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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The largest selling newspaper is the most useless

According to the latest figures from the Indian Readership Survey, The Times of India is the most widely read English-language newspaper, with a daily readership of 7.4 million, while The Hindu ranks third. However, in south India The Hindu is the most widely read English daily, significantly ahead of The Times of India.

So far so good. But unfortunately and quite often, numbers don't tell the complete story. The Times of India (TOI) has been notorious for its poor content since the beginning. It's main focus has been the business of making money through advertisements. It is no exaggeration to say they insert news between advertisements to compensate for the few rupees the reader has paid.

The front pages of ToI are often full page advertisements. Bennett Coleman & Co started the concept of paid news or better known as "News-vertorial" (as in advertorial). They call it the "private treaty". It is an exchange of "news space" for equity. It is quite common to find 'adverts' in ToI nowadays.

So what happened to serious journalism? As a reader, I would like to see important news on the front page and not a new car launch staring at my face. How long does it take to read ToI? How long does it take to read their city specific supplement? Perhaps less than 10 minutes.

The additional named "Hyderabad" or "Bangalore" or "Mumbai Times" follows only cinema news along with very provocative and near nude pictures of actresses, useless gossips and nothing about the whereabouts of the city in particular. Either the name can be changed as "Cinema Times" or the news content can be changed. Saturday and Sunday supplements are specials. The regular 5 or 6 page supplement swells to a thick booklet of product listings and sale announcements. What a waste of paper and the time of millions of readers.

The Times Group was recently criticized for carrying a misleading front page article that read more like an advertisement. And this is not the first instance. ToI had been trivialization of news for decades. It is vital that readers are well informed about the world at large. And yet, over the last few years, there has been an increased trend in media houses to focus and serve greater dose of Bollywood news and trivia masquerading as news.

The following advertisement punched ToI in the face. The advertisement indirectly takes a jab at low quality of news covered by Times of India and how their readers severely lack important knowledge.

The Hindu claims that the advertisements were “not stimulated” and that the actors weren't told about the questions ahead of the shoot, and therefore the answers were spontaneous. Whether it is true or not does not matter as the test stands on it's own merit.

Readers have started switching from the Times of India to other smarter newspapers that publish news.

But what makes readers enjoy the low quality news?

Many people have left reading newspaper due to shortage of time, however, everyone wants to stay updated about Hollywood. Page 3 and 'Cinema Times' seems to be winning over genuine news.
Bollywood news seems to be an easy conversation starter.

Perhaps, the times have changed. Today's youth likes Page 3 gossips. The newspapers cant be totally blamed as they reflect the society to some extent. In other cases, the newspapers shape the society by feeding it with junk to such an extent that the readers become numb, insensitive and brain-dead. This has happened in UK.

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