Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why Doesn’t The Indian Media Blog More?

If you live in India and have been using the internet since we had access to it (circa the 90’s), blogs and blogging might seem like old hat! Experimenting with blogspot or wordpress, you must have, at some point, spilled your guts to an indifferent blogosphere, the details of a failed romance or inflicted your friends with fiendish poetry. But seeing how popular blogs are as a means of communicating news and views, it’s funny to see how the Indian media hasn’t quite taken to it.

Every newspaper in India has probably seen the success of the NY Times’ blog site. From the The Lede, ArtsBeat and At War, the blogs are rich and diverse in content; frequently updated, with a lot of events being live-blogged. The blogs generate massive page views and feedback for the site.

Thanks to the Times’ online success, India’s largest newspapers and TV channels now have a prominent “Blogs” section on their websites: The Times of India (TOI), Hindustan Times, CNN IBN,Mint, DNA and NDTV all have their “bloggers.”

However, except for the blogs at Times Of India and Mint, the story seems the same everywhere: blog sections are started with great fanfare; lots of noise is made about how that particular channel/newspaper is “connecting with the youth” and the phrase “web 2.0” is tossed around. But, within a few months, all is forgotten.

For example, on the Hindustan Times’ blogs page, everyone seems to be posting exactly once a week. Coincidence? Most definitely not: some poor intern down the line must’ve been assigned the task of putting up their weekly op-ed for print, onto the blog. How does that even qualify as blogging?

CNN IBN is pretty much the same story: opinion pieces written for print are picked up and put on the blogs page, and that too quite irregularly.

TOI.com and Mint’s blog sites have some excellent and rich opinion pieces – but still lack the live updation and frequency that might draw television news viewers to news sites on the internet.

Compare this to the NY Times’ blog page: daily multiple updates on virtually every blog, and very different content from what is seen in print. In fact, it’s easy to spend hours a day just reading updates to the blogs.

Even Time magazine is known for its rich online-only content: The Page and Swampland are two of the best sources of information on the white house.

It is time that Indian media empires understand that the internet is not a broadcast medium like television or print, but an excellent means of offering more value and interacting with readers.

Disclaimer: I used to work for The Times of India.


Cross-posted at http://indiejourno.com/2009/10/23/why-doesnt-the-india-media-blog-more/

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jingo lo Blah

So this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry is awarded “for having showed what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at the atomic level.” Excellent, India’s newspapers say, and carry on with more pressing issues, like asking their readers who the hottest Bollywood Bombshell is – and life goes on as normal.

Except no – the wires mention three recipients of the award (the Nobel, not the Bombshell), and one of them happens to have a distinctly South-Indian name! Suddenly, reporters from the length and breadth of the country who, till October 6, could probably not have told us the full-form of DNA, are talking about how an Indian has changed the face of chemistry. Personality analyses are carried out, old acquaintances are dug up and inter-state comparisons are done to track which state has given us our most luminous.

Never mind the fact that our friendly neighbourhood professor left our neighbourhood 38 years ago, is currently a US citizen, and lives in Cambridge, England. “So what”, our editors tell us, “He has not forgotten his roots – he visited Madras in 2002 and delivered an excellent slide presentation”!

The fact remains that jingoism sells – specially when it comes in the form of foreign acceptance of anything even remotely connected to India. Our news media, apparently mirroring what the famed “common man” thinks, derides anything that presents India to foreigners as being anything but a land of perfect happiness, warm and friendly people and of course elephants and palaces. “Poverty porn at its worst” and “Defaming Hindus”– remember Slumdog Millionaire? In an ironic twist worthy of the “It happens only in India” motif, we shower the movie with laurels exactly a month later, when it wins multiple Oscars – because we then see it as foreign acceptance of India having “arrived” on the international stage. What happens next? Our single-largest national political party buys the rights to use the movie’s title track in their general election campaign!

