Archive for September, 2010

When an advertisement becomes the news

22 September 2010

Both The Hindu and The Times of India have today run news items on the buzz created by the Volkswagen Vento “talking” advertisement that the two papers ran.

And both claim they were the “world’s first” newspaper to run the ad, without mentioning the other.

But, to its credit, The Times of India story also mentions the scare and confusion the ad caused. A maid thought there was a ghost in the morning paper. Elders panicked. And a panic call was made to the bomb squad in Bombay after a “beeping sound” was heard from a garbage bin where the paper had been thrown.

Also read: ‘Talking ads’ in The Hindu and The Times of India

Three reasons why the ToI-Volkswagen ad won’t work

3 reasons why ToI-Volkswagen ad doesn’t work

22 September 2010

Still unaware that the Volkswagen Vento ‘talking’ ad appeared first in The Hindu, Madras, and not The Times of India, and that it also appears in The Hindu Business Line, the adman turned columnist Anil Thakraney lists three reasons why the ad doesn’t work, in Money Life:

1) Getting instant attention cannot be the sole purpose of advertising… The idea must always be to get attention in an endearing way, and in a way that the route embellishes the brand’s core personality.

2) It’s a boring, non-stop chatter from a sleepy voice, that pretty much translates what the ad is already saying. Now if my newspaper has to play the role of a radio in my life (eeeeks!), the least it must do is to entertain me.

3) For a luxury sedan, isn’t The Times of India, a mass paper, a waste of the ad rupee? Wouldn’t this gimmick have been more suitable for, say, The Economic Times? Or one of those many auto mags?

Read the full article: Gaddi badnaam hui

Also read: ‘Talking’ ads in The Hindu and The Times of India

‘Talking’ ads in The Hindu and The Times of India

21 September 2010

Two leading Indian newspapers—The Hindu and The Times of India—have notched up a global first of sorts by carrying a “talking advertisement” two days in a row.

The pathbreaking ad, which first featured in the Madras edition of yesterday’s Hindu, now finds space in today’s ToI in its Bangalore, Bombay, Poona and Delhi markets.

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Today’s 36-page edition of ToI (Delhi market) is split into two sections: a 26-page news section, and a 10-page wraparound.

The opening page of the wraparound carries this announcement:

The Times of India and Volkswagen have created four pages of content as part of a special media innovation. Don’t miss reading and listening to this ‘speaking newspaper’.”

On the last page of the wraparound is a full-page Volkswagen ad for its new model Vento.

As the page is opened a light-sensitive speaker—yes, a light-sensitive speaker— weighing no more than a mere 10-15 grams and stuck on the extreme left panel in the advertisement (above), belts out the line in a loop:

“Best in class German engineering is here. The new Volkswagen Vento. Built with great care and highly innovative features. Perhaps that’s why it breaks the hearts of our engineers to watch it drive away.

“The new Volkswagen Vento.  Crafted with so much passion, it’s hard to let it go.

“Volkswagen. Das Auto.”

The same Volkswagen ad runs in other papers without the audio.

This is the second Volkswagen innovation in ToI after the German auto major “road-blocked” all advertisers in November 2009 by running 12 pages of  Volkswagen ads on its pages.

Talking advertisements have been done before. Even moving advertisements.  (Esquire magazine created a moving cover to mark its 75th anniversary in September 2008.)

However, this must be the first time daily newspapers of the size and reach of ToI and Hindu have done it at a time when American newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post are just about coming to terms with the reality of advertisements on the front page.

(This story which initially mentioned only ToI has been updated following tipoffs from alert readers, reflected in the first two comments)

Also read: Anything ToI does, the competition can do worse

Why Karan Thapar stopped haggling with God

19 September 2010

Karan Thapar has a well-cultivated image of a tough, snarling, bulldog of a interviewer a la Jeremy Paxman.

All the aggressive, relentless questioning and eyeball to eyeball gazing with the crooked and the wicked of the world might leave viewers wondering if the man has a heart at all.

But the Devil’s Advocate has a human side, too. The tragedy, really, of losing a wife when young.

In his Sunday Sentiments column in the Hindustan Times, Thapar, 55, writes of his relationship with God and how it changed with the death of Nisha.

