The media — in the near future

Published: February 21, 2012
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The writer is web editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque_ 
jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk

The writer is web editor of The Express Tribune and tweets @Jhaque_ jahanzaib.haque@tribune.com.pk

Welcome to 2015. Pakistan has 3G and 4G mobile services active, with millions of subscribers ranging from the elite, all the way down to the lower classes, since now, cheap Chinese manufactured smart phones and tablets have flooded the local market. With mobile penetration climbing beyond the massive 60 per cent as seen in 2011, the media boom the country saw in the 2000s has now entered, kicking and screaming, into its second great transition — convergence between new media and old.

The force of global technological progress and consumer demand led to this new world; one in which breaking news is now spread faster — through Twitter and Facebook — than any local media group could manage on its own. Television still does breaking news, but fewer and fewer people turn to their TV sets to watch the news, as online streaming on the go is a more convenient access point. Newspapers still exist, but their print circulation is now a show piece — a rubber stamp of legitimacy to what have essentially become online entities. This shift, however, has proven to be a blessing, as suddenly, online newspaper outlets find themselves to be just as relevant as their broadcast competition, and audiences do not differentiate where the breaking news comes from in the online world.

Advertisers have wisened up and have finally learnt that return on investment should be based on actual, measurable results — something the internet provides in abundance and something that TV and print both could not offer. Even worse for the media moguls, their lies about ratings, reach and print circulation numbers, now lie exposed in the dynamic online space, where actual reader/viewer interest is visible. With the shift in advertising (strategy and spend) many newspapers and TV channels have shut down, or are in the process of closure, unable to respond to the demands of the new media landscape. The only media groups left are those who had diversified enough, moved to integrate with the internet enough and had at their core, a real dedication to journalism.

The big question facing the local media moguls now is how to maintain high quality journalism on the economics of a largely online business model. Set up pay walls? Create new forms of online goods related to news? Convince advertisers to increase internet ad spend? Earn through mobile apps? Many are looking abroad for answers, hoping to apply the lessons learnt by global media. Things look grim for the media moguls, yet at the same time, the democratising effect of the internet has also resulted in something beautiful; the number of media outlets have reduced, but the content has tightened up and delivers what people actually want to see and read.

While in 2012, there was a real fear that tailoring content to match the (very measurable) desire of the online public would result in a massive, degenerative groupthink that would reduce journalism to a cheap carnival, the reality in 2015 illustrates the diversity of communities and demand for content, even in Pakistan. Yes, there are cheap tricks being used to draw in audiences, but unlike TV or print, there is no lack of space, so all forms of content can exist in parallel without competing. Additionally, there are niche audiences out there for all forms of specialised information and, thankfully, it is these niche segments who are more than willing to pay for the information with their credit cards, or PayPal, which was allowed to operate in Pakistan sometime in 2013.

What lies ahead? Perhaps a cutting edge telco experiment with making mobile phone credit a currency for purchasing content online? Perhaps, an ambitious media group collaborates with a local IT firm to create its own low-cost tablet for sharing its content. Whatever the case, these are both troubling and exciting times to be in the news business.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Feb 21, 2012 - 10:22PM

    The change is evident, but the PACE of it won’t really be THAT FAST as Writer has depicted in this article. #twocents

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  • Ahsan Shami
    Feb 21, 2012 - 10:30PM

    Wizened means shriveled. I imagine you meant “wisened.”

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  • Hammad Bhutta
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:42AM

    Oh please when will we ever have pay pall

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  • Feb 22, 2012 - 6:42AM

    Television still does breaking news, but fewer and fewer people turn to their TV sets to watch the news, as online streaming on the go is a more convenient access point.

    What wishful thinking. The literacy rate is yet to cross 60%. It’s way lower – prob less than 20% – if you look at English language skills. I don’t know any Pakistani who uses Facebook or Twitter who is not proficient in English. The great thing about TV is that even an illiterate can tune in. You can wish, but this mass shift from tv to social media ain’t happening in 2015. Maybe in 2050…

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  • Feb 22, 2012 - 11:16AM

    Not likely in 2015… Literacy, social barriers, literacy, inflation, conformist mindsets, literacy, government and PEMRA policies, literacy, energy and electricity crisis, etc, literacy, etc, etc. We need to get over these issuesbefore this happens in Pakistan :))

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  • salman
    Feb 22, 2012 - 12:49PM

    no vision

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  • Abbas Mohsin
    Feb 22, 2012 - 5:12PM

    3G would enable internet to be faster and cheaper in Pakistan. This would thus allow people to stream content direct on their cell phones. Cheap smartphones are already available in the market along with low cost tablets as well. When cell phones were first introduced in Pakistan they were also just for the use of the elite but all that changed. We have to realize that technology over time becomes less expensive.

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  • afaqui
    Feb 22, 2012 - 9:17PM

    The GOOD news is that the URDU media is reigning supreme..People LOVE it…the english-media are now no more affluent..except by “foreign funding”..

    More and more of Urdu writers are held in greater respect and influence.Recommend

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