It was last week when one of the students of a leading media school approached me for some inputs on her thesis, and one of the questions was about what changed in the pandemic vis-à-vis media and communications.
Of course, a lot had changed as there were a plethora of developments, upheavals, disruptions, and cataclysmic events were seen by the media industry. We saw the shrinking of really thick leading national broadsheet newspapers into only a few pages, probably an effort from them to ensure the brand remains alive in the minds of people. We witnessed several super loyal journalists of decades losing their jobs almost overnight, without any notice. We saw advertisements nearly disappearing from the print and TV channels.
While the catastrophic events of the pandemic were unfolding, a digital revolution was happening all over the world. Learning the new ways to live, work and play, where everyone in their own ways was embracing the digital world as it applied to them individually. As the newspaper deliveries were cut off in the initial lockdown days, people swiftly accepted reading and circulating PDF copies of various print media including newspapers and magazines.
Not that these solutions weren’t available earlier, the acceptance and willingness of people to start consuming them were always there strongly. This inhibition was almost shattered among all classes of people, all levels of society, and all academic/literary capabilities almost instantaneously. The transition from paper to screen was visible as far as the consumption of news was concerned.
Another important aspect of this was a monetisation drive of digital content by the news media owners. Many of the media houses had been visionary in creating and allowing people to access the e-papers as PDF downloads from the websites in the past decade, however, almost all of them barring a few would give them free for their readers. In the pandemic where physical editions of newspapers and magazines took a big hit, they grasped this opportunity of monetizing e-papers.
A significant number of media houses rushed into the creation of paid subscription packages for their readers, controlling the distribution of digital content, and in some cases even responding with legal notices to various messaging platforms and individuals for distribution of their e-papers in PDF. News media consumers have started depending more upon digital content, as a generalised practice.
Also, with the mushrooming of digital news outlets, the Government too made policy changes and started seeking more information about the origin of their sources, promoters, funding, etc. Then came in place an Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which asked publishers of digital news to provide certain information. As of today, over 500 digital news media publishers have already complied with the requirements of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.
Interestingly, leading digital news outlets believing in representing the need of voicing the interests of the digital news ecosystem, have come together to set up a foundation to look after the interests of digital-only news platforms. An initiative that is expected to grow with the support of independent journalists, freelancers, entrepreneurs, news professionals, and news consumers in the space of digital-only news.
News media consumers are now becoming more and more dependent upon digital news for the simple reason that it offers instantaneous, real-time, developing news engagingly. Its ability to cover a variety of related issues, and making available the opinions and views of experts/influencers even as the news is developing will ensure that in the digital era more and more news consumers will depend upon digital-only news platforms!
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.