Digital media is marching ahead and last week was significant on that count.
Hindustan Times marked a milestone when it became India’s first newspaper to be available on Kindle, the digital reading device made by online retailer Amazon. At $9.99 – or about Rs 460, you can buy yourself a month’s subscription of the paper that can be read on the device at 6 am every day.
While sceptics may wonder about the price from an Indian perspective, the significance is that in a way, HT is now a global newspaper in its own right, with attendant opportunities. I got an inkling of that within minutes of reading about the Kindle offer when I saw a Reuters story that quoted Google’s Nikesh Arora saying that the future was big in online videos. Now, consider that HT had reported this a month ago when Arora was here for the HT Leadership Summit. Very simply, a so-called northern Indian newspaper can now address the world market, not necessarily non-resident Indians weaned on a diet of HT in their Indian childhood. Kindle makes portability and distribution much easier.
In the US last week, cable distributor Comcast said it would buy a majority stake in broadcaster NBC Universal in a deal that enables sale of video content on the Internet, PCs and mobile phones, besides cable TV. Truly, what matters is the content and it can now be leveraged across channels.
While that happened, Google Inc’s chief executive officer Eric Schmidt wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal – now controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp – addressing the very concerns that has made Murdoch think of pulling off online news content from Google’s news site. Murdoch says the search engine is getting away with gaining from news content that it does not create, but Schmidt argues that Google News only drives traffic to news sites. Schmidt talks of a future in which software can target viewers precisely, while viewers can use various devices and payment options to get a mix of what they want.
Content is king, while Kindle, Comcast and to a certain extent, Google News, are the chariots on which the king must travel in the Digital Age. Revenue issues, partnerships and prices will evolve over time, but the future is certainly here.