It is time for Good News Today

A year into the pandemic, positive human stories could help uplift people's spirit.

Mumbai: Over the last year, people across the world have faced unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic. All through this, television served as a window into the world, providing news of everyday events happening across the globe. The coverage across news channels documented the unsurmountable toll that the pandemic took on every aspect of our lives.

Amid the gloom, there were stories of human sacrifice, hardships, and challenges that inspired people to step up and help others. Stories of Good Samaritans who delivered food to patients kept under isolation and mobilised oxygen supply to those who needed it the most. There were human-interest stories of dhabas that had been deserted during the pandemic and bounced back with the support of their ardent patrons.

For the longest time, coverage of politics has taken precedence over other subjects for news channels. At a time, when the country is limping back to some sort of normalcy, perhaps it is these stories, that need to be told more than ever.

“The trend in news media worldwide is to have a strong point of view and take a ‘stance’ in the country’s social-political scenario. That’s a classic way to get more eyeballs from the constituency the stance represents,” said renowned ad sales trainer and Marcom advisor to challenge brands, Shripad Kulkarni.

There has always been a debate between giving what the audience wants over what you think they need. However, the chase for higher TRPs has led news channels into a rush for ‘breaking news’ and ‘sensationalist headlines’. Experts concur that over a long term, the content of news channels is largely responsible for attracting/ repelling audiences.

The focus on negative stories also tends to create a bias towards a certain kind of worldview. Swedish statistician Hans Rosling demonstrated through tests that people believe the world is poorer, unhealthier, more dangerous than it actually is. He attributes this bias not to random chance but to a one-sided view of the world that is depicted in the media.

“In-depth coverage and over the top coverage are not the same thing. There is a point by which too much becomes way too much. Honestly, I think Dilip Kumar (referring to his death) deserved more bandwidth than Raj Kundra – the young people need to know more about his story, from many different angles,” opined Social Access Communications’ founder Lynn De Souza.

While the news genre continues to play the role of incremental reach builder/ frequency driver as per the structure of different markets, experts highlight that the recent changes in the news ecosystem have somehow diluted its attractiveness. Also, it is this nature of engagement with the news channels that the advertisers are also re-evaluating. 

“Undeniably, content associations deliver the maximum value for advertisers but, the uncertain nature of content has made advertisers wary of associating with news as sponsors or as on-screen associates,” said Wavemaker India, chief strategy officer, Premjeet Sodhi, emphasising the need for more “regionalisation and localisation” in news coverage, as well as a need to appreciate the changes in mindsets of the small town/ rural consumers with their increased access to media.”

In the era of the “attention economy,” each channel has created its own unique way of bringing news to the consumers and that may impact the viewers’ choice of channels. Maybe, it's time, they explore good news as that differentiating factor to connect with their audiences.

This also explains why the latest launch of channels like Good News from The India Today group offers a chance for the TV news genre to reinvent itself to bridge this widening gap. This also augurs well for brands and advertisers who are keen to invest in the news genre for maximum returns on value.

“The ultimate product is the content and it is for the news channels to re-discover and re-define News and built their own unique approach to delivering news and analysis. And, this is something that has been done by these very channels in the past. The consumers' expectations have changed; the market dynamics have changed and the news channels have to tune their strategic direction to the new reality,” added Sodhi.

The latest example of that has been the coverage of India’s historic feat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Stories that uplifted the morale of the nation in tough times, and gave them something to cheer about. It also drew attention towards the dreams and aspirations of Young India. There were so many backstories not just about Indian athletes but other treasured moments like the first joint gold that has not been properly featured on most of the news channels.

“With respect to ROI for brands and advertisers, I think TV news is the genre that gives maximum return on value. News works out much more effectively because you can have a lot of frequency- and even in terms of CPR efficiency, nothing can come close to news so far. The only downside perhaps, is that a lot of planners think that you have reached stagnancy with the news. But we have experimented in the past that if you take the right path and expand your choice you can get an optimum reach with news,” says a senior media planner.

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