Saturday, 27 November 2010

Trend-spotting in print media

There’s something exciting unfolding on the print media scene. Two of the leading English language newspapers, The Hindu and The Times of India, are on a value-addition drive. PADMAJA SHAW is pleasantly surprised at the quality of the Crest edition. Padmaja Shaw

Posted Thursday, Nov 18 23:27:15, 2010 on the website THE HOOT

It is just over a year since The Times of India launched its Crest Edition (broadsheet) that comes out with Saturday dateline. The Crest edition over the past months has persistently demolished all stereotypes about the ‘popular’ strategies that The Times adopts. It is priced at Rs 6 and except for the anniversary edition (every other page carried a full page ad), has not carried much advertising. Again, except for the anniversary edition, one does not recall any sleazy bikini shots in it. But in the anniversary edition, there was a charming image of Sharmila Tagore in her ‘first bikini of Indian cinema’ on the cover page. The anniversary edition was on the whole delightful celebrating all firsts in all kinds of fields of achievement.
Somehow, over the year, one expected a loss of coherence but the edition is getting better, providing excellent in-depth reading material on diverse fields, from pharmaceutical industry, film industry, social trends and social issues. Week after week, one gets to read critical, in-depth pieces on a range of issues. The 32-page edition is a much-needed addition to weeklong reading on current issues and trends. The edition has lived up to its own promise: ‘Crest is for the curious mind; it hopes to be every intelligent reader's guide to politics and policy, art and culture, environment and education, and more’.
Of the 32 pages this week, just one and half pages are taken for advertising. One does not know the economics of how a 32-page edition with so little advertising is possible, but as a reader one would certainly welcome the effort. Earlier one had only the Outlook news magazine to bank on. Now the weekends give us something more to look forward to. That the ToI group finally acknowledges the existence of a reading public who are sorely disappointed with the mainstream media for not providing adequate depth and diversity is the real thing to celebrate here.
On the contrary, the Hyderabad Times is full of cinema and page 3. Photos and gossipy writing dominate. One wonders if there is much readership for it, except for those who are featured on it. Some useful content like science and medicine get lost in the melee of celebrity journalism.
Adding fuel to this perpetual perceived thirst for cinema news in Andhra Pradesh (the biggest producer of films in the country) is the new Cinema Plus Sunday (tabloid) supplement launched by The Hindu last week in Hyderabad. In addition to some four pages of film reviews on the weekend releases, there are ‘itsy-bitsy’ news items on the Telugu film industry, some on Hollywood. The supplement also carries the weekly TV/film listings, along with interviews with stars, curtain-raisers on under-production films. The last page carries a delightful nostalgia piece on yesteryear cinema titled ‘Blast from the past’.
The purpose of the supplement is unclear from the content so far, as except for the interviews, much of it has already been a part of its other week-day supplements. Is it to match the competition in providing fluff or is it to out-class competition by providing ‘intelligent’ stuff on cinema?
Coming from the Hindu stable, one expected the features to be meatier, with more informative write-ups on the film and television industries. There is no serious, regular critique of television fare on regional channels in the English newspapers that reach opinion-makers. The very size and weight of the Telugu film/television industry demands an informed debate about it and its social impact.
The other new trend is The Hindu carrying full front page ads under its masthead (Et tu, Hindu!). It has happened several times lately. Actually when the page is folded back it’s all back to normal, but somehow, it is dismaying to receive The Hindu this way. The same feeling one gets when one catches a Bharatantyam dancer dirty dancing in a pub!