M K Venu- The New Media Disruption: How news consumption has changed
M.K. Venu, the partner and Founding Editor of The Wire, a not for profit multimedia internet platform for news speaks to the students of the Jindal School of Journalism and Communication on the change in pattern of news consumption.
Muskan Mascharak- What is your view about the present media scenario as all the headlines of the big commercial newspapers post “The Golden Touch of Jay Amit Shah” focused mainly on the defamation suit being filed instead of the fact that Temple Enterprises had seen a 16000% growth since the Modi Government came to power?
M.K.Venu- You are actually right, the mainstream media, mostly the English and some of the Hindi vernacular press, they focussed a lot more of the governments version but I must say that the other regional media like in Kerela, West Bengal and for that matter even Karnataka and Andhra gave a lot of play to The Wire’s story. If you go back and see how the regional media covered us, we got solid coverage. They took our story forward in a big way but the English media and television, except NDTV perhaps, did not take our story forward because of the fear factor.
Ashima Sharma- You mentioned how The Wire spends less that six crores on everything annually as opposed to mainstream media that spends much more. In a setup where people are hesitant to pay for content what is the incentive that keeps you on a drive to take forward a not-for-profit digital venture?
M.K.Venu- We can only be optimistic. Eventually, like in the West, a reader supported model will have to evolve in India. We are trying to explore that and it’s a challenge but we are optimistic. If one doesn’t have optimism, one can not work. We are telling our readers that we are giving you content which you will not get at any other place so please pay for it. That’s the marketing we have to do. We have to do a lot of convincing.
Ashima Sharma- Given that commercialisation of media has compromised the quality of content, what other than the advertisement model is likely to survive for revenue generation?
M.K. Venu- Even those who work on an advertisement based model charge a subscription money. The Times of India does charge fee. Over the years they have dropped the price so much that dependence on advertising has become huge. So what we think is of reversing that trend. What we want is to depend less on advertising. So far people seem to be generous. We have been getting lot of donations from outside the Azim Premji trust. Large number of readers have sent us cheques as donations. So we feel if they can donate money to us probably they can also pay in future. If they feel motivated enough to donate, we can convert those donations into an annual subscription.
Muskan Mascharak- Being very specific to The Wire, what is the kind of political pressure you face because it has become one of the vents of normal journalism and fact-checking as you mentioned?
M.K. Venu- There are pressures but on us it is not working because we are just two and a half years old and we have no property. Normally they would send you notices on taxes but we have no background, our balance sheets are two years old, we are not for profit. They can’t question us on our tax liability which they do to some other media organisations. We are so new that we have escaped those interventions.