Ageing Media

Making money through digital marketing is an unchartered course for many yet

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Media in Pakistan is under the cloud for quite some time now. Media owners and journalists’ representative bodies have been raising their concerns at various forums.  But around the time Pakistan Tehreek –i- Insaf government took over, the industry started to experience severe financial constraints as well.

Government stopped all sorts of advertisement. Not only did it announce a new mechanism, an oversight body comprising PTI senior leaders to monitor the adverts disbursement mechanism to media, it has revised the advertisement rates bringing a substantial cut.

As a result a major entrenchment exercise was carried out where hundreds of journalists and madia workers were asked to pack up.  In one instance, an entire TV channel was compelled to close the shop.

Minister for Information has gone on record to tell the media to look for alternative business plan for themselves if they were to survive that is. At a conference in Islamabad this week that launched an incubation project for media startups in digital landscape, he reiterated his stance. He also said an amount of $7B goes to international companies in digital advertisement. And there is a need to bring that money back to Pakistan.

There are no two arguments on this that the Print is on its way out.  And in the next three to four years there won’t be many print editions around. But does that mean digital versions would be able to sustain themselves as the existing initiatives in media with a considerable readership aren’t doing very well either.

The adverts distribution criterion apparently looks to be in the control of major outlets such as Facebook and Google.  Will they allow an equitable share to these smaller outlets from the whopping 85% that they gobble up, according to a New York Times report, every year? Who will force them, they being a privately -owned entities operating in a borderless world, to do this? Or will they turn out to be another modern-day arbiter – only more subtle and more powerful – replacing a government that distributes ads?

Merely waxing lyrical about the ‘digital’ being cheap-as-dirt will not do as it is not the whole truth. An empirical study into the economy of this intricate web – pun intended – is in order as media prepares to make this inevitable switch.