Omni-channel concerns and engagement with the news loving public

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Media rumble

The second annual two-day Media Rumble conference set off to an enthusiastic audience at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on 3 August 2018. This is the newspaper and media conference season with several in India itself including the upcoming WAN IFRA conference generally has the backing of the heavy metal printing giants. Then there is the 4-day INMA South Asia Festival this week in New Delhi. Thus when Media Rumble entered the media conference space last year there were several eyebrows raised – what is new?

A look at public policy and law making

The first event held last year, was a roaring success with four international journalists including Micheal Rezendes of The Boston Globe (the investigative journalist behind Spotlight, the Oscar winning film on sexual abuse in the Church) taking part. This year, we decided to meet Abhinandan Sekhri the CEO and co-founder of News Laundry who is also the co-curator of Media Rumble, to find out more about the two day festival. Before the event, we asked him, “What is Media Rumble and why is it really happening?”

“Whereas there are various media conferences, Media Rumble looks holistically at the the business of news from 360 degrees. Not only the rapidly changing technology perspective but also from the content angle and its monetisation,” responded Sekhri. “Importantly we also look at the Government policy and the laws that govern media. For example while there are structured laws and regulations for print and broadcast there are no specific laws for the fast changing digital media. This is largely due to the fact that rapid innovations have made the digital media landscape extremely fluid and difficult to regulate.” Sekhri told us that Media Rumble this year had 15 international speakers amongst the hundred odd speakers at the meet. “Tying up with Teamwork Arts helps us bring in the best international talent to the event and not let it be an inward looking naval gazing exercise,” says Sekhri.

Among the international media speakers at this year’s event was Francesca Panetta executive editor of virtual reality at The Guardian. An outstanding creative artist and multi-award winning digital journalist she shared some wonderful insights on the innovative world of virtual reality. Also present were Rafida Bonya Ahmed from Bangladesh the blogger widow of Avijit Roy who was killed by extremists, pro-democracy activist and journalist Iyad-el- Baghdadi who was evicted from the UAE after being arrested and jailed in 2014 and Maria Ressa the ex-CNN investigative reporter who fell out with the Philippines president and was accused of tax evasion and hounded by online trolls.

A large number of  the sessions at the Stein Auditorium dealt with public policy, investigative journalism and the consequent confrontation with lawmakers. The dialogue session between media and Government failed to materialise because the Minister of State Col Rathore had to answer questions in the parliament and could not leave the parliament premises at the scheduled time. But the discussion on ‘patriotism versus journalism’ and ‘sleeping with the adversary’ added enough spice to the growing debate on freedom of press and censorship of media. There was an interesting session on the high cost of investigative journalism on day 2 with Shane Bauer, Josy Joseph, Marissa Kwiatkowski and Jay Mazoomdar moderated by Srinivasan Jain of NDTV.

Master classes for deep learning, films for expanding horizons.

The two-day program was carefully curated with several master classes by experts to provide deep learning experiences. The sessions started with understanding how to cover the parliament by Meghnad S and a workshop on data as a source by Rakesh Dubbudu that educated journalists on how to extract data for creating stories. A discussion between Raju Narisetti, Anushree Goenka and Praveen Gopal Krishnan explored the advertising media business model. Francesca Panetta discussed virtuality and reality with Durga Raghunath of the Indian Express in another session.

There were also some good films shown to the audience before discussion sessions. A breath taking film by celebrated photographers and father and daughter Raghu Rai and Avani Rai which was followed by an animated discussion with the creators and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and Madhu Trehan editor in chief and co-founder of News Laundry. The two hour award winning film by Steven Spielberg ‘The Post’ on the fight for press freedom was shown on day two. There were sessions with Zakka Jacob, Gangadhar Patil , Meghna Gulzar, Suhasini Haider and Shereen Bhan among others.

The diverse mix of extraordinary films, master classes and technology, news and policy sessions make Media Rumble an interesting experience to look forward to in the years to come. What was unique about this conference was that it was not merely a conference for the insiders but invited the general public to engage with media and media concerns at a nominal entrance fee. It was clear that it rang a bell with concerned and veteran news addicts as well the next generation that get their news only from social media and smart phones.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Indian Printer and Publisher’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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