Digitales Logo

follow us

 > Charu Raizada and Vikram Chandra talk about information bankruptcy and the role of media in bridging the trust deficit.

Charu Raizada and Vikram Chandra talk about information bankruptcy and the role of media in bridging the trust deficit.

Mrigashira
Charu Raizada and Vikram Chandra talk about information bankruptcy and the role of media in bridging the trust deficit.
/

 

Host

Hello, Vikram, thank you for making the time to talk to us.

Vikram Chandra

It’s a great pleasure.

Host

I think there’s an increased sense of urgency in people to do something to improve the healthcare system, the education system, address issues related to climate change, poverty, racism, we want to combat fake news. And we want to, you know, protect our right to speech, keeping the findings of the 21st annual Edelman trust barometer as the base, in this episode of Mrigashira we try to explore if, as a nation, we are facing information, bankruptcy leading to trust deficit. My first question to you Vikram is, are we somewhere experiencing a trust deficit? Has the gap widened? Or has it returned to Pre COVID levels?

Vikram Chandra

Well, I’m not sure that COVID necessarily by itself has anything to do with it. I think we’ve been facing a mounting trust deficit for a very long period of time. And I’m happy to talk about it, in the industry that I once used to represent, which is television news, which I quit. One of the reasons I quit was because I felt that the business model was leading the industry to directions, which would only widen the trust deficit. And increasingly, you have opinions and, in some cases, biases masquerading for what are facts and what is information. There used to be a time when facts were facts and news was news and we had a lot of, there was a lot of value to it, it was very important to be correct and accurate all the time. That’s given way, as given way for multiple reasons, business model being one of them. And that is as a result of that that trust deficit only got worse. And I’m not talking about mainstream media, I’m not even talking about where trust issues that come from social media or citizen journalism or things like that.

Host

Right. So, does the role of media in today’s times become even more important? Can the media become an enabler to bridge the information gap?

Vikram Chandra

Can it Yes, it can, will it, unfortunately, and I just, you know, take two, three minutes of your time to sort of tell you why I think there is a problem, why I don’t think it’s going to happen. And want to be talking first about TV news, and you can extend it elsewhere. You know, part of the problem when you say the media and the media is a very big catch-all phrase. But if you look at what’s happening in India, the entire business model of television news has gone really down the drain, it’s been happening for a while. And the reason is TV news, you don’t get money from subscriptions, you get money from TRP’s, and money from TRP’s. If not getting subscription money, all your money is coming from advertising. advertising is coming from TRP’s. TRP’s are coming from 40,000 boxes in a country of 1.3 billion people. The net result is that what gets you TRP’s is yelling and screaming and shouting and being opinionated and not necessarily wanting to say that to you don’t really worry too much about trust issues. You’re saying this is what I need to get TRP’s and that’s the inexorable boulder strapped to you know, chained to the feet of television news, which is sort of dragging it down. And I don’t see an easy way for that to be reversed. And that’s one of the reasons really why I quit instead of Editor in Chief.

Host

That makes a lot of sense. And, uh, you know, it actually brings me back to one of the key things which the trust barometer points out that more than 80% of employees and consumers feel that they have the power to force corporations to change, and actually they just do not have any faith in any of the institutions. Would you agree, disagree?

Vikram Chandra

Unfortunately, I would tend to agree because look, who are the people you will necessarily trust? And you will necessarily believe? And the question that you’re asking is, is, in many ways will underline the overall crisis that we are going to face not just in the media but in society? Whom do you traditionally trust? You would trust the government, you trust politicians, you trust the judiciary, of course, you trust you know, the public servants, you trust bureaucrats, you trust you know, the police, you trust the media, right, then you trust your teachers, you trust your parents and you trust your friends. Now, if we look at it in each one of those cases, problems are starting to arise at, spoken about the media. I’ve spoken about the fact that increasingly around the world people don’t have that much faith in politicians or bureaucrats, even in the judiciary in the manner that they want stayed. And then when it comes to trust in your social circles, yet people still do that. And they say, oh, I saw this on WhatsApp and I thought it’s on Facebook and I saw this on wherever I saw it. But the problem is, even the information that is circulating and is not necessarily accurate, a lot of it is fake, a lot of it is not correct. And you obviously have always trusted in believe what your friends are saying, or what your family is saying, or what your parents are saying. But when they start forwarding you with stuff, which at the end of the day turns out to be incorrect, or they’re posting stuff on Facebook, turns out to be incorrect. You don’t trust them either. So, then what do you do? Where do you go?

