All mediums—be they print, TV, radio, or digital—are running a marathon against the tides of time and technology.
The Global Village, a term coined by Marshall McLuhan, a well-known media theorist who foresaw mass consumption and production of content by media houses, holds great relevance in the present times. His term essentially meant the coming together of the world in one gigantic web of media–no borders, no physical distance; nothing could hinder this seamless connectedness. That is exactly what the media of the 21st century is all about.
The Media Then
India’s liberalization played a major role in paving the way for foreign broadcasters. It gave the opportunity to Indian media, to expand its wings and viewers, an option to see the world beyond the good-old ‘DD’. This newly opened economy brought a wave of revolution to the ways in which news was produced and consumed in India. Since then, there has been no stopping the ways in which the media industry went on to evolve, advance, and expand. It is, therefore, significant to point out that satellite television news networks have not expanded anywhere as they have in India. In less than a decade, between 1998 and 2006, India experienced the rise of more than 50 24-hours satellite news channels, broadcasting news in different languages.
Nowadays, however, the media landscape has moved beyond a few sectoral divisions. With a different structure of activities involving a wide variety of services such as content, distribution, search features, etc., the 21st Century Media is on a path-breaking journey. All mediums—may it be print, television, radio, or digital—are running a marathon against the tides of time & technology. Although there have been numerous debates regarding the existential crisis of traditional media, consumer sentiment refuses to support these claims. It continues to hold the highest credibility repute in this era.
Nevertheless, the constant progression of technology has increased competition to a significant level. Just as the radio industry had to rethink its commercial strategy during the rise of television, print publications are starting to rethink methods of content delivery in the digital age. Therefore, foresightedness is an important factor if one has to remain a part of this ceaseless marathon.
Social media: Boon or Bane?
Today, media is an inseparable part of our lives. It mirrors our society, and gives a medium to the common man to raise his voice on the prevailing issues around him. It’s a strong socializing tool which enables us to know what’s going on around us, and to some extent, contributes to our perception formation. More often than not, this perception formation can be accredited to the ever-growing sphere of social media which gives us access to the world on our fingertips. It has become an integral part of our personal lives, and the majority of us have now started viewing our world through the lens of social media. It is so prevalent in our everyday life that it’s the first thing we see before sleeping and upon waking up. And this trend is not limited to just individuals anymore; organizations, whether big or small, have started to realize the importance of having an identity on social media.
However, there are a number of caveats that concern this medium. The contemporary world is now dealing with an excess of information, creating the menace of fake-news. Falsehoods and rumours float around the online space all the time, in the guise of news. The medium has inadvertently given a platform to certain individuals to spew hate and violence. And while mainstream media goes through gatekeeping of content, social media is completely devoid of any such sentinel. Thus, the onus is on journalists and traditional media to counter this assault on truth.
Beyond the television set
The entertainment industry, too, is no alien to the frequent changes that have been occurring due technological advancement. Earlier, entertainment was only restricted to our television sets or cinema. Now, the rise of the internet has given the entertainment industry a new lease of life and leeway to experiment with content. Internet has also changed the way audiences used to consume content, with an increased demand for over-the-top media services.
What’s more is that, these progressions in the media industry have been openly embraced by organizations as they have allowed businesses go beyond their scope and limitations to offer greater sophistication and efficiency to marketers and advertisers. Due to these changed mechanisms, broadcasters have also understood the importance of having regional presence and have therefore started establishing a strong regional identity by jumping into the bandwagon of localization.
Going limitless with the delivery of content, media industry will now depend a lot on digital penetration for long term sustenance. The industry is on a transformative journey where experimentation with the latest platforms & technology is indispensable. Indeed, there should be heavy investment on the technological front so as to explore the most convenient and cost-effective methods for better delivery and revenue generation. There has to be a proactive approach towards training the employees in getting equipped with the latest technical advances in order to make them future ready.
The Media Now & Next
The disruptive year of 2020 has been an eye-opener for almost all industries as the year itself was filled with unprecedented challenges. One of the key implications of the pandemic on the media industry was a historic rise in news viewership as audiences trusted news channels as a prime source of information. The minute-to-minute updates by news channels were closely monitored by viewers while the world was under lockdown. In fact, many news channels innovated the news delivery process by hosting shows from their homes, thereby increasing productivity through new combinations of virtual and onsite work. Organizations learnt to work with minimal force but with maximum impact.
On the other hand, the year 2020 also highlighted the drawbacks of the traditional revenue generation model, calling for urgent amendments in an industry which is highly reliant on ad revenue. Nonetheless, the festive season of 2020 ensured considerable growth on news channels in terms of revenue generation, even without the availability of BARC data. This throws the light on the fact that the news channels do not require a measurement system for survival. But it is imperative for the measurement systems to reform itself, for its own survival. These factors highlight how the operational aspect of the industry will be the next big transformation in the years to come.
Over the past few decades, with time and technology, cultures, traditions, and beliefs have also witnessed change. But the present time is changing way faster due to the powerful influence of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc. Similarly, a spectacular growth has been witnessed on OTT Platforms, indicating a transition to direct-to-consumer business models. Advanced wireless technologies such as 5G will play a crucial role in boosting new opportunities in 2021, by radically transforming operations and enabling companies to deliver new products and services. With faster speed and lower latency, 5G has the potential to redefine convergence media. Moreover, the use of multichannel, social, and other platforms will enable broadcast players to create an even more memorable experience for viewers in the near future.
Media in the 21st century, therefore, plays the role of a protagonist in providing greater horizons in the realms of education, general knowledge, and entertainment. It has also made one thing crystal clear—that waves of media cannot be pulled back, but they can be easily modified with changing times.
Technology has now given apt power to people, to influence the world around them, so it becomes important for the media industry to use this power adequately without compromising on ethical factors. The media industry exists as a dominator in the present era—it knows no boundaries and has no geographical limitations. It has the power to change, influence, and conquer. And that is what truly differentiates the media of the times.
Avinash Pandey is CEO, ABP Network.