So what’s wrong with whipping up a little patriotic fervor? Actually, quite a bit. Feel-good stories about the Nobel Laureate’s college days in Baroda 40 years ago only serve to distract from the fact that the best bet for an Indian to get close to a Nobel is to head for foreign shores early in his/her career. A lead story on how a Facebook app is “offending” India by not featuring the Indian flag – the day Naxals gun down 17 policemen in a brazen attack – grabs attention from the fact that our chief ministers are utterly clueless on how to prevent this senseless loss of human life. "We will do whatever is required", indeed. We could do well to listen to the Laureate himself: “Science is done for the pursuit of knowledge. It is not done to represent your national team. It has no national boundaries whatsoever....Science is a great international mixer, so the idea that it is a sort of cricket match where our team won — that simply is a wrong way of looking at scientific discovery.” Till we are all as enlightened, let’s hope Jennifer Aniston’s Indian connection keeps us entertained.

Cross-posted at http://indiejourno.com/2009/10/20/indian-like-you/

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mobigloat period...

...The amount of time people keep the "Sent from my iPhone/Blackberry/Nokia Phone" email signature, before removing it for good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why are our Cricketers exhausted?

Exhaustion is being cited as the main reason for the Indian team's abysmal show at the World Cup. Personally, I'm not much of a cricket fan, so the loss didn't bother me that much - in fact, seeing how we were playing against England, we most definitely did not deserve to win that match.

But why exhaustion? How much cricket are these guys playing - about 5 or 6 matches in the World Cup, and before that, in April/May, about 12-15 matches. So that's 20 matches (of 4 hours each) over 3 months. Even given that each match is a highly physically taxing exercise, and there's net practice daily for a few hours, why is everyone that tired? Don't people work 60-70-80 hour weeks continuously for much less money/travel/comfort/fame/glamour?

To quote a blogpost from my ex-employer, The Times of India, "After six gruelling weeks, the IPL ended on May 24 in South Africa. Within a week, the team was playing practice games in London. Which is why the team looked jaded." Well, most people I know work 5-6 months straight before they can take a week off, and it's considered to be a decent break. Why is it so less for our exalted cricket team?

Other reports say that the team, after playing so much cricket continuously, had lost the will to win. Oh please. Pace bowlers citing physical exhaustion is one thing, but players saying "Sorry, playing for our country, earning all this money, getting all this exposure, traveling to all these places and staying at the best of hotels is not enough to make our job interesting. Please do something to spice it up a bit" is a bit much, isn't it? Why do we feel the need to blame extraneous factors for the team's lack of motivation? I can't ever recall a time when I was able to quote "Lack of sufficient motivation" as a reason for screwing up at work!

Once again - this is not a rant about the team's dismal performance at the World Cup. I haven't heard anyone in the team give this reason as an excuse for their failure. (Though obviously they wouldn't - they can't afford to be seen as critical of the IPL - but that's another story). This is merely befuddlement at all the people citing fatigue as the main reason for our exit!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The New Ten: Louder.


Pearl Jam's highly awaited reissue of Ten is out. And I have to say...I was hoping for better. 

The album mostly seems like Brendan O'Brien (the producer - though maybe the sound engineer is a more likely culprit) just boosted the master volume by compressing the audio, then boosted Vedder's vocals to make them stand out a bit more, and a slight increase in McCreedy's guitar - and that's it.

To quote Wikipedia:

The loudness war (or loudness race) is the music industry's tendency to record, produce, and broadcast music at progressively increasing levels of loudness to attempt to create a sound that stands out from others.

This phenomenon can be observed in many areas of the music industry, particularly broadcasting and albums released on CD and DVD. In the case of CDs, the war stems from artists' and producers' desires to create CDs that sound as loud as possible, or louder than CDs from competing artists or recording labels.[2]

However, as the maximum amplitude of a CD is at a fixed level, once that level has been reached, the overall loudness can only be increased by a combination ofdynamic range compression and make-up gain. This is done by applying an increasingly high ratio of compression to the dynamic range of the recording and then increasing the gain of the recording until the peaks have reached maximum. Certain extreme uses of dynamic range compression can introduce distortion or clipping to the waveform of the recording.


Seems like Pearl Jam's the latest to follow suit. Pity.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New use for refrigerators...

...as a unit of measurement.



Update: Everyone's doing it now. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,289961,00.html

Friday, March 6, 2009

Paul McCartney's Dance Tonight


Such a brilliant song...and mostly just a mandolin and a simple beat.

Wish I could compose like this.
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