Our Next

FB_Cover

When I quit The Economic Times last December to start a new media company with Pankaj, only one thing was clear. We wanted to tell great stories from the intersection of technology, culture, and life in India.

As technology becomes mainstream, it is impacting us in ways that we don’t fully understand yet. Our job is to try and understand technological changes and talk about people, ideas and trends that are causing these changes. To try and take a peek at the future and stay on top of new and cool things that will help our audience every single day.

We also thought

We want to play a role in shaping the future of digital media in India.

We want to create something beautiful and world-class for smart and curious people.

Work with an ‘A-team’ of journalists, designers and technologists and learn new skills.

Create an organisation that stands the test of time.

We’ve had a lot of support and are very close to launch– dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s right now. Our co-founder Titash is building some really cool stuff for us (meet Regina!). Meanwhile, if you’d like early access to our site, go ahead and sign up on FactorDaily. You can follow FactorDaily on MediumTwitter & Facebook.

And yes, we still love old school journalism.

FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+Share

News Shows That Will Work for the New Generation Indian Viewer

Although I occasionally watch news on television and have a few friends who work for major news channels, I know very little of how TV news works. But nothing I’ve seen on television news has been exciting at least for the last 10 years.

Since we have a lot of television veterans like Shekhar Gupta, Raghav Bahl and Barkha Dutt starting new companies here’s an idea: how about making edgy and investigative television news? It would be different from the boring documentaries and shouting matches that we are tired of watching.

I’d like to see extremely well produced newscasts that are a little more subtle (understated, if you will) and dark. Immersive and investigative. Sort of how Marvel Comics has been making their comics into serials these days. You know, the difference between watching a Bollywood horror flick and reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula when you are a child.

Will it work? I think it will. Because there are so many compelling and strong stories to tell in India. Also, a strong indication that this kind of content is liked by the new generation viewer is the growing popularity of Vice.

Last month Vice Media announced a news programming deal with HBO. Vice will have a daily news show and a channel on HBO’s new Internet streaming service HBO Now. I recently came across a documentary on UK’s deadliest debt collector they made and ended up binge watching hours of their documentary.

Another show I’d like to see on a news channel is intelligent satire on current affairs (I don’t mean Cyrus Brocha*). Something like what John Oliver does. Again, there is a fair bit of investigative journalism that goes into producing a show like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

* Suggestion: Keep the comedy but turn up the journalism a bit.

Gigaom Shutdown

I’m not planning to do a lot of news on this site. But this is big and sad at the same time. Gigaom is shutting down. And I’m sure tech bloggers around the world are trying to make sense of this.

Apparently, the company isn’t able to pay its debts anymore. Readers of the tech blog were greeted with the following message this morning

Gigaom recently became unable to pay its creditors in full at this time. As a result, the company is working with its creditors that have rights to all of the company’s assets as their collateral. All operations have ceased. We do not know at this time what the lenders intend to do with the assets or if there will be any future operations using those assets. The company does not currently intend to file bankruptcy. We would like to take a moment and thank our readers and our community for supporting us all along.

Om Malik’s Gigaom was one of the earliest tech blogs in the US and much respected. But it seems there isn’t enough money in the business.

Om Malik, who many call the father of tech blogging Tweeted a few minutes ago that he just walked out of Gigaom for the last time.

Malik’s personal blog has a thank you note for readers but no postmortem reports yet. I’m still wondering if this is an early April fool prank. It’s unbelievable and very sad!

Last year, Om Malik , the founder Gigaom had stepped down and become a partner at True Ventures. At the time, the company founded in 2006 employed 70 people.

The Inverse Relation Between Quality & Measurement in Journalism

Online media and television is different from print media in many ways. But the most important difference is that you can measure almost everything online and on television.

That’s one value proposition digital media offers its advertisers– targeting and more bang for the buck. But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The problem with being able to measure every small thing, that it quickly drags quality down the drain. Unless the editorial consciously decides that it doesn’t want more clicks. Or decide to focus on better metrics– like total attention minutes.

Let me explain: There are certain type of articles that will do very well online. Because we get to know immediately, or within a few minutes, that it’s going viral, we try and do more of it. That’s probably the danger newsroom must steer clear of.

It’s really not that different from the real world. When you focus on quantity, quality takes a walk.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over, you must be a shallow Upworthy clone doing incredibly well!

Guess Who Else Turned Out To Have Done Some Great Journalism?

When I was putting together the list of great writers who were journalists too, I missed out on someone big! Guess which writer turned out to have done some journalism too?

Anton Chekov! 

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov 1860- 1904

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
1860- 1904

Besides a collection of plays loaned to me by a friend, I don’t remember reading much of Chekov (yeah, go ahead and call me philistine). Last week The New Yorker published an article about Chekov’s non fiction the Sakhalin Island. Akhil Sharma writes:

Aton Chekhov’s “Sakhalin Island,” his long investigation of prison conditions in Siberia, is the best work of journalism written in the nineteenth century. The fact that so few people know of the book, and that among Western critics (not necessarily Russian ones) it is considered a minor masterpiece instead of a major one—inferior to Alexander Herzen’s journals, for example—has something to do with how journalism is rarely considered literature. But it has even more to do with the lies that Chekhov told to get access to the prison colony.

