Media has always undersold itself. So said Uday Shankar on Tuesday at the 21st edition of FICCI Frames, a media conclave held by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Shankar is currently president of Walt Disney Company’s Asia Pacific business – which had bought Star’s operations in India – and also senior vice-president of FICCI, and what he said should make audiences far and wide sit up. Traditional media such as publications and TV channels, according to him, had hurt their own interests by staying too dependent on ad revenues. With ad budgets being slashed right, left and centre, the riskiness of their business models had been exposed.
Indeed, Indian media has seen fierce competition over the accumulation of eyeballs for advertisers to aim messages at. This game led media vehicles to lower access barriers for their audiences, resulting in their being taken for granted – as virtually free services – by people at large. Today, even high-quality and better differentiated media products find it hard to make their primary customers pay for the value they get. Meanwhile, the proliferation of online avenues has made it difficult to keep content from leaking all over the internet.
What’s the solution? Discerning readers and viewers, goes one hope, will not flinch in paying up for content they truly value. Also, advertisers will begin to look beyond audience size and go for qualitative attributes instead. This may not be a forlorn hope, going by the recent boycott by big brands of social media platforms that carry posts that are often divisive and dangerous without batting an eyelid. It’s clearer than ever that eyeballs are not everything. What should be valued – in the finest sense of the term – are the values that media vehicles uphold. Audiences and advertisers alike need to acknowledge as much. FICCI