Archive for the India Category

Marching to different beats

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on July 22, 2008 by manuscrypts

I read an article today on LiveMint, which deals with creating UGC for TV and Radio. Well, for starters, I think its already being done. The polls, the debates etc on news channels, and more importantly, the reality shows, are all user generated content. Of course, the packaging differs because unlike the net, time is also a factor on these platforms. 24 hours vs what content to put there.

It also took me back this post, where I’d talked about the relevance of mass media to pure play internet entities. In a warped sense, I’d agree with the article that in a true convergence era, a medium like the internet, which has already absorbed user participation as one of its tenets, would play a larger role in shaping media consumption. So much so, that going forward, I’d bet heavily on an entity like Instablogs, which would find it easier to adopt to platforms like the television or radio. Yes, they got funded too, isn’t that just awesome?

Which also brings me to another layer of thought, something I’ve touched upon earlier, if mass media entities want to test out the wild wild web and the currently hot social media scene, and what it could do for them, what is the better way of doing it – creating their own scene or leveraging existing popular platforms. I came across examples of both kinds today.

While NYT is perhaps the best newspaper website in the world, it also plays a bit on social media (check out this facebook app). And today I read about the partnership it had entered into with LinkedIn. LinkedIn users will now get their industry related news from the relevant sections of the NYT site, and these news will have a share option. I think that’s an absolutely great way for LinkedIn to give a good value add to its users, and also stimulate conversations and for NYT, it creates a lot of relevance to the user, and will increase the website’s pull. That’s NYT’s way of leveraging a relevant social business network.

The other thing that I came across is Radio City’s new website. (thanks to @thej) I haven’t done a complete tour yet, but it seems like they are primarily aiming at build communities there – a section called ‘Friends of Music’ has blogging, groups, finding colleagues(?!) and catching up with others attending gigs. In fact, the profile is also very orkut/facebook, and shows options for picking friends based on geography/music taste/school/workplace. Yes, i cringed at the last two too! It also has a calendar with some events already updated, and even has a karaoke section.  There is also an option to upload videos (upto 20MB) In addition, it attempts a Yahoo Launch by allowing you to create your own station by adding tracks. But I think it is also a way to take ownership of the music space – there is a musicopedia, a lyrics finder, a music news reporter and so on, which aims at making this the one stop resource for music in India. Yes, you can also listen to popular tracks, and stations created by users/ pre packaged ones (eg. KK, Alka Yagnik, though the content in this is limted, as of now). In essence, a decent effort, for trying the music ownership strategy, though from a new media perspective, I’d have liked more focus and efforts on podcasts (like Big FM), a talk show platform, better forums etc, instead of all that work on the orkut style social networking.(classmates and colleagues)

While I’d usually go with leveraging existing social media, i think  a part of Radio City’s route does have its benefits, given the popularity of music and Bollywood in India, and its potential for creating communities especially with the context that Radio City offers. What they do beyond this would be the really interesting part.

until next time, tuned in

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One Stop Shops

Posted in India, Internet, Social networking with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’ve always had a soft corner for Rediff, perhaps because, once upon a time, it was the site that led me to new things on the internet. First it was email, and though I had the eudora and usa.net and a few other mailboxes too, this was the one most frequented and used. Then it was blogs. My first blog was thanks to Rediff again, they got me curious with the messages on the homepage, more than 5 years back. And though I did sulk with them later for taking away a favourite id of mine in an upgrade that happened a few years back, and switched to blogger because of the code wrestling matches they made me go through, like I said, Rediff is still special, a brand that I hold in high regard.

So it was wonderful to find that they’d done a :p to the strict media portal outlook and introduced Orkut and Facebook feeds inside their mailbox. Yes, it is a great bit of innovative thinking, but nothing stops it from being copied by others. So they can’t stop there, they have already taken steps to integrate iShare, I wonder if having newsfeeds inside the Inbox area makes sense, like perhaps an iGoogle. Rediff is also active on the mobile scene (they even , so if they can move fast, they can actually do a lot of innovations quickly, thanks to their numerous services, and oodles of content.

