These are show notes from Episode 138 of the Pragati Podcast with Prem Panicker (Twitter). I thought this episode is an equivalent to an MBA course on starting an online publication in India today. My show notes are only points from the podcast that are of interest to me.
Prem is talking about his time at rediff.com. He says that they had limited resources and so the news desk they developed had to sort and prioritise news flow. For press conferences and coverage of events, they could rely on news agencies who will cover these events. They had to decide when to send in a reporter to the field.
He says they used data to maintain customers and to make sure they are not losing readers but the current news organizations are being run from Excel sheets.
They designed their story pages like home pages because people were landing there directly. Their pages were modelled like a shopping mall is. The customer is made to walk by some stores as he moves up or down the stairs or escalators in the mall. This is for randomly discovering stuff one might not otherwise consume. Similarly they share stories that the reader reaches a page is also shown news content that they might like to read.
Prem talks about his time with Yahoo! They knew that they could not compete with other news organisations. They went for thoughtful long form pieces. Some of the news stories that emerge are like the ones by Arati Kumar-Rao while she travelled along the Brahmaputra river.
He says that we cite short attention spans of the reader. But, this is more the journalism houses excuse for not providing long form journalistic content. He cites examples of various journalism house pivoting to long form journalism. Even Buzzfeed!
The “class” even had a case study with Barkha Dutt’s new venture – MoJo TV.
For some examples of online content done well, he suggests his own website, peepli.org stories from 2014 for which he is presently trying to raise money.
For data visualisations, he suggests work done by Bobby Ghosh for the Hindustan Times, circa 2014. Ghosh is presently with Bloomberg Opinion.
He suggests the podcasts of Amit Varma’s The Seen and the Unseen and Rukmini’s The Moving Curve.
The show ends with a number. Prem thinks that INR 120 crores would be a safe amount to have to start your own news venture.