Clay Shirky’s predictions about the future of Mass Media

Just found this article on The Guardian site. Clay Shirky’s a professor at NYU and a scholar of Mass Media and the effect internet trends would have on them. Worth a read — I agree with some of his predictions (and presumptuously adding some of my own):

  1. Newspaper’s will diverge into 2 classes – magazines such as Economist which will exist for the people willing to pay for high quality coverage, and mass coverage of all possible news on the internet that will be available free and paid for by advertising dollars. Communities such as Twitter might help surfacing the right news.
  2. Niche newspapers and magazines will only exist online — the distribution costs for anything that doesn’t have economies of scale are not justified.
  3. TV will also change dramatically – The current state of the industry is that content is tightly controlled by the Channels, and hence to maintain quality, studios invest a lot of money (at least in India). We will see a lot of rise of amateur content, but only so much, since professionals will soon (and have, if I am not wrong) start publishing on YouTube and the like. However, the sudden loosening of the grip on distribution (since there are no longer any channels), will mean the quality of the content will change. Video distribution will be controlled far more by social networking sites (a la Facebook) than are blog posts.
  4. Books will be relatively less affected, at least until we hit a e-book reader that really rocks! My guess, though is devices like Kindle will improve a lot in the next decade or so, and might affect book sales greatly. Print-on-Demand will grow, but I am still not aware of how much it costs to print just one copy, so I am not in a position to comment. A large part of the cost if the cost of distribution, PoD will really succeed if the following equation is satisfied (since you will still pick up books at a store):

cost_of_traditional_book + cost_of_distribution_to_store > cost_of_printing_just_one_copy

The full article can be found here.


Disrupting the newspaper industry by massive research

Came across this interesting case study on IK@W about how newspapers in India are competing cutthroat with each other on acquiring customers and how the Dainik Bhaskar group managed to make DNA one of the most widely read paper in Mumbai, by extensive market research. What’s fascinating about their research is that they don’t outsource the work to an agency such as IMRB, rather prefer to do everything in house, and at a magnitude of 600,000 households in some cases. That is almost 6% of the population of a metro city in India. [link]

The Bhaskar Group has had a different approach. It tries to learn what the market wants, and instead of outsourcing this task to a market research agency, it does this largely in-house. For example, when Dainik Bhaskar made its Rajasthan entry in 1996 with its Jaipur edition, it surveyed 200,000 potential readers. Before launching DNA in Mumbai, it went one better; some 600,000 people were surveyed in the first round. “For us, this is much more than market research; it is a way of involving the reader,” says Girish. Adds Pawan: “We have always looked at what our consumers want. We have always looked at things that are latent rather than what they already know. This has been our primary differentiator in our approach to content. We look at how we can surprise our reader rather than just please him.”

The Dainik survey is an awesome experience. They build their own teams of part-timers from scratch. For instance, in Ahmedabad [for the Divya Bhaskar launch], they used 1,050 surveyors, 64 supervisors, 16 zonal managers and four divisional managers. Dainik surveyed 1,200,000 households — possibly the single biggest consumer contact program in history. And they met each household twice.

Fascinating stuff, this. Must’ve been a logistical nightmare — Kudos to them!

[Another interesting read: How to dismantle a billion dollar industry … as a hobby!]

Our first media coverage!

Well begun is half done

Somebody had once told me — and nothing could make us feel happier than getting our media coverage during our first event itself! Check out the coverage on our team blog!

Lam Gopal Balma ki Aag

A fire is burning. I can sense it, I can smell it, I can feel it. It is not a regular fire, it is the fire of fury of all the fans of the original Embers which Samesh Rippy had smoldered in the heart and soul of the Indian fillum buffs. The embers which LGB had deliriously hoped would convert to an inferno has sadly come to be only charred remains of rotten eggs which viewers and critics have hurled at it.

Anyway, since I haven’t myself subject myself to the ordeal (nor do I intend do — I like my eggs fried or made into an omelette), I would not waste the time of the readers any further and get straight to the point — what piqued me about the movie was its name. It wasn’t just Aag, it wasn’t even Fire, it was egotistically termed “Lam Gopal Balma ki Aag” as if the fire amongst the rest of us can’t manage to match its heat (we would need Shisha Thothari to produce heat, after all!). And I was just wondering, as always, what would happen if LGB really took his ego seriously and inserted it all over the movie. Sample some of the dialogs (suitably modified so that they can be incorporated into ‘LGB ki Aag’:

  • Lam Gopal Balma ki Ghunghroo, in Lam Gopal Balma ke kutton ke saamne mat naachna… (Ghunghroo almost makes me feel like its a hybrid between a heroine and a horse, so no harm singing and dancing in front of LGB’s Dogs. Isn’t it?)
  • Lam Gopal Balma ke gaonwaalon … (and I hope he jumps down)
  • Yeh haath mujhe de de Lam Gopal Balma ke Thakur … Yeh haath mujhe de de … muhahahaha (imagine the terror when Babban says these spine-chilling lines)
  • Arre o Lam Gopal Balma ke Thambe, Kitne aadmi they re? (Mard toh sirf ek hi tha … Lam Gopal Balma. Baaki sab toh … and Thambe!! What a name?!!)
  • Itna Sannata kyun hai Lam Gopal Balma ke Bhai? (Err… actually Sir LGB has gone to the loo. We are waiting on him.)
  • Yeh Lamgadh waale apni ladkiyon ko kaun si chakki kaa aata khilate hain? (Lam Gopal Balma ki Chakki, without any doubts!)
  • Chal Lam Gopal Balma ke rickshaw (a la Bajaj Auto), aaj Lam Gopal Balma ki Ghunghroo ki izzat ka sawal hai (LGB ghunghroo pehenta hai :O?)
  • Nahi Ghunghroo, in Lam Gopal Balma ke kutton ke saamne mat naachna (But you can dance in front of other dogs)
  • (Not quite from the smoldering embers, but…) Lam Gopal Balma ke Kutton, Lam Gopal Balma ke kaminon! Main Lam Gopal Balma ka khoon pee jaaunga (Finally, the truth! Me too!!)