Read the whole article here. Looks like another book that I must read.

Image: Wikipedia.

7 Ideas from Isaac Asimov That Will Change How Newsrooms Think

These days I’ve become increasingly obsessed with productivity. I’ve come a long way from where I was.  But there’s still a lot more to do. So I’m constantly chasing reading pieces like The Daily Habits of Highly Creative People and trying to apply some of it in my daily routine.

The most recent discovery in my quest for greater productivity, was Isaac Asimov’s essay on creativity which was published for the first time earlier this week.  The question he tries to answer is: How do people get new ideas?

It got me thinking if there are some takeaways that can be applied to the newsroom? In fact, all of it is very relevant in the context of a newsroom which is a great deal about  bringing people and ideas together.

Newsrooms are practically idea factories. Here are some parts that I find particularly relevant and some thoughts of my own.

#1 The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

Perhaps this is why it is important for reporters like me to read across beats from monetary policy to the newest dating app.

#2 My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it.

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

So think of ideas and explore threads of conversations that you’ve had, scribble it down for news meetings. Now comes the part about news meetings.

#3 If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. The individual may himself be extremely useful, but he might as well be put to work solo, for he is neutralizing the rest.

To be honest, I’ve been guilty of being the guy (maybe not by reputation) capable of neutralizing the rest.

#4 The optimum number of the group would probably not be very high. I should guess that no more than five would be wanted. A larger group might have a larger total supply of information, but there would be the tension of waiting to speak, which can be very frustrating. It would probably be better to have a number of sessions at which the people attending would vary, rather than one session including them all.

Our team meetings tend to be smaller and mostly fun. We try doing it over chai and as informally as possible.

#5 For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness.

Some of the best editors and team leaders I’ve worked with have been this way.

#6 Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren’t paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues.

I’m a great believer in this. Most of my decent stories have come up while I’ve been working on something else. But it is important to set out with a hypothesis and also create that serendipity. And here comes a note to editors and team leaders:

#7 I do not think that cerebration sessions can be left unguided. There must be someone in charge who plays a role equivalent to that of a psychoanalyst. A psychoanalyst, as I understand it, by asking the right questions (and except for that interfering as little as possible), gets the patient himself to discuss his past life in such a way as to elicit new understanding of it in his own eyes.

In the same way, a session-arbiter will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point. Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.

Thoughts?

PS: Since we are talking Asimov, also see: The Jobless Future: Humans Need Not Apply

Changing Media Landscape, The Golden Age of Journalism & Us

People around the world have started talking about the Golden Age of Journalism. Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape an insightful piece on how the journalism is changing.

On Monday Note, Frederic Filloux points out a few flaws in Andreessen’s reasoning. Both are great reads on the media industry and the state of flux it is in.

It isn’t so bad for print media in India yet. But most newsrooms realize that things are going to change very fast and are making investments for the future. Few weeks ago, I gave a talk at The St Joseph’s College in Bangalore on the changing media landscape. Here’s the presentation.

The Readers Expect The Best, Even If You Are a Small Newsroom

With the Internet and mobile, the  reader expects more out of newsrooms. If you are in a large newsroom like that of The New York Times with separate teams to produce web stores consider yourself lucky. But increasingly, newsrooms are becoming smaller.

What it means is that you need to do more things than one. That is, if it was write a story and then Tweet about it, it is now write a story, Tweet about it, share it with your friends, add images to go with it, shoot a picture if possible. Oh you’ve got a video? That’s fantastic. Lets use that too.

Individuals with multiple complementary skills will be in great demand in the future. Like a coder who gets design. A designer who gets stories. A photographer who can write well. A blogger who can take pictures or shoot a video and so on.

It’s very easy to pick up a few skills. I try and do that whenever I can. That brings me to the whole point behind this post– to show off my latest creation. A video!

I recently picked up a Sony Alpha 58 camera. It’s a powerful camera which shoots very fast and gives you great quality. Priced at about Rs 35,000 it doesn’t set you back too much. I used the free Movie Maker that comes with Windows to create the video and the music is also free from the web. Shooting the video took about 30 minutes and editing & uploading took about 2 hours in all. Take a look.

I’ve spent most of my time writing stories for publishers like The Economic Times & NextBigWhat. It’s the first time I’m making a video on my own so it’s not all that great. But the point I want to make is that it’s all very simple.

Community: What NYT’s Innovation Report Missed

Most things that are wrong about traditional newsrooms is in The New York Times’ recent report on Innovation in their newsroom.

Especially, where the traditional players break stories and the aggregators eat their lunch. We see this happening every day!

What’s really funny is that the 96 page report itself must have driven crazy traffic to Buzzfeed which leaked an published the report  and countless other new media outlets that excerpted it quickly, laid on their opinions and got creative with headlines.

What is going on here? Like I’ve argued before, its mostly to do with newsroom skills. An important aspect the report missed out is community. Online, its not enough to create great content. You need to rally the online community around it. Which is where niche content creators win.

I personally am a big fan of The New York Time’s website and other digital products. I find them very well designed and highly usable. The problem with The NYT’s digital play is not about products. Its probably got to do more with strategy.