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SEP 25, 2013 #014

The paid news scandal and the print industry’s abysmally sanguine reaction to it are not good portents for both the business and the ethical health of the industry Vanita Kohli Khandekar Journalist & Author

Parle Agro gets new fizz with Café Cuba “Café Cuba is a revolution by Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd.  It is India’s first and only carbonated coffee rush,” says the website, www.cafecuba.in. Why Café Cuba? “When I think of a coffee, I think of a so very many beautiful thing. Music, book, art, movie and la great conversation. It is a biggest inspiration for everybody. One day, it give a inspiration to me. I think, maybe I can bring revolution to coffee, say Thank You from my heart. So I let my heart be my guide and mix a fizz and a love with a coffee! It become the refreshing and delicious new rush and I give it the very special name. Café Cuba,” we are informed. This is a big launch, but no highdecibel advertising – yet. Prakash Chauhan, chairman and managing director, Parle Agro, tells us that the big bang will be as the big season approaches: next summer. Why is it a big launch? Because this is the

first big carbonated beverage from Parle Agro and it seems that it is one that Chauhan has been waiting for. (Appy Fizz is carbonated – but not seen as a big player). This is from the company that gave us Thums Up in 1977 to occupy the space vacated by Coca Cola when they were hounded out by the Janata Party government. Thums Up more than met the expectations of the consumer, even as Campa Cola competed fiercely for marketshare (the government offering, Double Seven, was a disaster). Later, when Coke came back to India after the opening of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, and Pepsi came to India for the first time, Chauhan was all but cornered into selling out his cherished brands to Coca Cola – and into signing a 10 year non-compete agreement. It’s much more than ten years since the agreement was signed, but Chauhan waited till he had, as far

as he was concerned, a Rs.1000 crore brand. Café Cuba, in his opinion, is the Rs. 1000 crore brand that he was waiting for. Chauhan said in his press release, “We are excited to be creating a completely new category for the CSD segment and are proud to be the leaders when it comes to innovations and trends in this segment. Having been in the industry for nearly 30 years, Parle Agro has always believed in refreshing India with innovative products and refreshing the market with new categories. Throughout our journey, we have catered to the Indian consumer, offering innovative products with our deep rooted understanding of their preferences. The launch of Café Cuba is an extension of this belief. We have spent a great amount of time and effort in creating a product that India truly wants and we feel this is the best time for us to enter the market. Café Cuba is the dream project of Parle Agro and we are thrilled to offer it to our consumers.” What makes this launch one that we will follow closely is this statement: “Presently, the company has a turnover of INR 2,000 crore. With their reentry into the carbonated soft-drink (CSD) segment and the launch of Café Cuba, they aim to more than double that figure. The company is targeting the INR 5000 crore mark, and aims to further consolidate its position in the market. The marketing campaign investments of INR 50 crore have been

Click on the image above to watch Parle Agro’s next big idea: Café Cuba, a carbonated coffee drink

deployed for a host of media vehicles to ensure an impactful 360 degree buzz.” So Parle Agro sees this one, new brand as the driver that more than doubles the turnover of the company in a short three-year period (Chauhan mentioned the target year for reaching Rs. 5000 crore as 2015 at a press conference that he addressed yesterday). What makes this launch even more interesting is the choice of the category

Ajit Varghese to take on a new role at Maxus as the CEO for Asia Pacific region GroupM has promoted Ajit Varghese, MD Maxus South Asia to the role of CEO Maxus Asia Pacific. In his new role, which comes into effect on January 1, 2014, Varghese will oversee Maxus operations in all Asia Pacific countries Varghese takes over the role from Neil Stewart, who is being promoted to the new position of chief client officer, Maxus Global. Varghese will work closely with Stewart during

Ajit Varghese, CEO, Maxus Asia Pacific

a six-month transition period. In his new role, Varghese will relocate to Singapore and will report into Mark Patterson, CEO, GroupM Asia Pacific and Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, Maxus Global. Over the last seven years, Varghese has been responsible for scaling up Maxus in India and South Asia. Under his leadership, Maxus now has the best record in the industry in terms of new business wins and client retentions. It is the only media agency in India to be ranked ‘dominant’ for three years in a row by RECMA for its outstanding overall performance. Led by Varghese, Maxus has also dominated the industry award scene in India and South Asia, winning at Cannes, FOMA, Emvies, Goafest and recently retaining the Mobile Marketing Agency for the second year running at MMA. CVL Srinivas, CEO GroupM South Asia, said: “Ajit has been an outstanding leader for Maxus and a great ambassador for GroupM.

