INTRODUCTION OF TOPIC
Changing trends in news consumption and strategic implications for broadcasters
The Indian Media environment has undergone changes in terms of news consumption trends as well as news production techniques. This has lead to contours of “On demand culture” for News which has been furthered by the digital revolution in the news arena. News consumption is shifting from a passive act to a proactive, interactive and participatory act. 2008 has seen some tremendous changes in the way we gather, share and interact with news.nes today is becoming less linear, less controlled, chaotic however increasingly participatory. The relationship between producers and consumers is changing.
Examples of participatory news consumptions:
- Twitter showed its potential & network to distribute raw information in almost instantly in the case of Mumbai attacks and arrest of American student in Egypt. Many media broadcasters took to using this medium as a strategy to cover the news.
- In early 2008 the channel CNN has built a platform called Ireport .com which permits anyone to submit and upload content from anywhere in the world and a team of journalist scours the content to look for stories. It could also sell this contributor generated & created material on news wire for high margins.
- Another example would be Network 18 anchor Rick Sanchez used twitter to gather his story on twitter for Hurricane Gustav, showing conversations about the storm on screen. CNN even launched a daily show around it which was positioned as ” audience driven hour of days news and smart conversation”
Today in the news sector what is changing is how people interact with news , when they acquire it and thus old news deliverers must definitely adapt to it.
The 24 hour television news channel in India today has become a meme. The random house unabridged dictionary defines a meme as a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Today there is nothing new or different in the way news channels telecast news stories. Activism, excitement, concern, & empathy all are packaged in the same way. Most channels look alive, behave alike, & talk alike. There is scarcity as regards to channel loyalty in television news.
Additionally with media proliferation, audiences are getting and more fragmented and thus news broadcasters are in a fight to gain new audiences. Garnering eye balls, retaining loyal customer, and targeting new segments to gain new audiences becomes extremely important in today times. But with changing consumption habits the same old strategies like breaking news, anchors, tickers may be becoming ineffective today. Thus broadcasters need to revisit these strategies to create differentiation and competitive advantage. The research plans to undertake a study on news consumption trends today the way forward and thereby look at strategies that broadcasters are using currently to tap the existing and potential news customer.
The research attempts will be to predict current & future news consumption trends and strategic tools used by the broadcaster.
The Indian news industry was for long governed uncontested by print media. Till 2008, the country consumed 100 million newspaper copies making it the second largest market in the world for newspapers. In 1976 regular broadcasting started in India and Doordarshan had monopoly. It was in 1991 that the concept of multichannel came into India with the advent of BBC, CNN, Prime sports, MTV and Star Plus. Since then with the increasing technological changes taking place there has been extreme competition in this segment as differentiators like breaking news, program choices, expertise, live coverage are slowly diminishing. Almost all news channels in India today are on the same platform / level today as far as capacity and resources available for production of news.
Internet slowly entered with new technological framework and changed the rules of the game. 2/3 rds of the internet users today visit the internet atleast 2-3 times a week. Thus consumption of internet is increasing not only in terms of reach but also in terms of impressions. News broadcasters have started teaming up with digital platforms to provide news on the internet as well as mobile mediums.
Social media is emerging as another platform for interactivity to take place in the news sector. More and more news is breaking first on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and Flickr today even before being livecasted on news channels.
Also today, news is no longer the dull, uninteractive genre as it is associated to be. Increasing numbers of news channels are cashing in on interactivity by using citizen journalism / participatory journalism.
This new competitive media landscape has lead proliferation of channels, fragmentation of audiences and lack of diversity among show formats and content. This has lead to a fight among news channels to retain and grow audience numbers.
In this scenario first look at the displacement theory :
Kayany & Yelsma, 2000 used the displacement theory to suggests that with the advent of a new media the overall consumption remains constant and as consumption of one medium increases the consumption go another medium reduces. This would imply that as digital media grows, audiences would move away from broadcast and a change in news consumption habits would occur. However there are convergence theorists who argue that one need to look at the relationship between traditional and new media to understand how simultaneous consumption will change the way news has been consumed till now.
