India Knowledge@Wharton writes:
With the relaxation of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) rules, publications as diverse as Newsweek, Fortune, Time Out, Men’s Health and Auto Car have set up Indian operations in recent months. The Conde Nast group has come in through a 100% privately held subsidiary, and will launch its flagship Vogue next year. On the newspaper front, there is now company for the International Herald Tribune, which had come in two years ago to launch an identical locally printed version of its international edition (called a “facsimile edition”). The Independent of the U.K. tied up with Dainik Jagran, a leading Hindi-language newspaper publisher. These are just some of the new arrivals.
Why this sudden interest in Indian print media?
First, in contrast to the West, where in recent years the print media have been left bloodied by declining circulation and staff layoffs, India is adding millions of readers. The National Readership Survey 2006, an annual review by an autonomous division of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, said the entire Indian press had added seven million new readers in the year leading up to June 2006. The number of readers of dailies and magazines grew from 212 million to 216 million in the three years leading up to June 2006. The survey did not cover the string of niche titles that are regularly launched and whose collective readership estimates are unlisted, but considered sizeable. “There is still significant scope for growth, as 359 million people who can read and understand any language do not read any publication,” the report stated.
Andy Kessler writes in a story from the Wall Street Journal about his interview with Mark Zuckerberg:
I dont get the sense Mr. Zuckerberg is a big fan of traditional media. He was famously photographed at a big media powwow wearing Adidas flip-flops. I snuck a quick glance down and noticed he still had them on. Actually, I dont have a TV but I do read newspapers. But how I read them is important. I dont pick up a physical newspaperIll get sent a link. The experience is very different, given to me by different people. What my friends sent to me or what other people think and send to me.
In effect, Facebook works in a similar way, only on a grand scale with software helping pull out relevant information. In the next iterations, youre going to see real stories being produced. These people went to this party and they did this the next day and then heres the discussion that was taking place off of this article in The Wall Street Journal. And these two people went to this party and they broke up the next day. Whatever, you can start weaving together real events into stories. As these start to approach being stories, we turn into a massive publisher. Twenty to 30 snippets of information or stories a day, thats like 300 million stories a day. It gets to a point where we are publishing more in a day than most other publications have in the history of their whole existence.
MediaPost has an article by Steve Smith:
Likewise with phones, drilling for applications and WAP favorites, passing photos to one another and downloading music is just on the other side of the tipping point of convenience. The content is not that good to induce us to learn new habits — and the alternative, easier channels to the same information are just not that far away.
I think that mobile content would do well to get over itself. Let’s face it; having in-hand my headlines, email, games, MySpace, etc. just is not that important. Mobile data is convenient, which is different from important. Important is connecting with family and friends, which is why we learned to navigate phone interfaces to begin with, and why low-tech SMS is the mobile cash cow that mobile TV can only dream of becoming.
In another recent article that was much debated and often criticised, Fortune’s Cate Murphy blew the fantasy of India as a superpower. This is what Cate had to say:
India is not a superpower, and in fact, that is probably the wrong ambition for it, anyway. Why? Let me answer in the form of some statistics.
* 47 percent of Indian children under the age of five are either malnourished or stunted.
* The adult literacy rate is 61 percent (behind Rwanda and barely ahead of Sudan). Even this is probably overstated, as people are deemed literate who can do little more than sign their name.
* Only 10 percent of the entire Indian labor force works in the formal economy; of these fewer than half are in the private sector.
* The enrollment of six-to-15-year-olds in school has actually declined in the last year. About 40 million children who are supposed to be in school are not.
* About a fifth of the population is chronically hungry; about half of the world’s hungry live in India.
* More than a quarter of the India population lives on less than a dollar a day.
* India has more people with HIV than any other country.
(Sources: UNDP, Unicef, World Food Program; Edward Luce)
The problem with India’s self-proclaimed (and wildly premature) declaration of superpower status is that it reflects a complacency about both its present – which for many people is dire – and its future. Eight percent growth for four years is wonderful, but as the saying goes, past performance is no guarantee of future results. And India is not doing what it needs to in order to sustain this momentum.
Consider the postwar history of East and Southeast Asia. The comparison is appropriate because India started at about the same point, and has watched just about every country in the region get ahead of it on the economic curve. All these places developed by being relatively open to trade; by investing in primary and secondary education; and by building pretty decent infrastructure (not only roads and ports, but health clinics and water supplies). India has begun to embrace one leg of this triangle – freer trade.
Even here, though, many of the worst features of the swadeshi (“self-reliance”) era remain intact, including an unreformed state banking sector; labor regulations that actively discourage hiring; abstruse land laws (and consequent lack of land titles); misshapen subsidies that hurt the poor; and corruption that is broad, deep and ubiquitous. Nothing useful is being done about any of this.
As for the other two legs of this development triangle – education and infrastructure – these are still badly broken. About a third of teachers fail to show up on any given day (and, of course, are unsackable); the supply of both water and power is expensive and unreliable.
Cate’s summary captures the challenge ahead of us in India: Hubris, of course, is the stuff of politics everywhere. But the future will not belong to India unless it takes action to embrace it, and that means more than high-profile vanity projects like putting a man on the moon or building the worlds tallest tower. It means showing that the world’s largest democracy can deliver real progress to the hundreds of millions who have never used the phone, much less the Internet. And in important ways, that just isn’t happening.
Tomorrow: Atanu Dey