And thus, a movie was excoriated.

[With help from here and here]

[Those in the know would immediately realize the pun on the abbreviation of the esteemed Director’s name. Especially, those who have been bitten by mosquitoes]

[On other news, I am going to be traveling (yo.. again!), so expect fewer posts, but hopefully a travelogue!]

Update: Added one more dialog (2nd last)

Americans beat Indians at their own game? BW got foot in the mouth!

BusinessWeek carried an article about IBM’s success in India, it’s ramping up of operations in India very quickly to 53,000 employees, and winning big in the IT outsourcing deals in the subcontinent, especially from telecom operators — which is a gratifying read. However, the email from BW in my inbox had a line that completely pissed me off:

IBM once looked like a lumbering giant next to India’s agile tech upstarts. But in scarcely five years, Big Blue has come to dominate the Indian market, with a staff of 53,000 in the country and huge R&D centers in Bangalore and New Delhi. Read this edition of the Asia Insider to learn how the Americans beat the Indians at their own game.

The article never said anything to that effect! My best guess is that some guy in the PR department at BW who was responsible for the uninteresting, mundane and morbidly boring task of sending out spam suddenly suffered from a bout of foot in the mouth.

First of all, I don’t think anybody has beaten anybody in this game of outsourcing. The money has come following the talent, and it’s not just IBM, but Accenture (India’s the second largest Accenture operations), EDS (which acquired Mphasis – here and here) and all other IT biggies are making bit bets on using Indian talent to fight Indian vendors like Infosys, Wipro and TCS who have been snapping at their heels. However, I am not sure if that can be termed a win of Indian talent or of the American business acumen. (Actually, I would not prefer an argument about winning and losing at all — since it is too early to predict anything — the Indian IT vendors who used to be mere outsourcing outfits earlier now want a larger piece of the pie, become consultants, and go after bigger money. For example read this, this, this — I didn’t try to get the best articles in the area, but just some of the recent news).

<!– Digression begins

Another interesting aspect, is the comparison of the Revenues, Profits, Market Capitalization and the Price/Earnings for some of the biggies. [‘b’ indiacates a billion US Dollars and ‘m’ a million US Dollars. Data taken from Google Finance today.]

Company Revenues Profits Market Cap P/E Ratio
Infosys 3.08b 850m 25.8b 27.33
Wipro 3.64b 711m 19.71b 26.67
IBM 91b 9.4b 152.37b 17.19
Accenture 18.22b 973m 30.21b 19.45
EDS 21.26b 470m 11.59b 19.11

It seems obvious that Indian companies are far more profitable than their western counterparts for every penny (or cent perhaps) of revenue that they make — and the markets reward them accordingly. If you look at the MCap column, you would realize why the biggies are unable to try their luck at acquiring some of the larger IT companies in India — because they are bigger than the western counterparts! (IBM of course, has many divisions, and it might be difficult to get data on their software services division). So much for winning and losing.

end digression –>

Until recently, I thought that foot-in-the-mouth was not a very communicable disease and spread only on contact with a creature named George Bush. I have, obviously, been proven wrong. Ronen Sen recently caught it, and now BW! Looks like its spreading faster than I imagined. Is somebody aware of necessary vaccination which I can take?

Feedburner down? (and what is feedburner?)

Looks like feedburner is down. I just went to check my readership figures and it showed Zero subscribers. In all humility, I accept that I don’t have too many readers, but I feel happy for every click I get (don’t the others?) and so keep checking the figures ever so often. Anyway, this is what feedburner shows me:


Definitely something fishy! Google, what are you doing? First the confusion in the Gmail Logo and now this?

Anyway, for those who don’t know what feedburner is: Feedburner is a service that lets you redirect all your readership through a single access point. Think of it as a gate through which the feeds would pass. Hence, you can do a bunch of stuff with your feeds:

  • Add stuff to your feeds, like advertisements, or burn amazon associates id to every book review you post
  • Make several changes to your feed format to make it standards compliant and provide other frills. It would also provide better uptime if you have a self-hosted blog
  • Clip your blog posts so that people reading it in a reader are forced to come to your blog and increase hits (*wicked curled lips*)
  • Publicize it better, with those cool-looking “617k subscribers” (not mine :P) type logos
  • Provide extra services like ‘Subscribe by email’
  • Of course, track you readership
  • One benefit which I love but is often glossed over is to be able to change your blog URL and still have people get updates on the same feed. You can essentially tell people to go to a different room at the gate, to lift the paradigm of my earlier example

Feedburner has a page on its site where it gives reasons for using it. It’s good a video too (though I haven’t watched it!)

Feedburner was recently acquired by Google. Google also added a new feed-redirection feature to their blogger service which lets people redirect their blogger feed. I wish provided that (you can do it in self-hosted wordpress though)

If you are serious about blogging, feedburner (or a similar service) is a must have. Provided they fix the aforementioned problem, that is.

[Others seem to have noticed it as well – WebFiles Simon Sandossu]

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Thakur Ka Inteqaam

Another Viral by WebChutney. It’s a must watch:

I just love the sights and sounds of Sholay, even if it’s in a caricature.

Webchutney has made a lot of very enjoyable virals in the past including Chitthi Aayi Hai and Makkadman.

Chitthi Aayi Hai  Makkadman

Here is an older list of their virals. I also discovered the WebChutney blog, where they post a lot of interesting stuff. It’s going right into my GReader.

Made my day!

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