The future of news in India

Last Updated: Oct 13, 2014, 01:06 AM IST

With the rise of social media, how do publishers from traditional and new media engage and create content for a social minded audience? Patricia Mascarenhas finds out.

India is one of the most active countries in the world when it comes to the social web, with over 100 million users on Face book alone. Also, unlike other nations, it also has one of the highest print readerships anywhere on the globe. But with the rise of digital and mobile alongside the continued strength of print, what does the future of news media hold for India?

“When we're talking about the future of news, first we need to understand what news incorporates,” explains Bobin James, photographer, music programmer and journalist. “While the conventional media/publishing platform was typically the news papers and magazines which included reports, information or entertainment, today the boundaries are blurred,” he observes, adding that there are various mediums that discuss everything from news to entertainment.

Rega Jha, editor, BuzzFeed India agrees, “This is true and part of the reason for this is the establishment of social media. All of our habits of consuming information online have changed,” she says further explaining, “For example, when you log into Face book you have particular friends who are really into politics and therefore post articles based on it and at the same time who have another set of friends who post pictures of cute puppies.”

With the rise of social media platforms like Face book, Twitter, Google Plus, etc., there are now seamless formats that gives out a gamut of information under their umbrella. With this entire online cluster, offline media has to deal with the challenge of coping up. “Currently, information gathering is no longer a journalist domain, it can come for anywhere, anyone today is potentially an information giver which is why the journalist skill set needs to scale up to,” informs Kim Arora, journalist.

“You need to be a storyteller, someone who can make sense of different kinds of information and put it in context,” she advises. Jha agrees, “It is natural for us to adapt to the changing reader habits. In fact for any publisher to be successful it is important to adapt to any new format.”

While the consumption habits are changing, publishers too need to be careful of the information they are sharing. They should keep in mind how their content is further used and shared. “There is responsibility on how we define each piece of content that is open for others to see and analyse. Since everyone is going mobile, we as publishers need to make sure that it is easy to consume this content and at the same time it should also be genuine,” says Raheel Khursheed, head of news: politics and government, @TwitterIndia, Twitter

Although there are those who are interested in certain beats and know where to look for legitimate stories, the onus still lies on the publisher for putting out information. “Various publications put out stuff like, 'It has been confirmed that 20 people are suspected to be dead', now how can you have both confirmed and suspected in the same sentence?” questions Jha, adding that as a consumer it gets really difficult to trust any information. “I think, the race to break the news first has compromised the quality for reporting,” she says. “Before putting out any information publishers need to confirm it and if they are not able to, even after using all their resources, then they need to present the information carefully,” she advises.

Having said this, what you see is not always what your network shows you but what your friends are sharing. Over time people have develop the ability to point other sources of content and develop an understanding on different situations. “Sometimes information gets diluted because what most people read today is based on who they follow than on what the publishers show,” says James.

Compelling stories get told anyway, whether online or offline but with social media platforms there is a definite overlap of information. And since online is easier to access most viewers are switching to online apps so where does this place the print organisations?

“At this point in time news organisation have the ability to be what they want to be, everything is going towards integration and audiences are making their own choices as to where they want to view their content,” says Khursheed. Unlike TV, social media portals can track the number of people using/ viewing the content. “With the growing audience in India this conversion from print to online will be more interesting as you will potentially see India involve into the next social news hub,” he signs off.