Users and gratification theory
Infante, Rancer andWomack, 1997 have used the U & G theory to explain how individuals use mass media to satisfy their needs.The U & G theory argues that people’s needs and interests influence their use of a particular medium and how they respond to it. The idea is that the audience is self motivated to seek the kind of gratification that they want. With the advent of internet gratifying the need of immediacy it is important to relook at the motivations of the audience to turn to broadcast news and their gratification opportunities to construct effective strategies to retain and garner new audiences.
Thus although the theory suggest different needs / motivations of consumer there is no research done on the strategies undertaken by Indian news broadcasters to segment different audiences accordingly to different gratification opportunities and provide differentiated offerings to them and how this helps them gain a competitive edge with advertisers and viewers.
Let us look at a few theories which seek to explain convergent media behavior and look at MEDIA CONVERGENCE as a strategy:
Selective media theory
Stempel & Hargrove, 1996; Stempel, et al., 2000; Vincent & Basil, 1997 have endorsed the selective media theory which suggest that individual direct their attention to respond to specific stimuli in their environment. This implies that exposure to different media content is an active choice and individuals will seek information regarding contents that interest them across all media platforms. That is the consumption of sports news on one platform will lead them to consume the content in the sports space on mobile, online , broadcast and other platforms if the individual is interested in that particular section.
Dimmick, et al., 2000 in the Niche theory suggest that individual derive different gratifications from using different media. These gratifications would in turn depend on the modality of the medium and as the overlap in these gratification offerings is low in the news industry, the mediums would be more complementary than displacement.
Petty & Cacioppo, 1986 in the involvement theory suggest that individuals involved in obtaining information on an area are more likely to consumer news from all mediums to optimize their resources to gain maximum knowledge. Thus highly motivated consumers will seek information across various media outlets.
It is important to understand whether broadcasters today are using their multi platforms to generate interest in broadcasting medium and pull audiences from online to broadcast or they first break the news on broadcast giving out more information on other platforms. There are various opportunities for gaining audiences by using these theories and news channels today need to jump at them to create competitive edges for themselves. Convergence today has become the strategic option for many media companies although he levels of response from consumers still it make it possible to differentiate between Leaders, laggards and learner ( Denis et al , 2006 ). Thus at business growth levels convergence is linked to growth strategies in 3 ways : 1) Operational convergence 2) cross platform marketing where companies leverage their platforms and repurpose their old content for new viewers 3) developing on demand content thereby addressing viewer needs
Thus there have been clearly been changes in news consumption behavior especially in metros like Mumbai where technological acceptance, lifestyles and media environment are fast changing. 2008 witnessed a phenomenal change in the way we consumer news. Participatory media formats have lead us to not only gather news but enabled us to share it and produce it.
As demonstrated above, besides using convergent media to gain audiences, broadcast channels need to revisit their competitive and differentiation strategies.
For decades breaking news has been used as an age old strategy to establish exclusivity and garner eyeballs. With the introduction of similar technology, real time streaming and social media all news channels are breaking news at the same. Hence there is a need to explore the relevance of breaking news as a strategy and its effectiveness.
Program choice selection:
Webster and Wakshlag have identified the main factor in program selection as availability. They say if viewer choices are dictated by what is available to them. Many programming strategies are designed to stop the viewer from searching for a more gratifying program based on the assumption that if their program does not annoy them they will not change them. Thus the aim of many programs is to avoid displeasure. Jeffres (1978) called such programs “least objectionable programs” (LOP). However digital factors make this factor irrelevant in the future.
Apart from that they identified audience they watch a program with as an influencer and selection habits as another. They say if a program search is generally restricted to a particular number of channels which Heeter calls “Channel Repertoire”. Thus viewers may avoid certain programs because the channel or network is not in their repertoire. However there is no research done on the branding and programming Indian news channels undertake to be included in the set of acceptable channels of a viewer.
