Asia Buzz: New Voices

Samira Kanwar, Lauren Frayer, Ajay Chacko

Samira Kanwar, Lauren Frayer, Ajay Chacko

MUMBAI: On 22nd February 2019, Asia Society India Centre hosted Ajay Chacko, Founder and CEO of Arre.com and Samira Kanwar, Head of Content at VICE India, for a discussion moderated by Lauren Frayer, India Correspondent for NPR India on the New Voices in Indian media and journalism. The conversation focussed on beliefs, business models and responsibilities of such upcoming media houses.

Lauren commenced the talk by asking what interests young Mumbaikars? Both Samira and Ajay believe that larger issues still need to be covered, just like traditional media, but it needs to be packaged better for youth, as urban English speaking audiences want sharper and easy to process the news. They also pointed out that different online platforms have now carved out their own niche; Vice, Arre.com have more reader volume while Hotstar, Amazon, and Netflix cater to television viewers.

Ajay went on to speak about how most of these news houses were broke, because of the nature of digital news consumption. But, they’re able to support the non-entertainment space through the revenues generated from entertainment, mostly through ads and shows with a longer shelf-life. Budget constraints and Indian audiences unaccustomed to pay for content are the prime barriers to growth.

On the subject of morality in news distribution, both Samira and Ajay agreed that while they don’t see anything wrong with the recent trend of influencers since markets today are brand-centric, but they do have a set of issues like fake news, terrorism, child abuse that they avoid. And while this can be confused with censorship, it’s actually about appropriateness.

The conversation was then steered towards the ongoing lay-offs in the media industry, to which Samira was quick to respond that in the course of experimenting and finding the right model, such steps are often the only way out as everyone aims to be cost-effective. Ajay closed the conversation with a remark that news is a crowded space, with multiple players and intense competition in addition to an aware audience base, making it the of the survival of the fittest, like Hotstar in the Indian entertainment space.

Watch the complete programme here: https://asiasociety.org/video/rise-alternative-media-india-complete

As reported by Charmi Mehta, Programme Development Intern, Asia Society India Centre.