And it looks like they are moving fast – they have already invested in Vakow, an sms sharing site, and one that I know a lot of people are using to update on Twitter. Interesting. A mobile based microblogging platform should be fun. But the big news was at proto.in, when they announced their developer platform. What is great is not just the announcement, but the fact that it was announced at proto and not just as some PR release. Rediff is being sensible, and thats good news for the Indian internet scene. Ouch at this allegation though. (via webyantra)

Meanwhile, the guys who had massive success when they opened their API, had a surprise for me when I logged in today morning. And that was the new Facebook design. While the Home page is more a design reorganisation than anything conceptual, the Profile page is a totally different story. Well, its actually profile pages. From home, a click on your name (as opposed to profile earlier) takes you to the first of the four pages – Wall, where you can use filters for others’ posts and yours, and has your basic profile and friends as well. The Info page has all the details that used to be Information, Group and Pages. Photos are the next page and the last is ‘Boxes’, all the apps you’ve been adding, though I did see a few apps (common) on all pages. Are they Facebook’s own? I doubt that though.

The important part is that it looks like a deviation from the earlier social networking promise. Though that remains, this seems increasingly like a Twitter and more possibly Friendfeed like direction. This was something that was visible sometime back when a ‘+’ sign could be seen near all news feeds, encouraging readers to start conversations. That soon became a very conspicuous ‘Comment’ tab.

While I like all this, since it gives me more chances at conversations with ‘real’ friends, (there is only about a 20% overlap with my Twitter friends) I wonder if this is a regression as far as keeping the conversation within Facebook goes. If Facebook provides all the features that say, a Twitter and Friendfeed does, would you be okay with spending the lion’s share of your virtual time within Facebook?

until next time, the rise of socialism 🙂

PS. This is the 100th post on this blog :D. Thanks, all the commenters and the silent types. 🙂

Tata Shy?

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , , , , , , on July 16, 2008 by manuscrypts

I saw an ad for Tata Sky yesterday for one of their in house channels – Active Darshan. That, coupled with the announcement of Aamir Khan being made brand ambassador for the brand would have made for a nice plain brand rant post, but try as i might, I have not been able to get hold of that particular ad.We will come back to that. Meanwhile, Aamir is not the first person to star in Tata Sky ads. Kirron Kher, Paresh Rawal, and even Hrtithik Roshan have appeared earlier. They have also used regional actors.

This pits Aamir squarely against SRK, in addition to the competition in handset manufacturers (Nokia vs Samsung), watches (Tag Heuer vs Titan), car manufacturers (Hyundai vs Toyota) and even biscuits (Monaco vs Sunfeast). Dishum karo 🙂 Wonder when Reliance launches its DTH, Big B will be made the brand ambassador.

Now, back to the ad, I wonder why brands still don’t make the efforts to share their ads online. There is no one single source where you can be at least 75% sure to catch the ad. Afaqs relies on ibanklive, which I am yet to explore thoroughly. I have also tried the new entrant – Buzzar.tv, and the usually dependable YouTube, where at least a consumer usually loads the TVC within a couple of days of launch, but with no luck.

Why are brands so shy? Is it due to lack of knowledge or interest; or a deliberate policy of not sharing. Before you laugh off the last one, it ties in well with the lack of transparency i keep ranting about. I personally feel that ads are perhaps a very good Step 1 to encourage conversation about brands. The amount of facebook status messages I have seen of Sanjooo (of Max New York Insurance fame) and the kind of stories I have read (look at this one for example) means that there is an audience ready to even generate buzz. Of course, it may not always be positive. Is that what’s scaring away brands? But isn’t it better to experiment a little, learn the art and make some good use of it, before it gets relegated to a commodity status? The other point is that all this will happen with or without their assent anyway.

I’d  go on and say Tata Sky shouldn’t stop with just their brand. They can actually build entire communities around serials. Maybe it can even be a tool to lure housewives on to the net. Imagine the amount of gossiping that could be done online, complete with links to trivia and news on serials. It can even be in hindi. Hell, there is already a family tree website (via Indianweb2) in India, so why not an entire social network in Hindi? And its not just housewives, lets assume I am a fan of Doctor Who on BBC Entertainment, there’s a big chance ( i am basing it on some personal experiences) that I am also a fan of Battlestar Galactica. When audiences get connected, they help each other explore new worlds. The channels are happy, because they get new audiences, and they wouldn’t mind doing some advertising here. So, isn’t it a win win model for both the consumer and business audiences? Oh, okay, laugh, but one day when you have a K Kliq that’s stronger than all the ‘I hate Balaji’ groups on Orkut, you’ll know that i was right. :p

The other vertical social network I see that has great potential is an entity like agencyfaqs. It is practically begging for more conversation. I’m sure they understand that conversations cannot be simulated by just having a comments box, though they are much better than exchange4media. It would make a great hangout for planners, creative guys, art guys, brand managers, media owners etc to discuss brands, ads, strategy and so on. But i guess, when agencies and channels are trying to be better and bigger rats, i am doing too much of ‘wish karo’ 😉

until next time, don’t be santhusht!!!