He combines intellect with a passion for delivering the best value for his clients. He has helped create a very unique culture at Maxus and truly embodies the Maxus spirit. All of us at GroupM are very proud of his achievements and wish him the very best in his new role”. Vikram Sakhuja, CEO Maxus Global, said: “Ajit has displayed exceptional leadership to make Maxus one of India’s best and biggest agencies. With this promotion, I am very excited that Ajit will now lead Maxus APAC. I have no doubt that with his brand of entrepreneurial leadership, Maxus APAC will scale new heights. “ Ajit Varghese said: “The last seven years at Maxus has been an exciting journey. We have worked hard to develop our value proposition, building a Maxus spirit and culture that will help sustain and propel our business in the coming years. I’m now looking forward to learning and contributing more to Maxus and GroupM across the region and am sure the journey will be as exciting and fruitful in the coming years. India obviously continues to be part of my scope and will remain close to my heart.”

Any goals or changes you wish to drive in the media agency business? Ajit As far as the industry is concerned, I think we are the most untold story that we have. And the amount of good work, across the countries, we don’t share it enough. I think that’s probably something I will focus on. You know, telling our good work and our stories, again and again.

Storyboard’s Animesh Das interviewed Ajit Varghese about what the future holds In your new role, describe the three areas that you will spend the most time on. Ajit First and foremost, will be the ability to build a Maxus culture of winning more trust from our clients across the region. Fine tune the ability to deliver ten-out-of-ten to our clients in terms of product, as well as the ability to head this entire 360 degree implementation of multiple services for our client. I think more importantly, in the role that I’m going in to, I think there is lot of investment that I need to make in the people front. The ability to connect with people, get their passion going, the ability to help them collaborate and get the best out of them.  

What are the biggest challenges that lie before a marketer today? Ajit I’d put it in two buckets. One is this whole challenge of change, and more importantly, the pace of change that the whole world is going through. So, whether it is on the consumer side, whether it is on the media side, and also the product lifecycle stage. That’s one challenge the marketers are grappling with. The other challenge marketers are facing is using data, creativity, and effectiveness. The ROI challenge. So, how do you balance the whole? So, at one end being rational, and at the other end, as creative in execution because people are bored with the same, and you need to keep innovating. And third bit is, how do I get all these measured to see what is more effective?

And what about media trends? Ajit I think Maxus, or even, I’m personally convinced about digital and technology. At one area, you know, we are calling digital separate from traditional media. I think this has to go. I think digital has to get merged in everything that we do. So digital increasingly is going to get in to the core. I’m going to focus that into the culture of Maxus. At the other end is technology. I think technology at one end is slightly far-off and bit confusing. At the other end, it’s a highly adaptable medium for bringing brands and consumers to the closest to each other. So if technology and digital can play an integral role in what we do, I think we’ll look at it as something significant has been achieved.

#24india /colorstv www.colors.in.com/24

– one that overtly (and in the choice of name) acknowledges that it contains caffeine. In the breadth of non-alcoholic drinks, if water is the ‘safest’ and the one that parents would want their children to have more of, colas are the least safe – and yet the ones that command the greatest market share. It’s not easy; the colas are sold on the back of aggressive, expensive marketing campaigns.

Café Cuba’s product formulation takes the drink as close to the colas as possible – without being a cola itself. This means that Café Cuba will see a high-decibel mass media marketing campaign as well. So next summer, we’re going to see more than just a Pepsi Vs Coke Vs Thums Up war – Café Cuba will join the fray. So tighten your seat-belts. Get ready for some excitement. At the very least, we’ll see some great advertising wars.


