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.

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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!]

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