Rosenstein and Grant (1997 have pointed out that habit is a factor for selecting certain mediums and offerings. However how broadcasters are tapping into this habit to develop channel loyalty is yet to be studied.
Weimann, Brosius, and Wober have shown that there is little variation in consumption of news content. When two people watch the same news program, one may watch it because of the program’s specific appeal, whereas the other one is simply waiting for another program to come on. This explains their finding that “overall time spent with the news media is roughly the same, regardless of reported medium reliance” .Beaudoin and Thorson,2004 who remarked that exposure to news is not necessarily an expression of attention to news. Given the possibility of involuntary avoidance, one should remark that the reverse also applies: Lack of exposure to news is not necessarily an expression of lack of interest in the news.
Thus programming choices designed to meet needs of such audiences who express an interest can be used as a niche strategy to gain hold in such audiences.
A few programming segments that broadcasters need to look at are Late night viewers and Sunday morning program choices as strategic programming decisions. The PEW research center , 2004 has undertaken studies have been conducted in the US , research needs to be done on what news channels are doing to tap gain TRPs with these audiences.
Anchors as differentiators:
To look at anchors as brands for the news channels we need to view them as ingredient brands. The reason why companies for adopting ingredient branding as a strategy is that it helps the host brand to improve distribution accessibility, differentiate itself from other competitors and enhance the long term equity of the host brand (Desai and Keller, 2002; Norris 1992). The ingredient brand can also build end users’ brand preference, stabilize consumers demand, and establish long-term relations with manufacturers (Norris 1992). Anchors / Tv show hosts can be looked in the same respect for news channels. Today Barkha Dutt ,Rajdeep Sardesai have become ingredient brands of the networks they represent.
Different segments news gratifications to study strategies for gaining their attention:
For youth audiences, the news consumption patterns become extremely critical as they get formed into habits for a lifetime around they time they leave for college.(e.g., Al-Obaidi, Lamb-Williams, & Mordas, 2004; Barnhurst & Wartella, 1998; Schlagheck, 1998).
Thus many media selectively target college students as a long term strategy to gain first advantage into new generation of consumers (Barnhurst & Wartella, 1998).
Motivations for media usage vary by age, with motivations to escape or pass time usually highest among younger viewers (Greenberg, 1974; Rubin, 1979). College students are susceptible to depression (Rich & Scovel, 1987), making them especially vulnerable to the formation of media habits that relieve dysphoria through attendance to escapist media content.
Edward Huang, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, USA, 2007 has undertaken a study Studies on how do what uses do youth make of news and what gratifications they derive from it have been undertaken in the US . The following questions have been answered through this study.
- Have news media failed to address the youths news consumptions objectives?
- What role does participatory news media play in satisfying youths consumption needs
- What are the best strategies in serving young new consumers?
To explore the question of emergent news consumption trends it becomes essential to explore the future users’ news consumption patterns. With myriad options of news outlets, including the Internet, college students are emerging more as “news grazers,” which means they check news periodically but do not have a particular time for news competitors (Pew Research Center, 2002). A new grazer are audiences which take advantage of the new media environment to check the news from time to time with no set patterns and with a passivity towards event and information. Thus they tend to follow the news on television with the remote control flipping the channel from time to time when they are disinterested. (Pew research 2004)
Thus the battle among television news providers to capture the grazing audience has been heated up. Commercial success in such an environment requires the news product to cater to the interests of the news grazer. Thus news producers today cover topics that are less likely to prompt grazers to switch to another channel.( Bellamy and walker 1996)
News providers have started downplaying political news to make it soft entertainment oriented news.( Patterson 2000)
The strategies that present broadcasters are using to tap this audience will determine the future leaders.
