The second edition of Medianews4u’s Leaderspeak in Bengaluru witnessed news maestro, media veteran and industry thought leader Avinash Kaul, Chief Executive Officer – Network18 & Managing Director A+E Networks, TV18 talk about how the Indian news industry has evolved and the Four Ps that a news brand should stand for.
Read on and watch him speak too.
Setting the context Kaul said, “I wanted to also set a context that this is the only about 24 hour news. It’s to know where we are, I believe, if we take a step back and look at the journey from it all started. We’re talking about brands, and the relevance of the brands, and how do you expect loyalty, if at all it exists and how do you make sure that you’re consistent across all the things that are happening in the world around us.”
“If I were to look at 24 hour news channels, the ones that come to my mind are CNN, BBC and our own home grown Doordarshan. If you trace back the origins, CNN launched about 39 – 40 years ago and it didn’t see much light of the action globally till about 1991, when the gulf war happened. By all such parameters, it will never stand in comparison to the legacy of a 140 years and plus of what we have seen in the print medium. So that’s essential to have a context.”
Speaking on how the broadcast news industry evolved in India, Kaul said, “There are more than 200 news channels, 24 hour news channels operating in India and there aren’t enough journalism schools in India that can produce those many journalists that could actually do a fine job of what 200 channels demand. In 2011, 90 plus 24 hour news channels were launched in India, and I’m only talking about the channels, which exists today. Many were shut down. Since then, in the last nine years, around 60 more channels have launched. We saw more and more languages gaining popularity, and the growth of satellite penetration in India. You’re uncovering new audiences and their preferences. Earlier, it was just good enough to do the world this week, once a week which was purely international content. You moved on from international content when you realized that there was a market and there were an X number of cable and satellite homes in India, you decided that you will launch 24 hour news channel in India. The last thing that comes to the mind is basically how to make sure that your brand is permeating and can stand the rough measure of what is to come next. Because you are forever defending your turf against the latest competition that emerged from somewhere that you never were looking towards. I remember the days when the cable and satellite TV households were about 32 to 33 million. It’s leapfrog from them to about 298 million households now. Every time a new audience has got added, a new dimension has been thrown in, and editors and programmers have to rework whatever they had learned to cater to the new audience.”
Talking about the Four P’s of what a news brand needs to do, Kaul said, “It all comes back to you know what typically used to be known as the four Ps of Marketing, I would call it the four P’s of what a brand needs to stand for. These are by no means solutions, just thought starters…”
Sharing his views on news product offering Kaul said, “ When you morph a product which in this case is your content into various small formats, 30 seconds vs 60 seconds vs a two hour debate, vs digital content… what matter is your editorial policy, what does it stand for? What is your orientation? What will you not compromise with? When you see News18 brand, and any editorial piece or any marketing communication, a 30 second news clip, or it’s a two hour debate, whether it is in Tamil or in English… How do you make sure that stays consistent? Is the key having the product or the DNA in place? That’s the first and most important thing that we need to make sure…”
How process becomes his second P, Kaul said, “The second P is the process consistency. Now what is the process here mean? Process here involves basically, that there is a news gathering mechanism. There’s an editorialization process which looks at every news verification processes, and after all the checks and balances after it’s a verified it’s put out. Now any attempts to short circuit this will lead to trouble, because the entire editorial values will fall apart. There are no shortcuts, you cannot editorialize good quality content news by cutting down the value chain, it’s very important that the news gatherers maintain their integrity. The journalism schools continue to produce great talent, the economics of this business enables youngsters to go to these journalism schools, because there will be jobs in the sector for a long period of time. So it’s the entire value chain, which will make good quality talent people coming in, and then getting nurtured in the industry.”
What does people consistency mean?
Kaul said, “It’s a challenge when you’re available in multiple languages when you’re spread across the entire state to get because news is a people’s business. We have 6000 people in our network with the more than 700 reporters on the field, which are directly employed by us. We also have the standard networks which makes it to more than 2000 reporters eventually and each one has a different understanding of what the product means on what the team stands for or what the brand News18 stands for. It needs that much longer time with us, it means that much amount of investment in training, which unfortunately in this mad rush of launching more and more news channels, somewhere gets compromised. In the news room mad rush there really isn’t much time and attention given to people to develop the talent pool by reskilling them. What are the efforts that we are making to reskill our own people? Because what they have gathered over the years is an understanding of the news and understand the editorial integrity. That according to me is invaluable. Have we made the effort to make sure that they are able to pick up more and more things reskills retool them, and that’s the need of the hour.”
On the fourth P which is platform consistencyKaul sad, “Platform consistency means that for a long time we have been calling ourselves channels, the reality is that channel is a linear way of the business which is being carried on by a coaxial cable to start with, which moved to digital cable and now perhaps going to move to IPTV and is also seen on OTT platforms as live offerings.It has manifested itself in different avatars on different factors. So what are we finally? In the truth sense, we are News brands, we will be consumed on different formsby different factors in different regions at different times of the day, by different genders, different demographics, and with a different understanding of the same subject matter. When a 12 year old kid sees it versus a 45 year old man sees it. We have to make sure that the consistency across the platform stays. So even if you were to compress our debate into a smaller 62nd tighter setting for social media, the course needs to remain the same enhance the platform flexibility and the consistency is something that we have to be very, very careful about.”
Watch the video here: