Is Print Media Dead?

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Depends on where you live. If you happen to live in the US, then yes…craigslist has killed the classified ad revenue model for newspapers, advertising pages for most magazines are down and many magazines and newspapers are just throwing in the towel.

Come to India and it’s whole different ball game, newsprint is doing well and the number of new magazine launches is insane. In the last few months I’ve seen at least 6 new launches, Lonely Planet being the latest. Lonely Planet is published by Worldwide Media a joint venture between The Times Group and BBC Worldwide. They also publish Top Gear and a yet to be launched home/architecture magazine.

I’m expecting more magazines to be launched as advertisers in India seem to be flush with cash. I’m really looking forward to two types of magazines, one is a Consumer Reports type magazine that will evaluate and rate products/services free of any payola – which is fairly rampant in India.  The other is a personal finance magazine, that can give you the pros/cons for new products and real down to earth advice.  Most of the existing personal finance magazines will never talk about a product in a negative tone for fear of losing advertising revenues.

India is different, when it comes to print media.

Financial Terrorism Now Playing

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If you have been following this blog for the past 4 years while I’ve been living in Bombay, you know I rarely cover two topics – India’s movie industry (aka Bollywood) and Indian politics.  However, when the two collide it creates a chemical reaction that the media can’t ignore nor I.

My Name Is Khan, the newest film by Bollywood’s biggest star Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), ran into some turbulence this week in Bombay because of the dirty politics played by the Shiv Sena. Let’s rewind a bit.

SRK who is a part owner in the cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders said he would not mind having Pakistani’s players on this team. Agreed, with the terror attack on Nov. 26 in Bombay it’s a sore subject for many but the Shiv Sena, took an extreme view of his comments.  The Shiv Sena flew into action and did what they are good at – scare people and disrupt the flow of things.  The Shiv Sena threatened to block his new movie and damage the property of the theater owners.

This is not the first time this has happened, the Shiv Sena pulled the same sh#& with a film by Karan Johar (KJ) and sadly KJ had to say sorry to the Shiv Sena leadership team…weak. That’s the issue, the Shiv Sena knows that millions are on the line and can extort people and force their version of terrorism on the film industry. This time the industry and more importantly SRK, told the Shiv Sena to get lost and as usual the Shiv Sena’s threat of violence was all bark.  Of course, the PR machine of the Shiv Sena was telling anyone that listened that they were successful in their efforts. I’m still trying to figure out how the Shiv Sena keeps score.

The latest stunt by the Shiva Sena is just another in a long list of things that will make anyone shake their head in disgust. They are focused on all the wrong things because to tackle the real issues would be too much work.

Their stance on past issues:

  • Valentine’s day should not be celebrated since it’s not our culture
  • All taxi drivers should speak the local language – Marathi
  • SJ’s movie “Wake Up Side” – should be banned because they call the city Bombay, not Mumbai
  • All BMC/MCGM (governing body of Mumbai) correspondence should be conducted in Marathi

As you can see, the above are all VERY critical issues and much more important then some of the real issues affecting Bombay – poverty, water shortages, electricity blackouts, etc…

On a side note, I think part of SRK’s success in standing up to the Shiv Sena can goto Twitter (he tweets at @iamsrk). It gave SRK an unfiltered and real-time communication channel with his audience. I’d love to see the Shiv Sena use Twitter, oh wait it’s not part of their culture and Twitter currently does not have a localization for Marathi!

A Look at Times Private Treaties

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times_privateThere are days where I look at a company and just shake my head at how simple the business model is. For me that company is Times Private Treaties (TPT) which is such a brilliant concept it amazes me and something that cannot be easily replicated.  TPT is part of the massive Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL) group which publishes the flagship newspaper – Times of India.

BCCL is currently run by brothers Vineet and Sameer Jain* and according to Wikipedia has over 7,000 employees, 5 daily papers, over 30 magazines, 32 radio stations and 3 TV stations. In short, they have a massive footprint when it comes to consumer media services.