2 Anant Rangaswami

SEP 25, 2013 #014

issues of the day Humility bigger than creativity in India In February this year, afaqs interviewed Sam Ahmed, vicechairman and chief creative officer of Rediffusion Y&R. In the interview, at stood out was the following: “Q: What was Diwan Arun Nanda's 'brief' to you when you came in? He really wants to bring the glory back. Rediffusion is perceived as a 'has been' agency. He wants the agency to be recognised as a creative force. The brief was: "Can we make it to the top five?" I replied, "I don't do top five. I only know how to be No. 1." Everyone's always asking about the recent past during which people have quit and we've lost accounts but that's just 10 per cent of the time this agency's been around. I don't believe Rediffusion hasn't done well in the recent past; it has just taken a step backwards to re-evaluate the future. Q: So, what does being No. 1 mean? Awards? Pitch success? Or, simply more revenue? No. 1 means being the sexiest agency in town. It means being the coolest shop in town, whatever your measure of that is. I'm no banker but I have a plan to make this agency richer by doing great work. And that will make this the fifth agency I'll be turning around, so I know what I'm talking about. I've done it with Y&R Dubai (twice), Wunderman and Intermarkets (now part of MENACOM, a WPP group). By the end of this year, Rediffusion will be the George

Clooney of Indian advertising.” By mid-September, Sam Ahmed had resigned from Rediffusion Y&R. The agency is still a ‘has been’ agency. It is nowhere near the top 5. It has taken another step backward. Ahmed hasn’t come close to maintaining the agency at the level he found it, let alone turned it around. And, as far as George Clooney-fication of the agency is concerned, the less said about it the better. Ahmed just didn’t get India and Indian advertising. His bombastic statements made in interviews as soon as he took charge (I didn’t interview him) underlined how little he understood India. When news came in that he had quit (ostensibly to ‘get back to film directing’) I wasn’t surprised. And then I wondered why I wasn’t surprised. What was it about him that made me instinctively believe that he wouldn’t be able to hack it in the world of Indian advertising? It was his arrogant and ego-centric, over the top statements. Which, on reflection, I figured out is completely missing in the most successful advertising professionals in India. The big names that come immediately to mind: Piyush Pandey, R Balki, Josy Paul, Agnello Dias, KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, Bobby Pawar, KS ‘Chax’ Chakraborty, Arun Iyer, Abhijit Awashti, Rajiv Rao, Senthil Kumar, Ajay Gahlaut, Satbir Singh, V Sunil, Kartik Iyer, Raj Kamble,

Swati Bhattacharya and Tista Sen all project a humility that is impossible to miss. They are all approachable to the youngest in the profession, rarely badmouth their peers, recognize excellence by their competitors and are respectful to their seniors – just the opposite of what Ahmed projected. And these are values and behaviour important to the business in India. It’s not just the peers who see these virtues positively – it’s also the brand managers, marketing managers and CEOs who appreciate them. Humility is important for business in India. The reverse, flash and arrogance, doesn’t work. During my years as a salesman, there are numerous occasions when I’ve told a younger colleague not to wear an expensive Mont Blanc pen or sport an Omega or a Rolex at client meetings, to avoid wine or an expensive Scotch or single malt when your client is drinking Old Monk. The need for humility extends to the way you greet anyone in your own company or your client’s office as well. The watchman or security guard, the receptionist, the office boy, the secretary, the canteen assistant – even that irritating kid who thinks he knows more about your business than you do. This is what Sam Ahmed didn’t get. Sam Ahmed may get advertising. But he doesn’t get India.

Freewheeling about the customer in the flesh and online

JP Rangaswami

Have you ever been put off shopping by an over-zealous assistant? If you have, then have you considered how you feel when that over-zealous assistant is not flesh-andbone but instead only in digital form? Some people find the analogue version an irritant; yet others groan at the digital equivalent. And so that brings me to Customer Rule #1: Don’t hassle me while I’m just looking; not unless I ask you for help. This does not mean that store assistants are unwanted. In fact they provide a really worthwhile function, as long as they know useful stuff about the store: where you go to find stuff; where you can try stuff, test stuff, compare stuff; how you buy; how you pay; how you take delivery; anything and everything. But only when you want it. I think of store assistants as analogue equivalents of search boxes, and often nicer to deal with. But I wouldn’t want the search engine in my face except at my behest. And this brings me to Customer Rule #2:When I ask for help, please make sure you’re in a position to help. Especially if you’re a search box. Too often I visit the search function of a site and it can’t find zip. Even though what I’m looking for is on the site. If you’re in the business of selling stuff, then people who come and browse till the