“Right up till my 30s I would often strike a deal with God. When I wanted something so desperately I was prepared to sacrifice for it, I would enter into an agreement: ‘I’m going to give up X, Y and Z and, in return, I want you to do A for me.’

“The change that occurred after Nisha’s death was small, simple but significant.

“From not knowing if God existed and thus being sceptical I switched to not wanting to risk he might be there and thus offending him. My new position became ‘I don’t know for sure but I’m prepared to accept he does exist’.

“From caution — or fear, if you prefer — was this new belief born….

“It’s now over 20 years since Nisha’s death and, except once, I haven’t bargained with God or, rather, with any of the Gods on my list of prayer. That phase is over. I’m now a believer except there’s no single name of God I place my trust in. I believe in God with a capital G and that means all his manifestations and avatars.”

Read the full column: Oh my God!

Visit his blog: Sunday sentiments

Also read: Did Karan Thapar stand a chance with Benazir?

From the desk of Shri Quickgun Chidambaram

Separated at birth: Karan Thapar and Keith Olbermann

93 seconds to knock 93 years of a hero’s life

‘Repeating bullshit doesn’t make it wisdom’

Star News chief made to ‘sweep’ Kashmir street

16 September 2010

The renewed violence on the streets of Kashmir—against the presence of armed forces, the stifling of free movement and speech, the alienation of the State and the humiliation of the people—is not sparing journalists on the job, too.

Samar Halarnkar of the Hindustan Times reports in today’s paper that…

“A friend’s husband, the chief of bureau of a national television channel, was recently made to get out of his car and sweep the streets — this on a day there was no curfew.”

Elsewhere in the same paper, correspondent Taufiq Rashid writes in a New Delhi datelined story:

Asif Qureshi, bureau chief of Star News, was recently made to clear stones on the roadside by the CRPF. “All Kashmiris represent stone-pelters for securitymen,” he said. “They asked me to clear the road, telling me my brethren had thrown them.”

And to think that Star News belongs to the world’s biggest media baron, Rupert Murdoch.

Photograph: via Facebook

Does a free newspaper stand a chance in India?

15 September 2010

Per Mikael Jensen, president and CEO of Metro International, the Swedish company behind the world’s largest free newspaper Metro, on his India plans, in the latest issue of Forbes India:

# We’ve been looking at India for the last five years. It would have to be a joint venture or a franchise. FDI allows us to own 26% of the operation and we have increased our efforts towards exploring the opportunity through our India representative, Husain Quettawalla.

# In Latin America, we are in four countries. The two most recent launches in Mexico and Brazil have done extremely well and have become profitable in less than two years, which is very good performance. When we look at the Indian market, we see some similarities. We are not likely to need a giant market share to become profitable.

# Where we stand out is that we are so focussed on our target audience—the young urban audience between the ages of 20 and 40. When I look at Indian readership figures for Indian newspapers, like The Times of India for example, I’m not scared to death with their readership to be honest.

# The main time we target our audience is during the morning when they have 15 to 20 mintues to read our paper. This is when people are entering the metro trains or are waiting for the trains. We distribute at university campuses, high schools and waiting rooms at hospitals—everywhere people have 20 minutes they could use in reading the newspaper. But in India, given that our target audience doesn’t really travel by the trains, we won’t be focussing on the public transport system. So the model will focus on distribution at traffic lights or even targetting people when they get out of movie theatres.

But in a country where most English dailies are sold at rock-bottom prices, does a freesheet stand a chance?

Read the full interview: ‘I’m not worried about ToI‘s readership’

Pablo Bartholomew: Cynical and proud of it!

14 September 2010

Long years in the profession—watching vicious vipers making merry—should leave most professional Indian journalists deeply suspicious of the human species.

Yet, rare is the journo honest enough to admit he has become a cynic in the process.

“Sceptic yes, cynic no,” is the cop-out answer.

Not so Pablo Bartholomew.

The renowned photographer uses the C-word with admirable candour in a Proust questionnaire with Nadine Kreisberger in the Sunday Express:

Q: Through your photography, you can sensitize people to all sorts of realities – do you see it as part of your life purpose? Do we all have a life purpose?

A: I don’t think so. I went into reportage as a need to find work and recognition. But at no point did I feel that I was there to be a “crusader of truth”. There are many truths and media plays many kinds of role in it.

