One never knows what is happening in the world of journalism. Fantastic changes are taking place one is not even aware of. The Columbia Journalsim Review (May-June 2008) has a fantastic story to tell about how Indian professionals are designing and producing advertisements for more than one hundred American publications, sitting in their offices in India! There is, for example, an Indian ?back-office? company called Express KCS situated in Gurgaon and New Delhi. Its job is to design and produce advertisements for American newspapers. Work orders for hundreds of advertisements pop up in this company'ssystem each day and Indian teams finish each job within a matter of hours.
The Review says: ?Two huge diesel generators and three Internet service providers ensure that the Gurgaon office is connected to its U.S. clients round the clock and excellent service is provided in record time. It seems that as newspapers across the United States are slashing budgets and having off staff, more and more are outsourcing jobs in their advertising and circulation departments to India. According to the Review, Express KCS had no more than twenty employees working in Gurgaon. By late January 2008 that figure rose to two hundred, most of them single men in their twenties earning between $400 to $1,000 p.m. By the end of 2008 it is expected that the company will be employing between 500 to 600 workers, all of them handling work outsourced to them from American newspapers. But that is only the beginning.
The Columbia Journalsim Review says that soon staffers at Express KCS will be subbing copy for American newspapers and doing other editorial work! In other words, a young Indian will be writing reports of what happened somewhere in America using an American news web site. To readers here, all this will sound strange and unbelievable but what is significant is the trust American newspapers have in the capabilities of Indian journalists. At the same time, it would seem, American journalism is losing its reporters. Why? Because the efforts these days are not to gather news first hand but to ?package and re-purpose material?. To say the least, it is sickening. May be the time may come when an Indian sitting in the spacious Express KCS office (25,000 sq ft) will write editorials for American newspapers. Why not? Editors in India are available. But there are other things happening in American journalism.
For many years the well-known San Francisco Chronicle used to devote its second page for cheap stuff like championship eaters, celebrities and such like just as our newspapers have gone bonkers on page 3. Now it seems, the paper'sexecutive editor has put an end to the page 2 stuff saying that ?page 2, 3 and 4 should be carrying the most important stories of the world and nation?. And readers are applauding this change.
Here is a lesson to some of our papers here in India. What is surprising about the print media in India is the unbelievable increase in the number of newspapers getting published. Once upon a time it was believed that with the dawn of television, the print media will soon be dead. Nothing of the kind has happened. On the contrary more and more newspapers are getting published. According to the Registrar of Newspapers there are in India 2,130 daily newspapers with a combined circulation of 8.89 crore copies for 2005-2006, an increase of more than 13 per cent compared to the figures for 2000. Actually, as on March 31, 2006 their were 62,483 registered newspapers, including magazines on RNI records, against 20,413 in the corresponding period in 2005. It is unbelievable. Television and radio broadcasting has done no harm to the print media to the point that corporate houses have begun to take interest in newspapers, especially in regional language newspapers which have now apparently started making money!
Says Vinai Chhajlani, Chief Executive officer of Nayi Duniya: ?After the initial infatuation shown by readers towards English, readers have come back to their native languages. These are the people who define modern India. They may have high degrees and can fluently read, write and converse in English, but they still want to read news in their native languages. This is what is going to define the path of regional language publication?.
Take Malayala Manorama, the Malyalam newspaper published from Kottayam in Kerala. Its current circulation is more than 1.7 million. But newspaper bosses are not sure whether this trend will last. Tariqu Ansari, Managing Director of Mid-day Multimedia in an interview to Pitch (May 2008) says that dailies must move beyond the newsprint to build the future. According to him ?digital media is the new distribution reality in the West and as penetration of broadband access grows it will be the case in India as well?.
All this may sound Greek to the average newspaper reader, but this is the new media language. Meanwhile newsprint costs are rising and presently newsprint cost is reaching $1,000 (or roughly Rs 48,000) a ton, driving newspapers to shorten their size. Afternoon Courier & Despatch is a good example. If Vijay Darda, MD and editor of the Lokmat Group is to be believed, small format newspapers are here to stay. The Lokmat chief should know. It was the first newspaper to have come out with four coloured printing in the country at a time when a lot of people had not even heard of it. But today colour is the spice of newspapers. Just pick up a copy for example, of Hindustan Times or Hitavada or, for that matter almost any daily. Colour is the in-thing.
Another development, not always noticed is the expansion of newspaper ?footprints? into smaller towns and cities to cater to new markets and meet the information needs of local people. Nayi Duniya has entered Jabalpur; Financial Express has made an entry into Lucknow and Pune. In 2007, the Bhaskar Group set up seven new editions. Vaartha brings out Chennai and Bangalore editions.
For Indian newspapers the sky is the limit. Even Mint, associated with the Wall Street Journal has expanded its reach to Bangalore. The world is shrinking. And India must be having the highest newspaper readership in the world. Is this the India we knew way back in 1947? Newspapers, by and large, reflect the society in which they are produced and in India we are currently having a society that is changing with leaps and bounds. The world is watching it with bated breath.