Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shed a Tear for Publishing and Advertising

This is important. Significant. At least, I think it is.

Let me put this in context. It occurred to me when some young people who were gathered together were appreciating an advertorial (If you don't know the word, it means an advertisement written in the form of an editorial article, for which actually the advertiser pays.) It seemed to me that the youngsters sitting with me don't even know that news used to be pure and unadulterated in the innocent old days.

Once publications, I mean periodicals (a term in which I include newspapers), were repositories of knowledge and information and reporters and editors were the gatekeepers to existing knowledge about what happens. Over the years the paradigm seems to have changed. So much so that it is no longer recognisable as to feel that periodicals are no longer thought of as they were. (May be, at my age, having seen fifty years of newspapers I am assuming too much.) But certain disparities come to mind and here are a few of them.

Those days newspapers used to write news stories not public relations agencies. These days newspapers don't trust their own reporters and sub-editors to write stories, they trust the PR agencies. I don't know why.

Advertisements were advertisements and editorials were editorials. Never the twain met. The term advertorial was not invented. I have worked in both departments and I remember that the editorial people always had the upper hand when it came to space allocation. Advertisements were looked at as derivatives of editorial and not otherwise.

The editors of newspapers were public figures, feted and celebrated. These days I don't know who is editor because they maintain a low profile.

The following are the writing specialists newspapers have eliminated:

1. Foreign correspondent
2. Indian classical music critic
3. Western classical music critic
4. Drama critic (one for each language)
5. Legal correspondent
6. Rural reporter
7. Resident editor
8. Literary critic
9. Chief sub-editor
10.Chief reporter
11.Education correspondent
12.Entertainment editor
13.Sub-editor
14.Copy boy

So on, so forth....

By selling editorial space newspaper owners are weakening their newspapers (or, their products). There isn't anyone saying "I read it in --- newspaper," anymore. The credibility of newspapers has gone down. Whereas most people read newspapers in trains in those days, these days people reading newspapers in trains are newspaper workers themselves, that too, to find out which ads they haven't received.

Advertising agencies aren't those of old. In those days ad agencies released their own advertisements through their media department. Today ad agencies consists of servicing executives and creative artists. The media buying is done elsewhere.

Those days the newspapers and publications were supreme. These days ad agencies can dictate terms to the media; with a few exceptions, of course.

Where are the small magazines? There used to be hundreds of small specialised magazines devoted to their own fields of interest. Most of them have folded up from lack of advertising support. I, too, worked for some such publications.

So guys when you go "woo, great advertorial," "ah, this is so nice," also think about the lost art of advertising and publishing and shed a tear.

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