And I am so frustrated with the media. Because I am not sure it is a vehicle of change it could be.

For instance, I am known for this one image from Bhopal. And in a way it is a responsibility I don’t want to have. Because the gap between what that image represents and what actually happened to the people makes me feel very sad. If I could have really been a conduit, then things would have changed. So somewhere there is a heaviness I carry.

Especially recently when the story all reemerged. There is so much talk. But I don’t think anything will really happen. More money may be spent but how much will really benefit the people? I tend to be very cynical.

My cynicism right from my teenage time has actually been my savior. In a way, it has been my spiritual path!

Photograph: courtesy Photographers in Conflict

Read the full interview here: Pablo Bartholomew

Also read: Bhopal, Raajkumar Keswani and Pablo

Whiff of a land scam at ‘National Media Centre’

13 September 2010

Acquisition of land from farmers, tribals, shopkeepers and residents and others for industry and infrastructure projects has become a hot-button issue all over the country.

Mediapersons, it seems, are not immune.

The high-profile National Media Cooperative (NMC) housing society in Gurgaon—home to 190 of the capital’s boldfaced names in imprintlines—has landed bang in the centre of a storm.

M.J. Akbar‘s weekly Sunday Guardian newspaper reports that the management of the residents’ welfare association (RWA) of the NMC media co-op society has surrendered two acres of land, reportedly worth around Rs 200 crore, to the Haryana urban development authority (HUDA) without following proper procedure.

HUDA has, in turn, transferred the land to a consortium led by the controversial developer DLF, which is behind the Rapid Metro Rail Gurgaon (RMG) that will run through the satellite city’s major touchpoints.

The president of the RWA, Raj Chengappa, currently editor-in-chief of The Tribune, Chandigarh, has declined comment to the paper. But another former president of the RWA, Inderjit Badhwar, has confirmed that construction of pillars for the metro line is going on in the controversial bit of land.

“At present rate, the land is worth Rs 200 crore. If the HUDA wanted the land for public purpose, it should have been acquired under the Land Acquisition Act (LAC). We should have been paid the compensation. What we don’t understand is on what ground the RWA management surrendered the piece of land, without taking all the residents into confidence,” Badhwar is quoted as saying.

Both Chengappa and Badhwar are former employees of India Today* magazine.

Badhwar says a four-member committee headed by former Tribune editor Hari Jaisingh has been formed to investigate how and why the land was transferred to HUDA.

However, an unnamed general secretary of the RWA is quoted by The Sunday Guardian as saying that the land was not surrendered but taken over by HUDA under the terms of the license given to the NMC housing society in 1993.

* Disclosures apply

What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

12 September 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Some time in the mid-20th century, the legendary New Yorker writer (and foodie) A.J. Liebling famously said, “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one“.

For proof in the early 21st, he might like to take a look at Raghav Bahl.

The founder, editor, controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18—the company behind CNBC-TV18 and Awaaz; CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN Lokmat, Forbes India, in.com and a myriad dotcoms—has just penned his debut book on India and China titled Super Power?: The Amazing Race between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise.

But judging from the unabashed promotion, further promotion, continuing promotion and continuing further promotion of the book on the Network 18 platform, it would seem as if James Joyce has returned to rework, well, Balika Vadhu.

# For days before the launch of the book on August 17, senior editors across Network 18 channels burnt the midnight oil sending off invitations (and reminders) to assemble a sizeable “power” audience.

# In April, four full months before the launch of the “Superbook on Superpowers”, CNN-IBN featured a 2-minute, 3-second report on the book by the network’s best known voice, Shereen Bhan, with accompanying text helpfully reminding viewers that the “brilliantly written, superbly documented, rich and comprehensive account” is already being called as “one most definitive books on the subject.”

# On moneycontrol.com, the financial portal owned by Network 18, an announcement of the book’s launch by Penguin said the book offered “telling insights”.

# By a happy coincidence in April, Bahl received a nice little plug on CNN-IBN‘s breakfast show following his inclusion in a book by an Australian lawyer of corporate India’s bigwigs: “Raghav Bahl among top 30 Indian businessmen.”

# In May, Forbes ran a piece by Bahl titled 2050, An economic odyssey on how India and China would reclaim their positions as economic giants, with the author intro saying the book “is forthcoming from Penguin Allen Lane.”