Host

And that actually means that there seems to be a crisis of leadership, the spokesperson, whichever institution may represent is losing his or her credibility. So, what can one do to bring in a change? Does the role of a CEO especially in a business environment become even more critical?

Vikram Chandra

Of course, it does. I mean, look, but here is why people have to be willing to take tough decisions. And is there a way to fix everything, which I’ve said, of course, is the way to fix it. But here is like game theory kicks in, let’s say you’re the CEO of media enterprise, right. You could take the decision. And by the way, it’s not that people don’t do it, I’m talking about a general thing. There are many very good very noble CEOs and leaders who will say, if we’re in the media business, I don’t care about the TRPs, I don’t care about ratings, I’m will only put the news forward. And they will say, this is what I believe in is what I’m going to do and the institutions may back them, the promoters may back them, the shareholders may back them up to a point. But let’s remember, in this particular environment, and the challenge becomes that if you’re doing the right thing, let’s say you’re not getting the TRP or not getting the ratings, or if in the digital world, by not putting out sensational tabloids or your latest influencer and Maldives types of stories, you may not be getting the traffic that somebody else would, you will do it six months, one year, two years, three years, four years, five years, and there are some people who stick to it and hats off to them. But the problem is that there is a price that they pay, if they willing to pay that price, then kudos to them, they deserve our applause they deserve our thanks for they keeping the banner of what is good and what is a correct plan. But a lot of people don’t try. At some point, those same leaders in the same field, then get the board looking at them or others looking at them and saying, but why are numbers so bad and why not getting revenues. And by doing that, that becomes a problem right? Now, again, is there a way of fixing that? Yes, there is. But eventually, we need to do and this is where the hope comes, I painted a very bleak picture so far. But where the hope comes is that at some point, advertisers and brands will say we do not want to advertise. And we don’t want to connect our brands purely on the basis of numbers, right. So yeah, this thing got what was viewed by 10,000 people or a million people, great, but I don’t want to be associated with this content. And this is good quality content, and maybe that many people didn’t see but this is credible, this is high trust content, this is high trust information and I am willing to back it because in my view, one view of pace is worth 10 times the view of some random, you know, stuff that is out there. And that actually is absolutely correct. If you think about it, logically, that is the way that brands should think. Why. Because let’s say you wanting to do whatever it is that you’re that you are in the health and wellness space, right? Let’s say you have 20 people who will watch a good quality video about why a particular type of diet is good for you. Is that 20 videos, are those 20 videos views worth more to you, than 5000 people watching a cat or a dog video? Yes, arguably, yes, that is more valuable to you. And at some point, brands will recognize that and realize that and will pay a really high premium for high trust and good quality and credible content. And that’s what I think all of us have to hope for and better.

Host

And, this makes me wonder, is that possibly the reason for some of the paid media like the can and some of the others, higher perceived trust in them. Because, you know, it’s like a smaller, close-knit community and it’s paid and because we are still to get the business models right where paid media is concerned, as in paid when I say subscription led media’s concern. I mean, do you think that’s important to have subscription led media.

