Indian newspapers have to focus less on reporting and more on journalism. What I mean is that there needs to be a greater emphasis on doing in-depth stories about the changing India. (One would have thought that magazines like India Today would probably have focused on that but the weeklies have also dumbed down their coverage much like some of the newspapers.) I still find that some of the more insightful trend-capturing stories on the changing India come in the international publications.
Indian newspapers could also engage their readers a lot more. One step in that direction would be to enable their journalists to blog so that stories can have discussion and follow-ups. There are times when, for space reasons, stories are edited for the print version. It would be nice to read about the writers thoughts and experiences and that may be better done on the web than in print. In addition, newspapers can also showcase some of the writings from bloggers. There is now a growing base of Indian bloggers and the commentary is getting smarter. [To its credit, Mumbai Mirror does feature a couple blog posts daily on a specific topic.]
Taken together, a lot of these changes will make for a better product. Will it increase circulation? I dont know. But I do know, that it will make for a better reading experience every morning for many of us. India is changing and we need our newspapers to change with it for the better. Of course, the newspapers could argue that they are changing. And their real customers are not us but the advertisers who pay money to reach their reader base and those revenues are rising. What I am not sure of is how long this trend will continue. In the next 2-3 years, India will see a significant increase in both always-on and broadband Internet connections, and data-enabled mobile handsets. That is the world newspapers will have to prepare for. It is a world where search engines will rule and users will be able to subscribe to the topics (and ads) of their interest. It is a world where each of us can get our Daily Me. It is also a world of multiplying media options as video becomes a reality on the Internet and the mobile.
Despite all the futuristic talk, I still think there is a distinct charm in holding the newspaper in your hand. Or, maybe, I come from the old school where habits die hard. I just wish for the days when the newspaper would open minds and expand thinking. Or, maybe, the world of media and technology has moved too far ahead, and we better accept the wisdom of the crowds. Whatever it is, I hope to get a better product in the months and years to come, and spend more time, not less, with the newspaper. Or, maybe, that is wishful thinking. Only time will tell.
TECH TALK Rethinking Newspapers+T