cows come home and never buy anything can be the bane of your life. And so there are a bunch of ways you can get your own back on the customer. You can leave fragile things in easy-to-knock-into places, under a big sign that says if you break it you pay for it. You can seal things so that they’re hard to inspect. You can place them “behind glass”. You can even try and get people to pay for browsing, with a “just looking” fee. These are all excellent techniques to use … if your goal is to frustrate the customer. We’ve all felt this pain in the real world: the harder you make it for me to find something, to get to something, the less likely it is that I’ll buy something. And so we have Customer Rule #3: Make sure there is a good reason for putting your products and services “behind glass”. It’s not just the products and services that get put behind glass. Sometimes it’s the doors and entryways. Businesses love their customers so much that they put them through some sort of benighted IQ test before they can buy stuff. Want to enter our site? Prove you’re not a machine. [Alan Turing would have found that interesting, the idea of a human having to prove he's human via a test]. I love the way  Randall Munroe makes that point in his excellent xkcd webcomic:

Think about this: how many telephone numbers do you remember “by heart” right now? And how many did you know twenty years ago? We used to have to memorise lots of numbers at one time; now we don’t have to any more. When we want someone’s number, we look up the person’s name. Nothing complicated about it. And, most of the time, we don’t even need to see that number, we just click and away we go. That’s what we started doing when mobile devices started getting smarter. So the next time you ask a customer to remember twelve or sixteen digits as a prerequisite for her doing business with you, think about what you’re doing. Why not ask them to recite pi to 16 digits before she is “allowed” to buy something from you, or, heaven forfend, try and pay a bill… try and pay  you  some money? Which leads me to  Customer Rule #4: Try not asking customers to memorise stuff about you; instead, try to remember stuff about them. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve walked in to a shop, both online as well as off-, only to be put off by all the stuff I have to do before I can actually buy something. Most of the time I’ve had one reaction. A predictable reaction. I’ve just walked away and found somewhere else to go about my business. Registration should

be something lightweight and simple.Time for Customer Rule #5: If you make it hard for customers to do business with you, don’t be surprised if they fail in the attempt. People have done business with each other for centuries, even millennia. They buy from each other, they sell to each other. They do so principally because they trust each other, because they’ve bothered to invest in a relationship between each other, because they have some understanding and some respect for each other. Over those millennia, they’ve evolved ways of doing this simply and effectively. For some reason, we seem to think we can treat people differently in digital space. Maybe we can. Maybe for some people it doesn’t matter. For me it matters. I want people to make it simple and convenient for me to do business with them. And if they don’t, I will find people who do. How about you? Do you agree with what I’ve said? Does it match with your experience and expectation? Let me know. Your comments will determine whether I write a followup post on queueing time and baskets and trolleys and payment and delivery and all that... or not, as the case may be. JP Rangaswami blogs at www.confusedofcalcutta.com

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Customer Rules #1: Don’t hassle me while I’m just looking; not unless I ask you for help. #2:When I ask for help, please make sure you’re in a position to help. Especially if you are a search box. #3: Make sure there is a good reason for putting your products and services “behind glass”. 3

#4: Try not asking customers to memorise stuff about you; instead, try to remember stuff about them. #5: If you make it hard for customers to do business with you, don’t be surprised if they fail in the attempt.


3 vanita kohli khandekar SEP 25, 2013 #014

the exclusive sneak preview

journalist & author

Vanita Kohli Khandekar is a media specialist and writer. She has been tracking the Indian media and entertainment business for a decade. She currently writes for Business Standard and Mid-Day. Her earlier stints include ones at Businessworld and EY. A Cambridge University fellow, Vanita teaches at some of the top communication schools in India.

