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400 yrs of media evolution squeezed in one device: Raghav Bahl on ‘mobile’

While he is a business leader, entrepreneur and author & editor, simply put, Raghav Bahl, the Founder & Chairman of Quintillion Media, has played a key role in identifying trends and shaping up the media landscape in India. At present, Mr Bahl is betting big on the mobile opportunity that lies ahead, especially in a market such as India.

Mr Bahl, who was the Keynote Speaker at Mobillion India 2015 held in Mumbai, outlined the media evolution journey that is nearly four centuries old, reflecting that the real disruption in this journey is only seven years old, when consumers were introduced to smartphones.

“The 400 years of evolution and innovation of media that included print, radio, television, distribution, is squeezed into this one device, and it has changed our world completely. If you don’t believe in this change, you are in a state of denial,” stated Mr Bahl.

The changing consumer & industry
Mr Bahl reminded that consumer habits and expectations have changed with a screen now in the consumer’s hands. From a rather structured consumption of media of the 70s, where people consumed print in the morning, TV in the evening, the conversation today has moved to a connected consumer, also known as the ‘now generation’. “You stay engaged every minute because of the mobile, and content is pushed at consumers anytime. The concept of primetime is truly diminished,” Mr Bahl pointed out, adding that audiences are not breaking their day up anymore and are essentially always connected.

Another aspect that has ended is the ‘voice of God’ concept that meant media being controlled by the likes of writers, editors, directors and so on that while were curating good quality content, the consumer had a more passive role. Today, consumers are engaged, interact, and answer back through the connected devices, making the business more about the consumer’s voice and her or his interest.

The manner in which content is accessed has also changed with social media beating any other form of ‘breaking’ news. Asserting that the life of a ‘breaking news’ was now flat five minutes, he explained, “Most audiences are accessing and even following up on news and developments through social media platforms. Once upon a time there were exclusives. Newspapers could have broken news, and television would have built on it in the course of the day, but today, people are value adding, commenting and even debunking news in real time through social platforms.”

Almost 50 per cent of the traffic of the big media brands is coming through mobile and through sharing. This paradigm shift, according to Mr Bahl, implies that the homepage is dead because people are now accessing news through social devices and going straight to story page.

Raghav Bahl at the Keynote Address at Mobillion India

Raghav Bahl at the Keynote Address at Mobillion India

The implications on content
The growth of mobile is such that some prominent businesses, led by the likes of ecommerce players, are speaking of an app-only model. While Mr Bahl cited hesitation on whether India was ready for such a model, he was extremely positive on the visual element of the medium, citing the Quint’s experience on this.

“If there is no bandwidth problem, the video consumption and implication thereof on this device, is explosive. Video is literacy agnostic. At Quint, we are seeing that video consumption is outstripping print/text consumption. Photograph is seeing resurgence. If we do a photo-feature, the consumption of that is very high, as opposed to text,” Mr Bahl divulged.

The manner of presenting content also needs to change for the connected audience. People are not looking for serious, in-depth or academic heavy content, as much as they are looking for ‘intelligent’ content, which is about being popular in the state of content and substantial at the same time. Also, the digital age, unlike TV that lives from a linear signal, is about creating a local stream of information and content based on factors such as geographical location, interests that a user has shown previously and other such elements that asks for content that is more personal and useful.

The rise of the ‘advertising editor’
Mr Bahl also focussed on ‘native advertising’ in his keynote address at Mobillion India 2015. While news organisations have a Chinese wall between content and advertising, the new age is creating the role of an ‘advertising editor’. “There is place for an editorial mind who is creating content that will manage the need of an advertiser. Content has to be credible and should be able to stand any kind of third party scrutiny, and it yet has to service the advertiser at the same time. And it will take a particular kind of skillset to manage this,” Mr Bahl observed.

What was once advertorial in print, cannot work in that avatar in digital, because on digital platforms it has to be seamless. “Native advertising is inevitable and rather than fight it, we have to embrace it. We have to be transparent about it, and disclose it but it cannot be a war between ideology and technology, because in that war, technology will march forward,” concluded Mr Bahl.

Noor Fathima Warsia

A veteran journalist in the Indian marketing, media and advertising fraternity, Noor Fathima Warsia took on the role of Group Editor -– APAC for Digital Market Asia in May 2013. Noor has focussed on tracking trends and developments in the Indian media industry.