Television
Report on Hindi News Viewership

Freedom of expression, personalised reach attracting mainstream journos to digital platforms

Partnering with third-party apps, content platforms help them in getting reach

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NEW DELHI: The competition between traditional v/s digital is only deepening with each passing day, in every field imaginable. From education to shopping, to marketing, the digital options have been gaining far more traction and popularity than traditional modes and news has not been an exception. Internet, as a medium of self-expression, has been lauded for its democratic opportunities and creative freedom, and over the past few years, we have not just seen a fine breed of digital-first natives growing in the news space, but have also witnessed a number of executives from traditional mediums shifting their bases there. 

According to former Network18 executive editor Bhupendra Chaubey, who is now hosting his own YouTube show Talk To Bhupen, digital is a far more personal medium which offers great freedom, both logistical and content-wise and hence preferred. “Television broadcasting is getting irrelevant despite the viewership going up because TV news is not discharging its responsibility properly. Also, the basics like data crunching, information gathering, etc, are primarily being done by the digital medium.”

Editorji Technologies founder Vikram Chandra, who had been with NDTV for decades, adds that digital news was already getting a lot of traction and Covid2019 has acted as an inflexion point. “The whole (news) industry is changing and in the post-Covid2019 world, digital is the future. I will say digital has already become the preferred source of news watching for a big chunk of the population.”

Former Mirror Now executive director-turned- independent journalist Faye D’Souza had shared with Indiantelevision.com in an earlier interview that the erosion of credibility of mainstream media has led people to look outside for news that’s “not adulterated by any sort of compulsion.” She had added,  “if mainstream media was able to hold its audience, it wouldn’t be looking for information in independent digital sources.”

Barkha Dutt, who is currently on-ground to cover the Covid2019 crisis with her digital platform MoJo had tweeted sometime back that technology has set journalists of today free. 

Founder and editor-in-chief of GoNews, India’s first app-based TV News Channel, Pankaj Pachauri shares that even investors are more interested in digital entities today. He tells us, “There has been no significant investment increase for mainstream media in the last decade while digital aggregating platforms for news have attracted a high level of interest from investors. The future belongs to the digital genre as smartphone penetration increases and the digital news footprint becomes larger than satellite TV news.”

He, however, believes that there is “no apparent competition” between TV and digital as a news medium but digital is getting better at sharing news. “Satellite TV news has taken a different character over the years and is now mostly talk shows and live studio-based broadcasts. Digital, on the other hand, is still sticking to storytelling by video. Most satellite channels also have their sizable digital presence, but they are force-fitting TV content on digital formats which is a difficult task. Only a few have been able to do it successfully. They use digital or social media platforms as promotional arms while digital companies are producing content which is digital specific. So, the two are quite different in approach and execution.” 

Pachauri further states, “A big difference between mainstream TV and digital is that we are able to adhere to our own editorial judgement instead of being led by ratings or populist market sentiment. We can also take our own time in cross-checking facts of a story and guard against fake news as we do not have unnecessary deadline pressures. That’s what differentiates our content from mainstream media and is appreciated by our viewers and readers. This also helps in branding the final product.”

While all of them are working on a different content strategy, there is one similarity that is quite evident -- they want unbiased, fact-checked and difficult news to reach their viewers. 

Pachauri shares, “As a general news genre broadcaster and publisher our endeavour is to provide news and information for our viewers and readers speedily and factually. But our effort is to give them more news about education, health, employment, agriculture and connectivity which are vastly ignored by mainstream media.” 

Chandra tells us, “We primarily view ourselves as a tech company that develops technology, which can help in delivering news in a differentiated manner.” 

Chaubey, who is now planning to develop his talk show into a marketable content property and generate more such products, says going ahead, he wants the identity of his platform to be that of a tech-based news company that does earnest scrutiny of data and brings out issues, which mainstream media would not. 

Both Chandra and Chaubey feel that more than viewership, what matters is the accessibility of the news to those who need to see it. 

Chaubey quips enthusiastically, “Currently, I get around four million views on my videos and I want it to reach 10 million in the future. But, keeping that aside, my aim is that if there are even 20 thousand or 30 thousand people in this country who are not aligned with any political party and need unbiased information, they matter to me. My news should reach them. ” 

Chandra’s mode of working is heavily reliant on AI-based execution, where he delivers personalised bulletins to his viewers. He, along with his team of 50-60 people, is creating more than 150 videos a day and pushing it via their app based on intricate data-based planning.

Another stark similarity between their modes of working is their association with technology partners and third-party apps. 

Chaubey tells us that he is in advanced-level talks with several OTT platforms and TV news channels to push his content. “I also have strategic partners with the biggest digital distributors including Business World, Daily Hunt and Twitter who host my programmes. Twitter, in fact, has white-labelled my content, which means my videos do not appear as links but are hosted directly on its platform.” 

Pachauri highlights, “GoNews has had inquiries from top media conglomerates for collaborations, partnerships and investments but we have been waiting for the right time and scale to find a partner. Even now, we are in talks with investors who see potential in digital media news.” 

Chandra is also working in close collaboration with Hindustan Times and Airtel to push his content. He is also providing news via Alexa. 

When it comes to technology, all of them have invested in high-end shooting and editing suites and swear by their MacBooks for facilitating ease of working. While Chandra has curated technologies to create personalised AI-based newscasts, he has put money in professional editing suites for ease and accuracy of work. 

Pachauri shares, “GoNews has been successfully able to converge satellite TV technology with digital technology as our product can be uplinked on any satellite channel digitally for broadcast. We have tried and tested this technology during the last general elections with APN news for its prime time broadcast. The entire GoNews office uses Apple’s Mac as we found it to be very good for video production. We use Final Cut Pro and Adobe professional series for fast video turnarounds and use Wirecast for live-streaming every day to our app and website.” 

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