all. To keep the brand alive, we launched a digital series, which is accessible throughout the year and now the digital has become a base and TV show just compliments it. That is the power of digital.”

‘Making India the Entertainment Superpower’

Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, delivered a keynote address on the theme ‘Making India the Entertainment Superpower: Innovating for an Entertainment Ecosystem” on the last day of the forum.

Rathore paid tribute to the media and entertainment industry, saying that it is at the foundation of nation building. “What truly makes a nation is character, and what all of you are associated with is something that builds character.” He heaped praise on the industry, saying that it has the ability to reach out to the world. But he also cautioned that content was important despite all the technology. “We should be able to produce content irrespective of packaging and marketing and should be able to take a foothold in any nation,” he added.

Pledging his Government’s support to the industry, Rathore spoke about how radio is expanding by leaps and bounds. He said that the Government is about to launch Phase III auctions in 315 cities, and in a couple of years, they hope to cover about 800 cities with multiple FM stations. They are also re-doing the Cinematographic Act. They want to make certification content based, and go online. Rathore noted that film and television institutes will be improved and added that the Ministry wants to create a centre of excellence for gaming, animation and special effects.

His keynote address was followed by a question-answer session with Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, Disney India. Kapur hoped that India could be viewed as the soft power of the 21st century. “India and the US are the only two countries where 90 per cent of the revenue and viewership comes from local content. Most other countries don’t have such a thriving film and TV industry.” Rathore concurred that this would be the best way to enter the hearts and minds of all citizens throughout the world. “There is nothing better to promote our culture than film,” he said.

Kapur also highlighted some of the pitfalls faced by the industry, particularly in terms of regulation and taxation. Rathore agreed that changes were needed, but called for an interaction between the Government and the media and entertainment industry, so that the former could be seized of the constraints faced by the latter. “We want to make it clear that if there is something that the Government can do, we will be more than pleased to do it.” Kapur acknowledged that it was refreshing to have a minister and a Government so open to dialogue, and looked forward to the journey in the future.

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