A new dawn?

The Express Tribune has arrived and enters a crowded and insecure English language newspaper market.


George Fulton April 13, 2010

Well here it is. The Express Tribune has finally arrived and enters a crowded and insecure English language newspaper market. Does Pakistan have the need and capacity for another English broadsheet? Has the publisher been canny or foolhardy in investing in this old form of media? Time will tell.

However, he is certainly betting against global trends.

The perceived wisdom is that newspapers are going the way of the Dodo, Tehrik-i-Insaf and the VHS machine.

They are dying — if not dead already. Newspapers in the US and the UK are going bust at an alarming rate. Presently, regional newspapers have been most affected. But it can’t be long before national newspapers follow in the footsteps of their provincial cousins.

The old business model of advertising and circulation, where distribution rather than content was king, no longer works in a world of Twitter, Facebook and Google. Quality news, that is free, is only a mouse click away. More and more of us are getting our news from bytes not newsprint. As the American academic Clay Shirky puts it – "the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place."

Even the press barons in the US and UK are in disagreement about what to do next. Some like The Guardian have invested heavily in their online website, providing it for free, but still charging for the print edition. As a result, the website version is now the second most-read English language newspaper in the world, after The New York Times. Meanwhile, the paid print edition is a paltry tenth most popular paper in the UK market.

Meanwhile, the last great media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, has announced that the Times of London and Sunday Times will start charging for their online content from June onwards. He announced the idea of a paywall almost a year in advance —a sure sign he isn’t wholly convinced it will work. It may be fine for specialist news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal or Financial Times to charge for online content, but does it work for general news? With so many newspapers losing cash, including Murdoch Times Newspapers limited (£240,000 a day) many are hoping Murdoch has got it right. The real answers, of course, will only come after the paywall has gone up. But as Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian recently pointed out, the paywall “might be the right direction in business terms, while simultaneously reducing access and influence in editorial terms. It removes you from the way people the world over now connect with each other. You cannot control distribution or create scarcity without becoming isolated from this new networked world.”

Don’t think we in Pakistan are immune to the global changes the internet is bringing.

With an estimated 18 million online and growing, it is only a matter of time before marketing and advertising rupees follow. Whilst most Pakistani media organizations have a free online existence, they aren’t the required reading their print papers once were. Slow, badly designed and cumbersome, with little social media or multimedia presence, they are lumbering dinosaurs to the more nibble and quick-witted blogs of Cafe Pyala, Five Rupees and their ilk. If you want to stay ahead of the curve in Pakistan for news, analysis and good old gossip, old media is not your first destination online.

Yes, there will still be the old timers who like to read their newspaper over breakfast. But with three-quarters of Pakistan’s population under thirty, they are a shrinking minority — especially for English language content. However, Pakistan’s media executives, predominantly over thirty and inclined to sending memos via paper, sound like modern day King Canutes. “Nobody advertises online. There isn’t a market” they say. It reminds me of a story of two salespersons who went to a village to sell shoes, only to find nobody in the village wore shoes. The first salesman said, “It’s hopeless, no one wears shoes there’s no market here.” The second salesman says, ‘”It’s fantastic. No one wears shoes, there’s a 100 per cent market here.”

Old media’s lack of investment in new media has failed to create a market in Pakistan. Their shortsightedness at realizing the power and potential of the internet will be their loss. The first organization that sows heavily today will reap the benefits tomorrow. The next Jang/ Express/Dawn group may come from some entrepreneurial Pakistani who is willing to do just that.

As someone who has a romantic attachment to newsprint, I wish the publisher of this newspaper the best of luck. I fear he will need it.

COMMENTS (8)

Badar ul Islam | 10 years ago | Reply Eventually a new Dawn has cracked on the horizon of Print Media in particular the English Newspapers. I congratulate you over the print edition of EXPRESS TRIBUNE. It really is a bold, innovative and great step forward in the field of journalism. It will lead to the propagation of information, knowledge and news that is accessible to majority. Still majority Pakistanis have no access to internet so this print edition will provide them with something really enchanting and informative. I pray for your further success. Now when you have launched the Print edition, I believe you will need some journalists or writers for your paper. Our students currently undertaking Mass Communication or Journalism degree have extraordinary writing qualities both in Urdu and English. You can provide them an exposure and outlet so that they may realize themselves,step in practical journalism and render their services for Print media. I myself being a student of Mass Communication at International Islamic University Islamabad and I have an instinct for writing and I write a lot and by Allah's grace, my various writings on different issues have made their way and published in renowned English Newspapers of Pakistan. I want to work with some newspaper for experience. I only want some practical experience in this field. I don't want any pay or income. I just want to learn something and polish myself up for tougher challenges lying ahead for me in this arduous field. I look forward to seeing a response from your newspaper for young writers and future journalists. I hope that you will not disappoint me. Awaiting positive anticipations.
Nabeel Anwar Dhakku | 10 years ago | Reply A new dawn I congratulate you for bringing out an excellent newspaper. Since I read about the arrival of The Express Tribune in the Annual issue of Herald, I have been waiting for it eagerly. To read online edition of The Express Tribune is really a good experience but to read its print edition would be a unique one. I impatiently wait for its launching in Islamabad. With the launching of The Express Tribune, Express Media Group has embarked on a new journey fraught with challenges. But to take challenge is the major quality of Express Media Group. I request you that in The Express Tribune, please give opportunity to write article for young writers as no other newspaper do so. Moreover I also request you for reserving a full page for Letters to the Editor so that the voice of readers could be considered well and I suggest you that please also publish the email address of the letter writer so that the Readers of the paper could contact each other. May The Express Tribune make progress by leaps and bounds. NABEEL ANWAR DHAKKU CHAKWAL
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