What we are thankful for
Those who are familiar with the media environment of the day know all too well the fierce competition for advertising dollars, the waning significance of print media (in most environments), and the highly fickle, “here today, gone tomorrow” advertisers. Gone are the days when Reader’s Digest, Life, and The New York Times were just three of the many bedrock titles that were flush with revenues and subscribers. Today, Life is largely dead, Reader’s Digest is languishing in bankruptcy, and The New York Times, while continuing to be a global leader in shaping opinion, is struggling with monetizing the inevitable but profitless New Media.
In such an environment where publishing titles are fighting to survive, it comes as no surprise that publications are increasingly ignoring the line between editorial and sales. Content is increasingly commercialized and compromised. Copy is written not just to serve the article at hand, but also to satisfy the need for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Worse, in the realm of small, mom-and-pop publishers—the kind where Khabar fits in—articles are often planned and packaged for advertisers.
When we scan such a disappointing landscape in print media, in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving Day, we can’t but thank our lucky stars that we are amongst the few oases that are thriving, and that, too, in a free-to-consumer model. Just take one component—advertiser retention: several of our advertisers have been with us for over five, 10, and even 15 years! Can you imagine, month after month, and year after year, for over fifteen years? No matter where one looks—in print, broadcast, or New Media; in mainstream media or South Asian media—such advertiser retention is almost unheard of.
Of course we are thankful for our advertisers! But that also has great benefits for you, the readers. Not only are we able to provide a full-color, glossy, award-winning magazine for free, but thanks to a healthy advertiser base, we can, and do keep our content independent from our commerce. It is a precious cycle: not being pressured to compromise our content makes Khabar more appealing to our readers; and that in turn makes it more beneficial to our advertisers.
We are also just as thankful to our small but talented pool of freelancers who choose to write for us. We often wonder about our good fortune to get writers of this caliber in an environment where well-paid professionals hired by big media houses are often compelled to deliver formulistic drafts driven by the need for sales. Not to single out establishments, but one of the largest dailies in India has earned notoriety for having a sales staff that is often busy teaming up with the writing staff—working on “articles” that are little more than camouflaged pitches for politicians or products.
I don’t mean to give an impression that we are rare or even exceptional in the area of good, uncompromised content. Rather, we are just extremely thankful to the higher power that orchestrates it all—for allowing us to pursue our passion for providing a superior magazine for our community.
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