It is quite tiring to attend any forum to do with the print media these days. The talk always turns to the ‘death of print, growth of online,’ ‘the rise of social media,’ ‘smartphone and tablet penetration,’ and so on and so forth. None of these are wrong. But there are other facts that are more important. Fact one, the growth trajectory for print and online in the emerging world is completely different from that in the declining markets of the US and parts of Europe. Print in India, China and Brazil, among dozens of other countries, is growing and will continue to grow along with online and other media. At over 110 million copies sold every day, India is the second largest newspaper market in the world. It is also one of a handful of markets that is growing in double digits. Of the top 100 paid-for dailies in the world, 19 are from India, second only to China which has 25. Newspapers reach just over 38 per cent of Indians according to Hansa Research and the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) that it does. On the back of growth and rising revenues, some of the top newspaper groups in India have operating margins upwards of 25 per cent—a figure that American newspapers achieved at their peak (down now to 10 odd per cent). Aided by rising literacy in India, total revenue in print is slated to grow at a CAGR of 8.7 per cent between 2012 and 2017. It stood at over `224 billion in 2012. Even as new advertisers come into the fray, older ones have been increasing the money they spend plus the volumes of space they buy in print. Fact two, the newspaper industry is one of the most profitable and stable parts of the media business in India. Ever since India opened up foreign direct investment (FDI) in print media—and particularly in the last five years— scores of print publications, largely magazines, have been launched in the country. From 2010 to 2012, the Indian media business has attracted private equity and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) investment of over a billion dollars. Large bits of this have come to print. This has resulted in a lot of action. The last few years have seen dozens of new editions and brands being launched. There is Ei Samay, a Bengali tabloid from the Times Group, and Ebela from ABP Limited, the incumbent in West Bengal. Fortune India and Forbes India launched their India editions; many of the Hindi papers went to Jharkhand and expanded into other languages. Jagran for instance, bought the Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day in 2010.The Hindi newspaper market is, in fact, going through its most competitive and exciting phase. Are we getting unduly influenced by the despair hitting the newspaper business across the developed world? Possibly. Almost every week, there are reports of dropping circulation and revenues as well as staff cuts at some newspaper or the other in the UK, Europe or the US. For example, the total revenues for newspapers in the US shrank from US$ 60 billion in 2005 to US$ 33.8 billion in 2011 on the back of falling circulation. The thought in everybody’s mind, therefore, is: Is this a foretaste of the future in India? Not yet, says almost every analyst and report. ‘While publications in economies like Brazil and Chile are not suffering from the immediate loss of advertising and readership experienced by many Western newspapers, and hold a generally optimistic view for the future of print, they can see their audiences moving online. News markets in Asia, Africa and South America may not have matured fully yet, but they should expect to be faced with similar challenges in the next 10 to 20 years’, says one global report. There are two reasons for this. One is the sheer headroom for growth given that penetration is so low. The other is that newspapers in India are delivered at home. In the US or UK, a bulk of newspaper sales come from newsstands. So there is volition involved. Till the home-delivery model works economically, it will be difficult to dislodge dailies from the family’s media basket. There are, however, several signs that online could hit the English paper market soon. Going by IRS data, in the six years ending 2011, while the circulation of English newspapers has gone up by over 70 percent, readership has crawled by just 2 per cent. In the same period, the time spent on English newspaper has dropped by 6.5 per cent. The English papers then should have been the biggest investors online. Yet, for an industry that is frothing at the mouth about digital, the Indian print business has done little to deal with it. Because the core business is so profitable and large, the enormity of what the net could do has not hit them. Most pay lip service to building the digital side of their businesses but very little serious investing has happened. This is dangerous. Indian publishers can see what is happening in, say, the US or Europe. They have the luxury of time. So they could be doing much more than just putting up their newspaper or magazine online. Much of this ineptness online has to do with the mindset more than anything else. The other key challenges are those of a growing business. For instance, there is the issue of building scale. In spite of the huge amounts of cash they generate, newspaper companies have not been able to meet investor expectations on returns because scale has remained elusive. India is a hugely fragmented print market.

