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The digital challenge for Indian media

MEENAKSHI VERMA AMBWANI
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As users move online for news and entertainment, traditional media outlets are sprucing up their digital strategy.

It’s no more a problem that only Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have to deal with. As more and more users in India are turning to the internet and social media, mobile phones are emerging as the second most-viewed screen for Indian Indian consumers.

A recent study by online audience and ad measurement platform Vizisense has pointed out that nearly 2 crore of the mobile internet users in India are increasingly turning to their mobile phones.

“Nearly two crore of mobile internet users are cutting their newspapers and television consumption by 50 per cent and shifting to the mobile phones to access content. The screens are changing and English media is seeing the biggest impact,” said Amit Bhartiya vice president and general manager ViziSense.

The survey was based on a sample size of 2,024 mobile internet users. Nearly 87 per cent of the 4.8 crore mobile internet users go online on mobile every day, it said. In addition, nearly half of these users go online through their cellphones every 2-3 hours and the duration of these visits span nearly an hour.

Mr Bhartiya said that surprisingly, this trend is more evident in the areas beyond the top eight metros. “Nearly 55 per cent of all daily mobile internet users are from outside the top eight metros. Errant electricity is one of the key reasons why users from these cities are reducing their dependence on TV as a medium especially for news and entertainment,” he added.

Video content

The biggies in the entertainment and media industry are getting ready to innovate and grab this multi tasking viewer. Take for instance, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, which has launched its over the top (OTT) distribution platform called Ditto TV, which offers live television channels and on demand video content to consumers on their mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, entertainment boxes and connected TVs. Besides offering its own content, Zee has partnered with other companies like Multi Screen Media (Sony Entertainment Television), TV Today Network, BBC. Launched in February, Ditto TV offers features such as adaptive streaming, an electronic programme guide, and a content recommendation engine among others.

Similarly, most newspapers have launched electronic replicas of their physical newspapers, which registered users can access every morning either for free or for some fee. Media companies are also ensuring they are available through WAP sites and applications besides offering video on demand for news clips. Globally, newspapers like Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have undertaken major steps to move content to their digital platform. “The sense that ‘if only the economy gets better than print will be fine’, that’s hubris! Honestly, print’s never going to go back to its glory days and those who are not managing their costs and reacting to their current revenue streams will suffer,” the managing editor of Wall Street Journal's digital network Raju Narisetti recently said in an Interview to TheMediaBriefing.com

Web and mobile

Media companies believe this offers an opportunity creating a level playing field. Referring to the success of its news Web site Firstpost.com, Lakshmi Narasimhan CEO Web18 said, “If your product is right, it has a far greater chance of success through the new media in contrast to the conventional mediums.” He added that the usage of mobile phones and tablets and other devices to access content has gone up in the past six months with the advent of 3G services.

Others companies like NDTV believe that the increasing consumption of internet on mobile phones offers an opportunity to reach out to new users.

“This is a huge opportunity to create a separate audience e.g., the user on the move who now uses an app or phone to plug into news or the second screen user who will continue to watch television but will want his or her content enhanced,” said Suparna Singh, Head - Convergence and Director - Strategy, NDTV. She added that the company pays constant attention to how news is prioritised for apps, for WAP and the Web site as each platform is curated separately based on the habits of users.

Media analysts however believe that the users or viewers spending less time over newspapers and television are a sign of growing fragmentation in viewership. Smita Jha consulting head, entertainment & media, PricewaterhouseCoopers India said,” Gone are the days when a television channel could command dedicated viewers or users as the presence of multiple devices, television channels among other reasons has led to fragmentation. While television is known as the “sit-back” medium, mobile devices are known as the “sit forward” medium. In addition, with a large chunk of our population being young, they are known to multi-task and are moving from one device to another.”

But monetising content in the new media world continues to be the big challenge. Even as advertisers have begun taking notice of how consumption patterns are rapidly changing, delivery platforms and technologies need to evolve for companies to be able to monetise their content, say industry players.

As per global media and entertainment outlook (2012-2016) by PwC, overall global spending on Internet advertising—both wired and mobile—will grow by 15.9 per cent compound annual growth rate and pegged to touch the $188.1 billion mark. The accounting and consulting firm which released its global outlook in July, said that, “increasing traffic on social networking sites and growing time spent online are attracting advertising and fuelling growth in banner/display advertising.” It also pointed out that online classified will gain share from print media.

As far as newspapers are concerned, PwC's outlook said that newspaper spending is set to rise in a market like India unlike regions like North America. Lower broadband penetration besides unit circulation of newspapers is rising which is further helped by low cover prices and direct distribution to home is fuelling the growth on newspaper spending in India, PwC stated in its outlook. But that could change very soon as broadband subscriber base is expected to touch 600 million by 2020.

meenakshi.v@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 9, 2012)
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