Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Nepali Times’ Kunda Dixit: A mountaintop conversion to digital

Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times and a board member of Himalmedia, wasn’t just a bit of a digital sceptic. He says that he was a die-hard digital sceptic.

I thought that (digital) was being presented as a panacea, that everything would be fine, that information would be democratised, that it would it level the playing field. As you know, it hasn’t happened, and it is not a panacea.

He felt that before you put a computer in a school, you should put a roof on the school or instead pay for textbooks or motivated teachers. Before we talk about telemedicine, let’s have electricity first.

However, he had a Damascene digital conversion, literally, on a mountain top. He had a mobile phone with a camera that had been given to him, and he took a picture of a beautiful lake with mountains in the background. He was able to send the photo from a really remote area of Nepal worldwide at the push of a button.

I said, ‘Wow!’. This is really the tool that can magnify audiences that can spread your reach, so I saw the power of internet and online media through that instant.

The technology empowers people by giving them access to information especially in countries like Nepal where the diaspora is 15 percent of the population. It allows people in Nepal to reachReach1) unique users that visited the site over the course of the reporting period,…

That becomes the tool for traditional media to extend our reach. Smartphones are still a very small percentage of mobile phones around the world, but as the cost of smartphones drops, he believes that they will create a real revolution in media reach. “That is coming, and we have to be ready for it,” he said.

In a piece looking forward to journalism in 2013, Raju Narisetti, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, said:

“Mobile first” should become a newsroom mantra, as 30–50 percent of all digital news content consumption of most newsrooms shifts to mobile devices.

Independent media require financial viability

At Media Development Loan Fund’s Media Forum 2012, Dixit said that for media to be truly independent, it needs to be financially viable. Mobile definitely offers the opportunity for media to extend its reach, but as far as helping media financially, “it’s not happening yet,” he said. It’s starting to happen in developed countries and China, but there is not enough revenue to be generated through phones and the internet for traditional media companies like his. But he added:

But it is coming. We have to be ready for it. We have to be ahead of the curve.

To keep ahead of the curve, he keeps reminding staff that it is still about the content. “If you have fabulous content that is original, investigative, relevant, in-depth, then no matter what delivery mechanism you use, it will spread,” he said, adding:

Why not combine great delivery with great content? That is the winning formula.

The wider reach of digital content will eventually win over advertisers, Dixit said. Digital content also delivers a range of new opportunities for publishers and advertisers including multimedia and dynamic content, as well as revenue opportunities such as e-commerce.

To achieve financial viability while reaching new digital audiences, news organisations will need as much business innovation as editorial innovation. They will need to compete with new digital entrants that specialise in targeted digital advertising. Digital advertising is not just about reaching the masses but knowing a lot about those masses to deliver relevant content and relevant advertising.

As we wrote about recently here on Knowledge Bridge, there are a lot of ways to generate revenue with digital content and digital services. Digital media doesn’t just change content and how we deliver it, it also changes how we pay for that content. The shift to digital requires new business thinking just as much, if not more than, it requires new editorial thinking.

Article by Kevin Anderson

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