Vikram Chandra

Way. Yes. I mean, I think that I’m not 100% sure that subscription led models are going to necessarily work right now, just because there’s so much free content out there. But if you look at bet Editorji is making, for example, we have, we only deal with high trust content. Our entire USP is weighed in 150 Premium short stories every single day. And all of that is factual information, high trust information, credible information. We don’t need any rumors; we don’t need any speculation. We’re not putting out random people’s opinions. We’re doing what is high trust credible content. Now, our bet is, we still believe that yes, eventually brands and advertisers will recognize that, and I think slowly and steadily it will happen. So, we’re not going to go down the route of just saying, Okay, let’s just do programmatic sales. And yes, I have 1 million video views or 30 million video views. Oh, we’re getting a fair number of video views. But the good point is that have we are in an ability to tell the tell brands and tell, you know, people in the advertising world, look, we’re getting 30 million or 40 million video views, and these are people who are coming for credible, high-quality information, are other 30-40 million video views really important to you. And our bet is a yes, maybe it’ll take time to convince them. But one month from now, six months from now, one year from now, those same brands, and advertisers will say yes, we want this, we want this high trust content, we want this high credibility content, and we will pay for it. And the CPM rates will not be the same per video view, as it would be for a cat or dog video. But that’s okay, we get that this is different, we are willing to pay more for it. And you know, what I’m saying is done entirely you know, unheard of. I mean, for many years, I’ve been talking about the about Britain and about, if you look at what are the what is the readership of let’s say, The New York Times, as compared to, you know, the National Enquirer or the viewership, the readership of The Daily Telegraph, compared to Sun or The news to the world, obviously, the readership is much more, but they get higher revenue. Why? Because advertisers pay a premium for high trust content, they pay a premium for credible content, and they say, this is why I want my brand to be. And once the advertisers and the CEOs of consumer companies decide to take that call, everything falls into place.

Host

So just going back to the CEOs, now we find CEOs in India, especially those of international companies reluctant really reluctant to take a lead on societal issues on social media, and those who do are like just about a handful and more from the Indian companies, you know, does the whole played safe kind of policy need to change? Or, you know, or do you think CEOs can actually bring about change?

Vikram Chandra

Look, I mean, I think CEOs can bring about change, and I don’t want to beat them up too much for not wanting to be you know, chasing controversial subjects. I mean, that’s their call. Some people will, some people won’t. However, I do think it is the responsibility of CEOs and people with an advertising budget, to say, this is where I would like my brand to be, okay. You don’t want to be, you don’t have to put your money in social media saying I am going to back controversial subjects in, on social media. All right, that’s your call you may decide to do that. But certainly, you can take a call saying that if I’m advertising on news, should I take high credibility, good quality, high trust content, as opposed to a tabloid? And my answer is yes, that’s what they should be doing. If we are putting their money on lifestyle content or entertainment content, so they be trying to find high quality, high trust credible content, or they are just saying, Well, here is the equivalent of a TikTok video that got 10 million video views, I want to put our money on that. That is a decision they should take and in my view, it is in their own interest eventually, to go for the high trust.

Host

To wrap up, I’m going to ask you one last question, key steps according to you required by the government and businesses to bring in the confidence multiplier effect.

Vikram Chandra

From the government’s point of view, I think they need to assess the way data is analyzed and measured. I am never been a great advocate or a fan of the government intervening in everything. But the fact of the matter is when it comes to like, luckily, we’re not in TV anymore so the TRP system doesn’t matter to us. But because the TV industry I once used to be associated with a long time back I used to feel that the government needs to do a lot more to say that in small niche areas as you shouldn’t really be going by TRPs are the equivalent, after the government can, can do or should do. And think about doing. When it comes to advertisers and CEOs and companies? Yes, I believe that they need to really think about where their brand is going. And if it is going in low trust. I mean, low trust tabloid sort of content is that whether the brand will eventually do the best or should they search for new ways of doing things? Look, there are a lot of people right out doing new things. There are a lot of people trying different things. And I think it is incumbent upon companies to say we are going to encourage this. And the big companies that are big advertising dollars to invest, if they start putting even 10% or 15% of their budgets behind new ways of doing things that will eventually make a change. That is something I think they owe; I think they owe it to themselves. I think they owe to their shareholders. I think they owe it to society. I think they owe it to all of us. So that is something which I certainly hope they will do. And eventually, it will be in their own self-interest because people will start associating them and their brands and they bit a certain value with a certain proposition that will eventually resonate very well for them.