Mass among the Niche

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Internet with tags , , , on July 15, 2008 by manuscrypts

An interesting post here sparked off an even more interesting discussion on twitter, which made me think about online entities’ relationship with mass media in general.

The above post talked specifically about the 2 gaming entities –  zapak and games2win and their contrasting styles. What interested me was the part about the surge that happened (in number of users) when zapak started using mass media for brand visibility, and the fact that a few months later, G2W is catching up, without having used mas media.

So, the question I’d like to pose is how relevant is mass media to pure play online entities, say an Ibibo or Seventymm for example. It is increasingly becoming a trend for offline entities whether it be media companies or cola giants or watches to have an online presence. While social media and the search for conversations have played their part in recent times, this need to be online started way back from the time that plain vanilla banners and site takeovers became available. This could be mainly due to the understanding that a filtered and discerning audience exists on the net, and this audience is quite likely to be an early adopter and an influencer in his peer group. But does it also work the other way around?

At this juncture, we have an internet penetration figure of 4.5%, but in absolute numbers it is about 49 million net users. ( Juxt Consult 2008 ) Thats quite a good number.  But yes, compared to the total population, it is fair to think that we miles to go. Perhaps that makes online brands look for offline brand visibility, to get the scale that they seek. But will it work the way it did for zapak?  A surge during advertising and then a drop, which clearly means that they got the ‘wrong’ kind of users, which necessarily means spillage.

Going forward, the net will become increasingly fragmented. Services and products would start catering to the niche and the long tail would really be exploited to the hilt, online. It would also become easier for new users to figure out how to get what they need on the net. In such a scenario, how relevant would a presence in mass media (in the form of advertising or content or any other association) be for a pure play online entity? As an awareness creator? But once the guy is online, wouldn’t he come to you anyway if you’ve done your work online well?

Having said that, it makes sense for say, a Holiday IQ or even a makemytrip to be present in say, an NDTV Good Times or a Discovery Travel & Living. There are great ways to work in sync. The other scenario is where you have a direct competitor and the service/product that is being offered is for mass consumption, so mass media gives you the additional advantage. The third and last option I can think of is when the service/product being offered has so much of potential that a no internet user is dragged online.

But in general, if the net is going to be conversation based with WOM and specific user communities playing a major role, then the efforts and money would be better spent online than offline. Would love to have your view on this, as always. 🙂

until next time, organic offline and inorganic online?

Train of Thought

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India, Social networking with tags , , on July 14, 2008 by manuscrypts

Social media enthusiasts are often quizzed on the ROI that it delivers, and in many cases,  ‘conversation with customers’ is met with a lot of skepticism. which led me to wonder about the kind of ROI this activity would generate.

“Max New York Life Insurance has signed a Public Private Partnership (PPP) pact with the Indian Railways. From July 8, Chennai, Bangalore and Trivandrum Rajdhanis will sport Max New York Life advertising on its exterior.” It would provide upgraded services like high quality flooring, soap dispensers, tissue paper dispensers…. and so on. Great, I have always wanted that in those Harappan age railway compartments, though I always had a feeling Max was into insurance.

I can understand SBI having a co-branded card with IRCTC, Citi having a card for Delhi Metro etc, but the revenue/communication model that this venture of Max falls in, I fail to understand. Unless of course, Max will send an insurance advisor in the compartment. The ‘potential customer’ is trapped with him for the entire journey, and might buy a policy just to get rid of him.

Meanwhile, a couple of thoughts came to me when I read this post on Mumbai’s local trains. Every now and then, there is a horror story of how a gruesome accident occured in one of these trains. Doesn’t it make a lot of sense for an insurance company to do some contextual communication here? How about tapping this entire community which is so prone to such occurences?

