Posts Tagged ‘India’

Working on my new book … The Fight For Freedom

May 9, 2014

Not much time for blogging, as I am writing, writing, writing. Here’s the book I am working on:

19.3.2014 cover FFF - iPad cover (3)

Will The Economist’s phenomenal success feed through to Reuters?

August 26, 2013

(This article first appeared on 24.8.2013 on The Baron, a web site covering media trends http://thebaron.info/.)

In appointing a senior manager of The Economist as “chief executive, Reuters, running news and media business from London,” Thomson Reuters has picked talent from one of the world’s most successful news businesses.

Instead of turning to another wizard from America, the company is looking towards a UK-based organisation which has built a powerful readership worldwide including the U.S. The Economist boasts playfully that it is the Voice of God: read its content once a week, and you know all you need about the world.

So what are the keys to success that Thomson Reuters must surely be eyeing in choosing Andrew Rashbass? Some of his colleagues recently briefed journalists attending the Reuters Institute in Oxford:

– The Economist has a circulation of 1.5 million, making 70% of its revenue from subscriptions and 30% from advertising. It is profitable on subscriptions alone. In five years, the ratio is expected to move to 80:20 or more. So much for the myth that nobody pays for news in the digital era.

– Digital publishing grows rapidly, but The Economist finds that print is far from dead. In fact, it tends to be more profitable.

– The Economist employs only a handful of staff journalists. But it draws on a powerful array of expert writers who produce dauntingly thorough series on subjects such as the U.S., China, India, international finance, technology and science.

– It surprises readers by writing about topics they had no idea mattered.

– The Economist does not try to be impartial. It believes readers accept an openly expressed point of view. It is liberal, socially and economically, and sees this predictability as a strength.

– Its journalists don’t write just for the weekly edition. They keep the news flowing in between in the form of blogs. They use feedback from the blogs to adapt followups.

– They see apps delivering news to tablets and smartphones as a more promising business model than web sites with paywalls, because consumers feel they are getting the whole news, not bits and pieces.

Some of The Economist’s lessons will not apply, and Reuters brand already carries authority. But Reuters does not quite have The Economist’s intellectual firepower. It has introduced comment, but it is varied and unfocused. Reuters avoids having “a line,” and in The Economist’s experience that is not a plus.

Look at Reuters web pages, and you see a disparate array of stories – some financial, some global, others lightweight and local. While Reuters has more experience of running 24-hour news, it has struggled to make it profitable. Its web sites have no paywalls.

By refocusing on the name “Reuters,” Thomson Reuters is signalling that it wants to make serious money from news. This has been the Holy Grail for Reuters throughout the ages.

Rashbass, who has been guiding a highly profitable global news brand, has been brought in to deliver.

I am trying to decide whether I like anarchy – please help

October 25, 2012

Travelling for a month on the roads of India and Nepal gave me a good taste of anarchy – and I found it rather nice. Nobody obeys rules. Outside Delhi there are hardly any traffic lights or traffic police. Motor cycles roar out of side streets right in front of your bonnet. The driver has a wife in a sari on the back, with two children wedged in between and a third up against the handlebars. Crash helmets? Don’t ask.

In conglomerations, traffic is a slow-moving snarl. It seems like gridlock, but when a chink appears, at least three vehicles, small and large, hurl themselves towards it. The rule of anarchy says the first one in is right. The others give way gracefully, waiting for anarchy to offer them a new chance, which it does. There are scarcely any collisions. Pedestrians develop great skills in hopping, skipping and dashing. They too go where they like.

On four-lane highways, you meet donkeys, cyclists, steam-rollers and 40-ton juggernauts proceeding the wrong way down the carriage-way. If it’s a bit shorter to the next turning that way, why let any highway code deter you?

There is no road rage, unlike in the ordered societies of western Europe. Hooting is good-tempered – it just announces you are competing for a space. If you all break the rules, why complain? Anarchy offers a certain serenity.

Mind you, there are challenges. Our Indian driver found himself on the wrong side of a road as a juggernaut surged at us round a bend, also on the wrong side. Both were overtaking, and the near sides were occupied by slower vehicles. In the middle was a vast pothole all were determined to avoid. Tricky, but nothing to get shaken up about, and I live to tell the tale.

The pleasures of anarchy did begin to pale after a bit however. Behind the spirit of “anything goes”is a selfish indifference to the interests of others. Everybody is taken up with individual concerns, and makes no effort to consider others. There are no synergies from cooperation, since nobody places faith in it. Influenced by a belief that the cosmic order is permanent, few people aspire to change things.

Thus, traffic never moves fast. On the national scale, India’s economic growth is slowing and reforms have largely ground to a halt. Nepal is in disorder. Inertia and low expectations slowly restore the hold they established over people in primitive times. That is the price to pay for anarchy. Not so sure I like it any more.


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