Media experts felt that traditional and Internet/new media were not in any sort of conflict or competition as they were part of the same content ecosystem.
They were speaking at a panel discussion at the India Internet Governance Conference, jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Communications & IT and the Internet Society.
Initiating the discussion, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta of the Foundation for Media Professionals pointed out that while India’s 121 million Internet users base is roughly a quarter of China’s, its annual growth of 38 per cent against the global growth rate of 8 per cent makes it difficult for the traditional media to ignore.
According to The Hindu’s editor Siddharth Varadarajan, “Events have already overtaken the question under debate as we are really dealing with a single and very healthy media ecosystem where news classification, absorption and dissemination by print, TV and the Internet all occupy different places in the same 24-hour news cycle.”
“In India, we are in a very sweet spot where we are looking at a 5 to 6-year window where all forms of traditional and new media will grow together. It is only after that many, if not most consumers of media, will have switched or will be switching to non-paper forms of delivery with many neo literates consuming media for the very first time. This is a huge opportunity which will bring in an even greater explosion in local language content. With an eye on the future, The Hindu is already offering audio podcasts of all our editorial content in Telugu, Tamil and Malayam”, he said.
Editor of Mint, R. Sukumar, felt that the Internet does not threaten print revenues since print newspapers practically sell for free or at one-twentieth of their cost. “If anything, the Internet will subsidise the losses in print but it needs to be governed by a written or unwritten code of conduct, ethics and integrity. It won’t work without that,” he said.
Madhavan Narayanan of the Hindustan Times also felt mainstream media would survive but will keep evolving and adapting to the high but healthy tensions posed by new media, while recommending community policing of content through Internet panchayats or a voting system to keep out bad elements and aid regulation of the Internet.
Presenting a contrarian view, Editor-in-chief, Firstpost.com, R. Jagannathan said new media was growing not because of technology but because of the tyranny and lack of credibility of traditional media. “Traditional media has a narrow ambit and vested interests resulting in editors removing all opinions that they don’t like. New media which democratises information will prosper because of these gaps,” he said.
Editor and Founder Member, Mohallalive.com, Avinash Das felt that, “The journey and behaviour of traditional and new media is different and their contribution to society will also be different”.
Admitting to the limitations of new media like MediaNama, its Editor and Publisher, Nikhil Pahwa said, “We compete with traditional media in four major areas: audience, trust, money and talent. We have the data but not the right person to deliver it. So we cannot debate whether the Internet is traditional media’s comrade or competitor as the Internet is still at a nascent stage.”
Assistant Professor, Journalism at Lady Sri Ram College for Women, Ms. Subi Chaturvedi, pointed out that one of the major issues with the Internet was of ethics and credibility.
“After a 5 to 6-year period, when there is a critical mass of readers on the net, revenues will also migrate to the new media. Keeping the new media profitable will be one challenge. The other challenge is dealing with the excesses of the Internet and keeping the nature of online discourse civil and credible. The importance of editing, curating, filtering, sifting and prioritising huge flows of information will be even more important in the Internet-driven world than in print,” agreed Mr. Varadarajan.