The best way of becoming a large-sized company is to buy out smaller rivals in cities or languages where you do not have a presence. However, Indian newspaper publishers have had very little luck with that. This is because small papers with monopolies in a few cities or a district hate the idea of giving up control over their fiefdoms. Besides the trouble with a maturing English paper market or the challenges of scale, there is a more important issue that publishers face: the corruption of content and the erosion of the currencies in the business as you will read in the following section. The paid news scandal and the print industry’s abysmally sanguine reaction to it are not good portents for both the business and the ethical health of the industry. It is also the sort of thing that gives government a convenient stick to beat print companies with. There are two main issues the business faces. These are structural and, therefore, difficult to tackle, but if the industry gets around to doing that, it could help increase both revenues and credibility for the medium. To understand the problems of the Indian print industry just try reading up on the American or European publishing businesses. The amount of research put out by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, the Magazine Advertising Bureau, among others, in the US is amazing. Remember that these are markets in decline. But they clearly spend large amounts of money and time in trying to convince advertisers that the medium works. Most of the research, done by professional research agencies, seeks to compare newspapers or magazines with other media on every parameter possible — reach, audience composition, efficacy, time spent and so on. In the last few years, the NAA has launched aggressive initiatives to help newspaper owners, especially small local brands, with the Internet. Then there are reports, such as the Digital Edge Report, that provide a sensible stepby-step guide to building and sustaining readership.

These reports, available online for free, are wonderful sources of information on the texture of the market and its extreme competitiveness. When you read them, you realise how little the Indian newspaper, magazine or even the TV business does as an industry, to either protect its interests with advertisers or lobby with the general public or government. In fact, a bulk of the research that my assistant did only came up with examples from how print could, should or is dealing with online. That is the first big issue that the Indian print industry needs to deal with—its ability to act as one on a variety of issues: robust metrics, standardised tools for buying and selling, lobbying for regulatory changes and a gentleman’s agreement on content. Take metrics, for instance. The two currencies of readership and circulation have been increasingly under fire from the very people who should be ensuring their good health. It is normal for publishers to jump in and out of circulation audits depending on whether it suits them to show their numbers. In other years, they sue, question or generally harangue both the bodies that monitor circulation and readership even as they twist the rules themselves. It is routine for newspaper publishers to despatch suburban editions from a metro if they want to show increased circulation for a metro edition. Some have even been known to try bribing surveyors of readership data. This even as the bodies that monitor the metrics are run by publishers in association with advertisers and media buyers. There are, to be fair, issues at the research end too. ‘Since most research agencies come from markets where newspaper circulation is declining, they have very little incentive to invest in newspaper research and measurement and make it more real-time,’ says Guha. That may be true, but the onus of demanding more intensive and authentic research rests with publishers, because they stand to gain the most from it. As the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) along with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) rethinks the way readership is measured and analysed this is changing