In 2005, Sameer Jain came upon a very simple but highly lucrative idea – barter ad space for equity stakes in new and existing companies. I’m not sure this would work in the US, but here in India it not only works but is highly successful. I’m only assuming it’s successful because their portfolio contains over 200 companies (see list below) and there must be something that attracts companies to TPT. I’ve known about TPT for several years but didn’t realize it’s size till I read that AEGON Religare a life insurance company is owned by TPT via a 30% equity stake.   TPT has also begun to advertise in the Times of India about the power of TPT and how it can help young companies reach a wide audience.

TPT can be viewed as a venture capital firm or private equity firm, but instead of handing over cash or providing management guidance they give you a marketing vehicle. And in India, that marketing vehicle is key.  You really have 3 avenues to pitch your product in India:

1. Actor – Bollywood pitch person or as they call them a brand ambassador
2. Sports – cricket player
3. TV/Newspaper/Magazines

With so few marketing avenues, the above 3 get very expensive for a new company and thus TPT enters the picture. So, next time you read the Times of India and wonder how a young company can spend a large amount on marketing dollars, more then likely it has TPT written all over it.

* Disclosure: I’m not related to Vineet or Sameer Jain, although I have requested to be adopted by them…still waiting for the adoption paperwork.

Below is a partial list of the TPT partnerships:

TPT_list

Indian Elections Update

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varun_gandhiTomorrow begins the 3rd phase of voting in India and in particular voting in Bombay. It’s back to the 1980’s here in India, the two big political heavy weights are bringing up issues from the past such as the Bofors scandal of the mid 80’s. But, I should not be surprised if the candidates are not going to talk about the real issues – food, infrastructure, education or water then what can you talk about.  That really leaves a candidate with two options to incite FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in a voter and that is either past political scandals or religion. Varun Gandhi was reprimand by the Election Commission for talking religious smack at a voter rally. Thank god for video cameras or Varun would have continued down the path of communal riots.  His response to the video of him was classic – it was doctored and not him.

But, at the local level several TV stations have invited the candidates for South Bombay to an open forum and talk about the issues.  They all spoke well and seem to understand the problems and issues that are faced by people living in Bombay.  But, I get the sense many residents of South Bombay live in a bubble and don’t have a clue what is happening in the rest of India – The Real India.  And the real India is where all the real money goes. My petty issues of better roads and high speed internet seem stupid when compared to villages in Madya Pradesh that still have issues with running water and getting more then 8 hours of electricity a day.

The 2 main issues I hear most often in regards to the elections:

1. Who should I vote for? One party will pick my left pocket and the other my right pocket.  And, there is no point in voting for an independent like Meera Sanyal since the system won’t work with her.

2. If the Congress party is elected the Sensex will zoom up. Seriously, WTF? Another attempt to play on people’s fear since many are invested. No party Congress or BJP has even talked about their economic policy so how the hell can one assume if Congress is elected the equity markets will race up.  If you haven’t noticed the Indian markets are being driven in tandem with international markets and will continue for quite some time.

Honestly, I’m glad I can’t vote in this election it’s almost like picking between dumb and dumber.

Slumdog Millionaire

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slumdog_150As you know I rarely talk about movies on my blog, but Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long, long time. The story and cinematography are unmatched, the dynamic story is about an impoverished boy from the slums that wins millions – an underdog story.  The true underdog of this movie is director Danny Boyle, for an outsider to come into India, a country that produces more movies then anyone else, and create such a quality product is a story by itself.  Of course, Bollywood is now trying to jump on the Slumdog bandwagon but make no mistake this movie was made because they all stayed away.  Director Karan Johar has stated his formula for creating movies is what NRI’s (non-resident Indian’s) like, in reality it’s just sugar coated garbage.

The Oscar nominee list will be available on Jan 22 and seeing that Slumdog just sweeped 4 awards during the Golden Globes they have a shot at an Oscar.

Slumdog gets released in India on Jan 23, if you can wait you can download the torrent file.

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