# In July, Bahl took part in a discussion on Karan Thapar‘s CNBC show India Tonight, with Pranab Bardhan, whose book on the India-China theme ‘Awakening giants of clay‘ was published around the same, as co-panelist.

# In August, all the network’s channels carried the book’s grand launch in Delhi, with their websites carrying Bahl’s opening remarks and the panel discussion moderated by CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

# Promotional advertisements on the book have crawled on screens of the network’s channels for months now. On the group’s portal in.com, an anonymous guest posted a discussion urging readers to “Kindly promote this book in institutes“.

# On the CNN-IBN website, a 4,876-word extract of the book was posted on the day after the book’s launch in August.

# Using the group’s portal in.com, a dedicated channel called superpower.in.com was created to showcase the book (along with a Hindi section titled superpowerhindi.in.com).

# Readers of the August 13 issue of the Indian edition of Forbes magazine, received a free 48-page booklet containing an “exclusive excerpt” from Bahl’s book.

# The following issue of Forbes contained a four-page debate between Bahl and Yasheng Huang, an MIT professor of Chinese origin, on the India vs China issue.

# The day after the launch, CNN-IBN declared on its website that “the book was drawing praise from the stalwarts of India Inc and the government,” with a 1-minute, 41-second news report even exhorting viewers to get their copy in “English or Hindi”.

# Readers of the September issue of Entrepreneur, published by Network 18,  received a free 48-page booklet of Bahl’s book containing another “exclusive excerpt”.

# On the network’s Hindi business channel, CNBC Awaaz, Bahl featured in a debate with Congress and BJP leaders moderated by the channel’s editor, Sanjay Pugalia.

# In early September, Bahl gave an interview to Shereen Bhan on CNBC-TV18 again, on the “amazing race between India and China“.

# In early September, as the issue of land acquisition for infrastructure projects gathered steam, Bahl popped up on CNBC-TV18‘s special show Fixing India’s Governance, offering the Chinese example.

# At last week’s broadcasters’ association awards fete, all participants of panel discussions received a complimentary copy of Superpower, and so on.

To be fair, Bahl’s debut book has received plenty of press outside the Network18 platform.

The launch was widely reported by The Indian Express, The Asian Age, DNA, Zee News, Financial Express, Hindustan Times (Delhi 1) and (Delhi 2), and  Hindustan Times (Bombay), and assorted industry publications like exchange4media, afaqs!, and Indian Television,

And the book has (so far) been reviewed by The Hindu, Businessworld, and India Today, and more are forthcoming.

Nevertheless, the issue at hand is one of Bahl, Network 18 and Superpower?.

The boilerplate excuse is, if an owner cannot push his own book on his own network, what use is his ownership? A good counter question is, would any other debutant author get so much play and promotion across so many media vehicles over so many months?

It can aslo be argued that Bahl is not the first media personality to use his baby is for self-promotion.

The Hindu routinely carries news items of its editor-in-chief N.Ram‘s speeches. The Times of India is full of promotions of its various “brands”, including pictures from Vineet Jain‘s annual Holi parties. India Today and Outlook routinely sneak in pictures of this or that group event on its pages.

Yet, there is such a thing as overdose when it involves the bossman. As a first-generation media mogul, Bahl might like to pick up a lesson from ToI‘s Samir Jain or Anand Bazar Patrika‘s Aveek Sarkar, both of whom maintain a very low profile in their publications.

Or, maybe, Bahl will take comfort from A.J. Liebling’s other famous line: “The function of the press in society is to inform but its role is to make money.”

***

Photo-illustration: courtesy Forbes

***

Also read: Is this man the new media mogul of India?

How serious is the trouble at CNBC and CNN-IBN?

The end-game is near for both TV18 and NDTV

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

The grass is always greener on the other side

10 September 2010

Former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown:

“Young journalists [should] go work in India. There are so many great newspapers in India. I go quite a lot, actually. It has a very vibrant newspaper and magazine culture. There’s a lot of energy in Delhi, a lot of newsmagazines. It’s a very literary culture, it’s great.”

Illustration: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Read the full article: Young journalists should go work in India

Also read: ‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark

‘I would redesign the New Yorker

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