(see section on metrics). The second is its ability—or not—to keep the forces of corruption of content at bay. This sensitive issue essentially stems from its extreme dependence on advertising revenues as mentioned earlier. Compromise could take one of several forms. The standard form. This is usually advertising intrusions into editorial space or the pure selling out of editorial for ads. Many advertisers talk openly about what they pay to get their company featured in a newspaper or magazine. Most usually expect ‘editorial support’ from the media they advertise in. It is routine for large, profitable media companies to offer such support, so smaller ones get pressured too. None of this was institutionalised or widespread till the paid news scandal. It was discovered that editorial pieces were paid for by politicians—who either wanted positive coverage on themselves or negative coverage on their rivals during the Lok Sabha elections from April to May 2009. In July 2009, the Press Council of India (PCI) put together a two-member subcommittee comprising of independent journalist and educator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K. Sreenivas Reddy of the Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ). It has anecdotal evidence from dozens of politicians including MPs, independents and former ministers cutting across party lines on their experiences with media organisations during the elections. Many are on record on rates, dates and publications that asked for money to cover a candidate or a party. It also has depositions or representations from media firms such as Dainik Jagran, Punjab Kesari, Hindustan, Eenadu and Sakshi among others. All of them deny any wrongdoing. The report had no clinching evidence against any publication. A bulk of the transactions was in cash and there were no officially printed rate cards for the packages allegedly sold by most publications. Most potential buyers were approached with a sheet of paper that had some options with the rate on it. Almost all the evidence came from the complainants and the pieces published for or against a candidate. The most significant among the draft report’s recommendations is an amendment to Section 123 of the Representation of People Act 1951. The section lists bribery, undue influence, and appeal on the ground of religion and caste, among other things as corrupt practices. The report suggests making the practice of paying for news coverage in newspapers and television channels an ‘electoral malpractice’ or an act of corruption and a punishable offence. The only reaction to this report has come from the Election Commission of India. It has sought to crack down on the ‘paid news market’. It reckons that paid news is means for candidates to overshoot on the ceiling for campaign expenses. The implications are obvious. As readers or viewers, the way we think, live, work and the choices we make are influenced greatly by our media consumption. If readers stop trusting a brand, they will stop using it, advertisers would leave, rates would fall and, eventually, so would valuation. That is the theory. In practice, it would seem that selling editorial is based on the fact that readers do not know and even if they did, they do not seem to adequately care. Media managers argue that a newspaper is just like shampoo or a packet of noodles, so editorial is fair game. Take that analogy further. Would Nestle deliberately put spurious stuff in its noodles or soups to cut costs and increase profits? I do not think so. Media companies manufacture content; the rest of it is packaging and marketing. If the content is good, the business usually does well. The non-standard forms. Another via media that several media companies have hit upon is private treaties. In 2005, BCCL started buying anywhere between 5–15 per cent stakes in small to medium scale companies, such as Celebrity Fashions or Today’s Writing Products. The idea is to ‘invest’ in firms that need mass media to build their brands but cannot afford it. In exchange for the stake, BCCL offers a fixed amount of advertising space in its brands, TOI or The Economic Times among several others. When these companies raise money through an IPO, BCCL sells its stake. That is when it makes its money. In many cases, it barters not equity, but real estate or high value goods such as cars for media space. At last count, BCCL had ‘invested’ in 175 companies. This has since, become a favourite way for many media companies, not just in print, to attract advertisers. In a way, BCCL is getting in an entirely new category of advertisers—small and medium companies—that would have baulked at spending in the top media brands. However, to my mind, there is an inherent conflict of interest in private treaties, whichever the media company. In a private treaty situation, a media company’s ability to make money on its exit depends—among other things—on its ability to ensure that the stock does not get negative coverage. However strong the editorial ethics and policies at a newspaper company, the fact is the temptation to either talk up the good news about a private treaty client or ignore the bad news remains. Across the industry, a hot debate rages on about this issue. Many analysts will add a third problem to these issues, the dropping time spent on reading and the Internet eating away at print revenues. According to IRS data, the daily time spent reading print fell from 32 minutes in 2000 to 28 minutes in 2012 even as the number of readers grew from 232 million to 351 million. So, more Indians are reading, albeit for less time. However, this has to be juxtaposed against the time spent on other media. Given that all media in India is booming simultaneously, print has lost surprisingly less reader time.


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SEP 25, 2013 #014

the back of the book

Top Performing Airports on tv tracker Social Media

The What's-ON report is based on millions of observations seen across multiple platforms

Today's passenger friendly airports use social media to resuce the beleaguered traveler. Unmetric finds out which airport does it best. Going through multiple security points, hoping your luggage stays in one piece, constantly checking your front pocket to make sure you still have your passport with you, an over enthusiastic TSA agent, these are just few of the problems a traveler faces as they are herded from checkin to security, duty free to the

boarding gate. And that’s before you discover a delayed flight, a relocated gate, a security line that takes forever and figuring out how to get from the airport to your hotel. Many airports have realized that their role extends far beyond getting the person as efficiently as possible from arrival to the duty free, and passengers expect up to the

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minute information on flights, terminal information, disability access and a whole lot more. Coming to the rescue of the beleaguered traveler and passenger friendly airport? Social Media. Starting things off with the Facebook Unmetric score, we can see in the graph below that Changi Airport is tied with Frankfurt Airport for

the first place. Both the airports have been consistent with their scores since the beginning of the year. San Francisco International comes in second. The Unmetric Score is a useful way to get a snapshot on how brands are performing on a social network. It combines various metrics to create a single benchmarkable score.

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