India Internet

Anand Sridharan has an excellent update on the Indian Internet space: “Growth is decent (subs, e-commerce, ad spend), but no hockey-stick effect yet. Given the small base, evolutionary growth isnt good enough to quickly reach significant scale. We are not seeing the equivalent of cellphones circa-2003, where the industry exploded (triggered by CDMA entry, free incoming and a $10 entry cost to go mobile). A base of 4-5 million Indian homes have PCs, with new PC sales to households hovering slightly north of 1 million/year. To put this in context, the PC base is roughly comparable to the base of passenger cars (remember, the average car costs 10x that of a PC) and the number of households with an annual income of over Rs. 0.5 million. PCs are yet to penetrate the Rs. 0.2 to 0.5 million annual household income segment, that forms the mainstay of the Indian middle class (this segment has roughly 14 million households).”

NYT on Yahoo’s Semel

The New York Times writes:

Perhaps the most glaring difference between Yahoo’s vision of a media company and the visions of more conventional media groups is in the definition of content. In a world of high-speed connections to a growing web of material that audiences can consume or manipulate in endless ways, Yahoo strives to be a 24/7 global blockbuster of self-expression. “Terry has said he’s been very clear about the fact that the habits and the desires of the consumer are the common theme between his last career and his current career,” Mr. Yang said.

Mobile Killer App?

The Pondering Primate writes:

The announcement of Google patenting the click to call hyperlink brings up a point I have been trying to make on the Pondering Primate. The personal computer hyperlink is very valuable, the physical world hyperlink will be invaluable.

The next platform for the Web and search is the mobile. When there are more phones connected to the Web than PCs, what kind of value will hyperlinks have then?

The Click Economy

Nicholas Carr wrote recently:

Google’s business isn’t really about monetizing eyeballs; it’s about monetizing clicks. That may seem like a small distinction – you have to attract the eyeball, after all, before you can spur the click – but I think there’s actually a very big difference. Eyeball monetization is the traditional media strategy: publish or broadcast content that attracts readers or viewers, and then intersperse ads among that content. The content, in this case, serves not to prompt action directly, but merely to draw an audience that’s attractive to companies looking to promote their products and services. There’s a natural distance, in other words, between the content and the ads – a distance that’s good for the content producer but often frustrating to the advertiser.

The click monetization strategy removes that distance. In Google’s AdSense program, for instance, a media company, or other content producer, earns nothing by simply attracting eyeballs. It only brings in cash by getting viewers to click on an ad link…Google talks a lot about the “relevance” of its ads, but relevance is a byproduct. Google is building an extraordinarily sophisticated machine for manipulating consumers – for increasing the odds that you or I will not just view or read but click. The most economically successful online content producers will be those that work within that system.

DRM and Media Companies

Knowledge@Wharton discusses digital rights management:

Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter says his problem with DRM has to do with the stringent restrictions favored by music labels and Hollywood. “Ultimately, those limits will lose customers,” says Hunter. He isn’t alone in that assessment. Ben Macklin, senior analyst at research firm eMarketer, notes in a report that “if the rightful owner does not allow consumers to get the content they want, when they want it and how they want to use it, they will get it elsewhere. Content providers can either get a piece of the action or put such tight [controls] on their content through DRM and restrictive terms-of-service agreements that consumers will simply avoid them.”

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a partner in 2929 Entertainment, a holding company that has begun to release high-definition movies simultaneously in theatres and on TV and home-video, adds that DRM restrictions could easily alienate customers, especially as entertainment platforms such as the PC, handheld devices and television converge. “You could really [anger] your customers, so you better come up with something that puts the customer first,” said Cuban in an email interview.

TECH TALK: Rethinking Newspapers: The Daily Me-al

My mornings have been the same since I can remember when it comes to reading newspapers I just need to have one to read. The days when there isnt one (like January 27 recently because of the previous day being a holiday Indias Republic Day) feel quite odd. For the past few years, the newspapers I get at home get read at the breakfast table. Earlier, it used to be just three Indian Express, Economic Times and Financial Express. Now, there are a lot more. Along with these three, we get Times of India, Hindustan Times, DNA, Free Press Journal, Business Line and Business Standard. Since my breakfast time hasnt gotten any longer, the time with each newspaper has gotten shorter!

To top it all, in the evening, we get 5 more newspapers Mid-Day and Afternoon (the two Mumbai eveningers), along with the Financial Times, Asian Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. So, that makes it 15 newspapers daily.

Ive enjoyed reading newspapers ever since I can remember. When I was very young, I used to go to the sports pages and pour over the cricket-related news. (Those were the days when the Internet still hadnt made an appearance in our lives.) During my college days, Id read the papers and also cut out interesting stories and file them a habit I acquired from my father. During my IIT days, there was a mad scramble every morning to get to the Times of India and cut out the crossword to solve during lectures.

In the US, while at Columbia University, I fell in love with the New York Times. Id scan the first section for their occasional India story. Then, get to the Business section. I also enjoyed reading the Science Times and Circuits. Id stay up a little late on Saturdays to get the Sunday Times. I also realised (a little late in my stay) that I could get the Times of India at the university library (in the School of International Affairs). Then, slowly, the Wall Street Journal became a daily read as I entered the world of business. I especially liked the Page One in-depth stories.

After returning to India and starting my own business, I got little time to spend with the papers. But after I started IndiaWorld in 1994, the love affair continued. Id read the papers each morning and then update the Headlines on the website and create a digest to send to people via email. For a long time, the Times and the Indian Express were the only two mainstream papers available in Mumbai, along with their financial dailies (Economic Times and Financial Express). In the past year, as the media scene in India has exploded, so have the reading options.

Of the national newspapers, the Indian Express remains my favourite. Among the business dailies, the Business Standard is better (but thats not saying much). In the triad of international papers, the Financial Times is what I like more. My reading habits have changed with the times. The newspapers, though, havent changed much. All of them have websites, but I rarely visit the Indian newspapers online.

And so it was that one day recently, I came across an article by Jeff Jarvis which made me think about newspapers and their future.

Tomorrow: Jeff Jarvis Comments