Senior citizens are the ones that have maximum time currency and thus strategies used to gain those eyeballs also become increasing important. Thus it is important to study this in the competitive landscape.
Thus changing news consumption behavior has lead to news broadcasters to relook at their differentiators, strategies and also identity and target new audiences while retaining old ones so as to avoid becoming irrelevant or obsolete in future.
NEED Gap: With the above mentioned technological and lifestyle changes there has been no study undertaken on consumption trends in 2008 – 2010 and thus predicting the future. Such studies have been undertaken for different segments in the US but not in the Indian context.
RESEARCH OBJECTIVE/ SCOPE OF THE RESEARCH
The scope of the research extends to both consumer trends in news consumption as well as broadcasters response and action to the same thereby drafting in conclusion the strategies which are used for differentiation in today’s news scenario. The research objectives can be listed as below:
- To identify the patterns and trends in new consumption for various audiences
- To study the case Mumbai Terrorist blast to understand recent news consumption habits and delivery tactics.
- To list and rank the competitive strategies used by news channels to differentiate their offerings and gain new audiences
- To study the integration of print, broadcast, radio , citizen, digital , social & mobile media and their working with each other to carry news in todays scenario
As literature and current news cases such as Mumbai terror blasts, 9/11, Economic Times launching a channel reveal consumption of news has changed today. Thus delivery tactics must be relooked and strategies revisited as differentiation is almost nil in the news broadcast industry today. There is a constant struggle to garner new audiences and thus it becomes important to follow the new trends. There has been no study conducted on the trends in news consumption today and in future times in the Indian scenario.
Hypothesis: With the changing news consumption trends there is a need for broadcasters to align their delivery tactics and revisit their competitive strategies
- Are news channels truly differentiated in today’s scenario? Is there any kind of channel loyalty? What are the strategies news channels are using for differentiation?
- What are the patterns and trends in news consumption for various audiences? How have broadcasters aligned their delivery methods to meet these news trends?
- How are various media integrated while provided news today?
The study is primarily exploratory in nature. I shall be primarily using qualitative tools to identify trends from current data viable and accounting for the broadcaster’s perspective.
Extensive Tam analysis & study of viewership data already available
Areas of information:
- Demographic and basic lifestyle information
- Source of news consumption
- Response to news
- Participation in news production and delivery
- Channel loyalty
- Perceptions about different brands
- Consumption behavior for different genre of news
- Impact of :Anchors, tickers, breaking news, programming choices
- Programming choices & preferences for each segment
In this phase after identifying the trends in consumption patterns I shall be undertaking a qualitative research for a few broadcasters to understand the tactics and strategies used by them. The different treatment given by them to these segments shall be understood. Also the need for differentiation and their action plans regarding the same shall be understood.
Areas of information:
- Segmentation by broadcasters and different treatments of the same
- Tactics used by broadcasters to retain and develop channel loyalty
- Tactics used by broadcasters to gain new audiences
- Integration of traditional and new media by broadcasters
- Importance given to differentiation and strategies used to achieve the same
Tool used: In depth interview
I shall be meeting with experts in the broadcast company: Marketing, Programming & Editorial. Media consultants were interviewed to understand the working of the business. The following panel of experts was used in the discussion of various aspects.
Sampling: Purposeful Sampling
This method allowed me to select experts based on relevant work experience and knowledge of the industry. Thus the information collected was highly credible and reliable. The method also was convenient as I was the only one involved in the selection process. This allowed me to make analysis and thereby compare different perspectives. Further snowballing was used as a method of referral sampling wherein through networks of professionals experts were reached. These experts made valuable contributions to the field.
Case study method of analysis:
Detailed study of 2 TV news channels- NDTV 24 x7 and CNN -IBN have been undertaken. A brief programming review, convergence strategies, differentiators, marketing & branding strategies of the channels have been studied.
Each case covers interesting new emerging strategies used by that particular broadcaster during the period of 2008 -2010.
