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Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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The Changing Dynamics Of Modern Media In India

Balancing the need for financial viability with providing quality content free of charge is a delicate task that media entities must navigate

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In the last decade, the landscape of modern media in India has undergone a transformative shift.  The rise of short-form video content, the dominance of social networking platforms, the advent of digital streaming services, and the democratisation of media production have reshaped the way we consume and engage with content. 

The rise of reels, social networks, and digital streaming platforms has significantly influenced the way we consume and interact with content. India, with its vast population of over 1.4 billion people, presents a unique set of demographics that influences media consumption patterns, and probably even vice-versa in media influencing social behaviour. The market has a predominantly young population, with a significant percentage falling within the millennial and Gen Z cohorts. These digitally savvy generations are not only shaping consumption trends but also redefining how media is produced, distributed, and consumed. With increasing internet penetration and smartphone adoption, more Indians now have access to a wide array of content across various digital platforms. 

The Indian media sector has been quick to recognise the changing landscape and adapt to the evolving needs of its audience. Traditional media outlets, such as print and television, have been expanding their digital presence to reach wider audiences. At the same time, digital-native platforms are gaining prominence, offering on-demand content, personalised experiences, and interactive engagement. Streaming services, social media platforms, and digital news aggregators are witnessing significant growth, attracting both domestic and international players to invest in the Indian market. Can they exist as stand-alone, or will there be a melting confluence of media mediums?

The Power of Reels

One of the most notable developments in modern media is the emergence of short-form video content, popularised by platforms such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. While some of the ideas will not meet regulatory nod from a consumer safety perspective, we should anticipate newer products to come to the market. Reels have revolutionised content creation, allowing users to produce engaging videos that captivate audiences in just a matter of seconds. This format's success can be attributed to its ability to convey information, entertainment, and creativity in a concise and visually appealing manner. User-generated content is catching up in popularity and ease. What will this do to the traditional mode of content creation?

Social Networks as Media Hubs

Social networking platforms have evolved beyond their initial purpose of connecting individuals. They have become virtual media hubs, hosting a wide array of content from news articles to user-generated videos. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become essential tools for information dissemination, influencing public opinion, and fostering online communities. However, this proliferation of content also poses challenges such as misinformation, echo chambers, and privacy concerns, necessitating critical media literacy skills.

The Dominance of Digital Streaming

Digital streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ have disrupted traditional television and cinema models. The convenience of on-demand streaming has revolutionised how we consume entertainment, providing a vast library of content accessible anytime, anywhere. This shift has also led to an increased emphasis on original programming and content personalisation, as streaming platforms vie for subscribers' attention in a highly competitive market.

The Democratisation of Media Production

The rise of modern media dynamics has democratised the production and distribution of content. This demographic's propensity for social media, online video platforms, and mobile apps has fueled the rise of independent content creators and alternative media channels, challenging traditional media outlets. With easily accessible tools and platforms, individuals and small creators can now compete with established media giants. This democratisation has led to a diverse range of voices and perspectives being amplified, challenging traditional gatekeeping in the media industry. However, it also necessitates the need for careful discernment of reliable sources amidst the vast sea of user-generated content. With Web3 development, this could further increase with the power of content control that would vest with the creators. Media outlets must embrace innovative storytelling formats, leverage user-generated content, and foster a two-way dialogue with their audience through social media and other digital platforms. This approach not only strengthens brand loyalty but also allows for real-time feedback and insights into audience preferences.

The Impact on Advertising and Monetisation

The changing dynamics of modern media have also had and will continue to impact on advertising and monetisation strategies. Traditional ad formats, such as television commercials and print advertisements, are increasingly being supplemented by influencer marketing, branded content, and targeted ads on social networks and streaming platforms. This shift reflects the changing consumer behaviour and the need for brands to engage with audiences in more newer and personalised ways.

While the changing dynamics of modern media have brought about numerous advancements and opportunities, there are also several critical issues that deserve attention and consideration.

Misinformation and Disinformation: The proliferation of social networks and non-regulated sources of content has exacerbated the spread of misinformation and disinformation. The rapid and viral nature of content dissemination on these platforms can lead to the amplification of false or misleading information, impacting public opinion, and social cohesion. Addressing this issue requires a collaborative effort from platforms, users, and society at large to promote media literacy, fact-checking, and responsible sharing.

Privacy and Data Security: Social networks and digital streaming platforms collect vast amounts of user data, raising concerns about privacy and data security. The widespread sharing of personal information and the monetisation of user data by these platforms has sparked debates around consent, transparency, and the potential for data breaches. Striking a balance between personalised experiences and protecting user privacy is crucial in the digital media landscape.

Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers: Social networks and algorithm-driven content recommendations have also created filter bubbles and echo chambers. These phenomena occur when users are exposed only to information and opinions that align with their existing beliefs, limiting exposure to diverse perspectives. This can reinforce biases, hinder critical thinking, and contribute to societal polarization. Encouraging platforms to promote content diversity, offer alternative viewpoints, and provide users with tools to explore different perspectives can help address this issue.

Content Moderation and Online Harassment: The open nature of social networks and digital content also gives rise to concerns regarding content moderation and online harassment. The sheer volume of user-generated content makes it challenging for platforms to effectively moderate and remove harmful or inappropriate content. Additionally, the anonymity provided by online platforms can embolden individuals to engage in cyberbullying, hate speech, or harassment. Stricter guidelines, improved reporting mechanisms, and proactive moderation measures are necessary to create safer and more inclusive online spaces.

Economic Sustainability for Creators: While the democratisation of media production has allowed individuals and small creators to showcase their talent and reach global audiences, the issue of economic sustainability remains a challenge. As the digital landscape becomes increasingly saturated, it becomes harder for creators to monetise their content and make a sustainable living. Platforms need to explore fair revenue-sharing models, transparent algorithms, and supportive systems that enable creators to thrive and continue producing high-quality content.

Impact on Traditional Media

The disruptive nature of modern media dynamics has had a significant impact on traditional media and journalism. Many traditional media outlets have faced declining revenues, reduced audiences, and increased competition from digital platforms. This has implications for the sustainability of quality journalism and the ability to support investigative reporting, which plays a vital role in holding power to account and informing the public. Furthermore, the monetisation of digital media remains an ongoing challenge. While advertising revenue forms a significant portion of the revenue stream for many media platforms, finding sustainable models for monetisation in the digital era is critical. Subscription-based services, brand partnerships, and innovative ad formats are emerging as potential avenues for revenue generation. Balancing the need for financial viability with providing quality content free of charge is a delicate task that media entities must navigate. Finding sustainable revenue models, encouraging collaborations between traditional and digital media, and embracing innovative approaches can help ensure the continuity of reliable and independent journalism. 

It is imperative for platforms, users, regulatory bodies, and society at large to collaborate in nurturing a media landscape that empowers individuals, fosters informed public discourse and promote the values of transparency, accuracy, and diversity. 

The author is Policy Researcher & Corporate Advisor 

Twitter : @ssmumbai 

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