Digital Do's and Dont's – the Indian perspective
India has more then 400 million registered Internet users but given the fact that the country has more then 1,3 billion citizens, the share is still only 34,8 percent.
Divya Rajagopal, assistant editor with Economic Times newspaper in Mumbai, introduced her newspaper group – Times of India – who is the largest selling English daily newspaper in the world. Divya explained that the print newspaper circulation is still growing in India driven by regional languages which are over 30 of them in India. Besides as the literacy grows in India, the mere fact of being seen with a newspaper contributes to a person’s social status, which benefits the English language newspapers in India, as it helps them take this aspirational value to their advertisers.
Vibodh Parthasarathi, associate professor at Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi, was relating the digital transition to his field of research and teaching. First of all, he concluded that all his books are widespread on the internet, and that students are checking facts from his lectures on their smartphones while he presents them. Second, his research field within media policies and media business have expanded a lot due to the on-going digitization. He addressed that even though the number of internet penetration is large, many areas of the country are still blank spots without proper internet connection. Vibodh also explained how the booming TV news industry too is keeping the news medium alive in India.
Karen Gabriel, researcher from Delhi University, addressed the many problems with online violations and the growing porn industry. The exploitation of women online is a growing concern in India, and among the worst cases where gang rape videos are for sale and distributed. Karen addressed the sexual exploitation of women as something of concern for the whole media industry. She also stressed on the commercialisation of the amateur porn and how this has become an integral part of capitalist enterprises.
Japreet Grewal, researcher from Centre for Internet and Society in New Delhi, introduced several different aspects of the legal framework that surrounds the digital landscape of India. Among them, the law on obscenity that sometimes is used in order to cope with online harassment, besides how Indian laws are still grappling to come to terms with distinguishing offline and online crimes.
Her colleague Zeenab Aneez, also researcher from Centre for Internet and Society but in Bangalore, has recently conducted a study of Indian daily newspapers’ newsrooms’ strategies to cope with the digital transition. The results show that many daily newspapers are lacking clear strategies to cope with the challenges that come with the digital media landscape. The result is that many newsrooms have separated their digital and print operations instead of integrating them, a practise contrary to how news organisations in the west are operating.
Members of the audience wanted to know how newsrooms in India are preparing for advertising pressure driven by behavioral or targeted ads by companies that might alter the way news is produced. The speakers said there is still lack of understanding of such ad methods in India, however they agreed that this does pose a challenge to news gathering. As concluding remarks, the speakers narrated the biggest challenges that they expect will come to haunt the Indian news media in the age of digitisation and "fake news". The speakers shared their concern on how too much appeasement to please the audience or “giving them what they want” might not be a great idea. The ideal way of keeping readers engaged would be to package facts that are easily comprehensible and accessible to readers.
Text: Divya Rajagopal and Andreas Mattsson