A single event based case study of how twitter was used during Mumbai blasts is also studied. This is used to study the effect of new media on consumption and the extent of the impact and implications it holds on the broadcasters.
This case method allows me to study changes that have happened in the last two years in Channel strategies and also news consumption. Thus it allows me to map the different strategies used by broadcasters and identify emerging trends.
Advantages of case study method:
“The case study method is most valuable when the researcher wants to obtain a wealth of information about the research topic. Case studies provide tremendous detail. Many times researchers want such detail when they don’t know exactly what they are looking for. The case study is particularly advantageous to the researcher who is trying to find clues and ideas for further research. This is not to suggest, however, that case studies be used only at the exploratory stage of research. The method can also be used to gather descriptive and explanatory data. The case study technique can suggest why something has occurred. For example, in many cities in the mid-1980s, cable companies asked to be released from certain promises made when negotiating for a franchise. To learn why this occurred, a multiple case study approach examining several cities – 16 – could have been used. Other research techniques, such as the survey, might not be able to get at all the possible reasons behind this phenomenon. Ideally, case studies should be used in combination with theory to achieve maximum understanding” (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:156). “The case study method also affords the researcher the ability to deal with a wide spectrum of evidence.Documents, historical artifacts, systematic interviews, direct observations, and even traditional surveys can all be incorporated into a case study. In fact, the more data sources that can be brought to bear in a case, the more likely it is that the study will be valid” (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:156,157).
Disadvantages of case study method :
“There are three main criticisms. The first has to do with a general lack of scientific rigor in many case studies. Yin points out that too many times, the case study investigator has been sloppy, and has allowed equivocal evidence or biased views to influence the findings and conclusions. It is easy to do a sloppy case study; rigorous case studies require a good deal of time and effort (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:157). “The second criticism is that the case study is not easily open to generalization. If the main goal of the researcher is to make statistically based normative statements about the frequency of occurrence of a phenomenon in a defined population, some other method may be more appropriate. This is not to say that the results of all case studies are idiosyncratic and unique. In fact, if generalizing theoretic propositions is the main goal, the case study method is perfectly suited to the task” (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:157).
“Finally, like participant observation, case studies are likely to be timeconsuming and may occasionally produce massive quantities of data that are hard to summarize. Consequently, fellow researchers are forced to wait years for the results of the research, which too often are poorly presented. Some authors, however, are experimenting with nontraditional methods of reporting to overcome this last criticism” (Wimmer & Dominick, 1983:157).
Even with these limitations, the methods provide a lot of possibilities as it is very flexible. It allows deep study of a specific subject. Thus having specified the method, the unfolding chapters refer to the case in point.
Theoretically, through the findings of the research, the user gratifications theory, nice theory, selective theory and involvement theory will be tested. I shall use these theories in the news genre and test the application of the same in this genre.
On the practical front, the testing the hypothesis shall have practical significance for the broadcasters. Additionally the trends indentified and predicted for the coming year shall have strategic implications for news broadcasters. The trends shall enable the broadcasters’ target their prospective audiences better and use tactics to compete, differentiate & garner new audiences.
NDTV 24 X 7
Founded in the year 1988, the channel was India’s first and largest private producer of current affairs, news stories and entertainment .The brand NDTV 24 * 7 is the market leader and holds an unrivalled reputation for excellence. The following strategic initiatives for growth were undertaken by NDTV .
Reliance Infocomm (2004): s
In 2004, the channel tied up with reliance Infocomm, India’s largest mobile service provider to provide on the hour news updates of actual newscast with streaming of videos of NDTV news. This enabled Rim customers to watch streaming videos of election updates as well as other news coverage on their handsets.
Southern Edition (2006):
In 2006, the channel announced the launch of a ‘southern edition ‘- a daily news show using opt -out telecast technology – for its viewers in Tamil Nadu, Kerela & Karnataka. This show is on air on weekdays at 7 30 and on weekends there is an extravaganza of region specific programming.