The other thought that came to me was from a conversation on twitter on how religion is one massive social network. Unlike schools and colleges, which have a real life basis for networking, religion is spread across geographies with most users unaware of each other, and even has user generated versions springing up every now and then. Even the local trains in Mumbai offer a platform for a social network (no pun intended). I guess there are vertical networks like that all around, the only trick is to satisfy a set of needs and then be able to monetise it.

until next time, maximising social media

More to watch

Posted in Advertising, Brand, India with tags , , , , on July 8, 2008 by manuscrypts

I’m quite an Aamir hater these days, after his unpalatable sense of humour, and that has prompted me in the past to be a savage critic of most ads that he does. Of course, I really feel that he has not been used correctly, but I have always wondered if I was being objective enough.

So when I read that Titan has brought out a new TVC as part of its rebranding exercise, I thought it would be an interesting exercise. Do have a look at the TVC here. While the line – Be More is definitely new (though it reminds me of a Nokia commercial) I’d have to differ with the afaqs PR release if it means to say this is a brand new positioning. It is only carrying forward the old ‘Whats your style’ positioning. In fact I dare say that this path starts about here (it might be before, but at least this) and is well on its way towards the latest TVC by this.

Having said that, the ad has been executed very well. It exhorts you to rise above your daily mundane existence and experiment with life – get down at an unknown station, take tickets to a random town, learn from your own mistakes.. And thankfully even the humour looks good on Aamir- not to resemble your passport photo for more than three months, checking out a girl while meditating and saying ‘Explore’. The ad ends with a reminder of how, during childhood we had so many dreams, and asks you to ‘be born, everyday’

And so, while the ad theme does remind me of the Tata Safari ad – Reclaim Your Life ad, the usage of Aamir, for once, is great. For a while now Aamir has been reinventing himself regularly, whether it is in terms of the variety of characters he plays, or the style statement of each – Dil Chahta Hai, The Rising, Fanaa, Taare Zameen Par and the latest Ghajini,  each character is unique, and most often, radically different from the earlier avatar. This quality of Aamir fits this ad perfectly, only I feel that some brands have already thought of this before. Remember the Coke series of ads, this Toyota ad featuring Aamir and this one too, which says ‘What role are you playing today?’?

So what? So nothing, just saying that Titan really hasn’t done anything radical, and if repositioning is the idea, maybe its important to position the brand ambassador differently.

until next time, tighten

Traditional Media 2.0 ?

Posted in India, Internet with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2008 by manuscrypts

Traditional media, and specifically the print media, don’t seem to be too worried about the web being competition. Possibly justified, since, unlike their counterparts in the US, their circulation numbers don’t seem to be dipping. Which is perhaps why, they don’t think much of web 2.0 or the potential it offers to them. For now, they’re satisfied with saying that they are on the web too.

In fact, the TV sites like CNN IBN and even NDTV to a certain extent looked much more closer to what a media site should be, online. Even they have some way to go before they can take on, say a CNN. I recently saw India Today’s site, which shows some promise.

But I’m wondering if the story of traditional media websites and pure web players is a little like the old hare and tortoise story, roles played respectively. Consider this, the JuxtConsult 2008 report says that checking news is the 4th most common activity that Indians indulge in, on the Internet. The same report shows Yahoo as the most preferred site for this purpose, with MoneyControl and CricInfo taking the top spots in Financial News and Cricket news respectively. At a circulation of 31.46 lakhs, why doesn’t TOI find a place there? If we take into account that the Internet in india is still at a nascent stage, don’t the already popular dailies have a good chance of replicating their success on the internet, especially if they start early and already have a good credibility factor in that space?

And this is not restricted to English media. With every online player realising the importance of vernacular, even the regional language players cannot afford to stand and watch. Which perhaps Malayala Manorama has realised, because the last few days saw a flurry of activity in pushing their website as well as their matrimonial site. One could say that the latter is a late entrant, but in both cases, MM is heavily leveraging their strengths in traditional media. This is of course, in addition to the news channel and radio stations. Perfectly poised, I’d say.

Meanwhile, on another and what I would consider a more dangerous front, there are entities like Instablogs, which in addition to a wonderful design, does a superb mix of news and user generated content, including the recently added user-generated-video-news, all of that based out of Simla. Sigh. Not to forget webdunia, which though does not boast of a cool interface like the former, is doing very well on the regional media front.

With the rapid penetration of the mobile, the increasing access of the internet through mobile, and the vernacular factor, I’m wondering if the race in India will buck the regular trends shown globally, and suddenly swing in favor of the new media players, while the hare is caught napping.