FTA (2007) :
In 2007, it was converted to a FTA channel in the CAS notified areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkatta.The channel is still a pay channel in Chennai.
Durand Cup (2007):
In 2007 NDTV decided to get into telecasting the live broadcast of Durand Cup 2007.No other news channel in India had beamed live sports before this. The reason behind this was that football viewership has been growing in India. The target audience is mostly 15 +, in SEC A+, A, B+ and B segments.
Apart from news the channel also airs other programs like “We the people” and “The big fight” which are hugely popular. The channel continues to produce original content such as documentaries and special reports featuring political news, entertainment reports and cricket.
The channel also has an afternoon weekday segment of the business and market news thereby encompassing all programs offering for their core viewer. The channel has an innovative approach to programming there taking the first step in news shows.
Very recently it launched Newsnet2.0 which involves consumer engagement in the production of news as well as syndication of online content. It covers he hot topics which are currently exciting netizens across the world. It provides a 360 vision of all the mediums that people use to discuss their views on contemporary issues.
Weekend programming: The weekend programming comprises an array of non news shows like Documentary 24 x 7, cell guru, picture this and others. There are also shows recapping and discussing the weeks news events.
Weekday programming: A one stop solution for all interests of the target audience , on weekdays the channel provides news offering in sport, politics, business, national and current news.
The Key shows
- We The People- This powerful opinion-based show, hosted by Barkha Dutt, puts eminent panelists at the mercy of an enquiring public, throwing the floor open for discussions on the issues affecting the country and its people and ensuring that the average citizen has his or her say.
- The Big Fight- Hosted by Vikram Chandra, the show pits those on opposite sides of an issue against each other in a lively and often heated debate. What emerges from the sometimes controversial opinions is a thorough 360° view of the key national or global issue at hand.
- India 60: Verdict- NDTV’s flagship news programme, India 60 Minutes, is complemented by this special debate segment on the major controversy of the day. Designed to be interactive, it lets viewers have the final word on the big issue in that day’s news, be it from politics, sports, entertainment or business
- Bombay Talkies- Sreenivasan Jain takes a walk with Mumbai’s renowned personalities, through an area that is especially significant to him or her. The freewheeling chat format of the show touches upon a range of issues, showcasing new facets of their persona. The show has featured people from all walks of life, including the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Raj Thackeray, Nusli Wadia, Shatrughan Sinha and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
- Walk the Talk- One of the flagship programmes of NDTV 24X7, it is a technical first in the Indian television industry, being the only programme in the country to be shot in one take. For four years and with over two hundred episodes, Indian Express Editor-in-Chief, Shekhar Gupta, has travelled and questioned every eminent national personality at a place of special relevance to the guest. Amongst the stellar guests the show has had, were all three of India’s recent Nobel Prize winners – Dr. Amartya Sen, VS Naipul and the Dalai Lama.” www.ndtv.com
NDTV Convergence the new media arm of NDTV encompasses an array of digital media and mobile media services to provide a complete solution to advertisers and tap into the mobile/net savvy audience of today’s times.
NDTV ACTIVE :
NDTV active is packaged with various mobile sites consisting of text based content like news, movies, astrology, music, lifestyle and stocks powered by NDTVs online content. The portal is monetized through ads, sponsorships, plus offering some sections of the portal on a subscription basis. He channel is looking at content syndication and they want to tie up with mobile operators to provide content for their mobile portals.
NDTV convergence launched a free SMS service with July systems in partnership. The service called MISMS will enable mobile users to access multimedia content via sms. Users of this service can get the latest news, videos, stocks, and cricket scores by sending the short code to NDTV. The content is hosted on NDTV active which is NDTVs existing mobile portal. NDTV active receives about 15000 visitors a month. From its mobile services NDTV is targeting to achieve Rs. 4. 3 crore in revenue which comprises 15 % of their total revenue.
NDTV website looks more like a general interest website than a serious ne