Livinghigh: And on Day 7, God read a newspaper...
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Livinghigh was here at 10:53 PM /

And on Day 7, God read a newspaper...

So, this was originally a post for CSF, but since I was quite amused by it while writing it, I decided to pin it on this board as well. Comments, suggestions, brickbats are all welcome.

The latest one to hit the Mumbai newspaper sweepstakes is the one with arguably the corniest slogan: Let there be light! Welcome, Hindustan Times.

Mumbai, it seems, is full of exhortations to "speak its mind". We've all seen tired DNA surveyors scour the city in their sweat-stained shirts, asking for no more than seven minutes of our time, to give us the "newspaper WE have created". It's about wanting Negar Khan back, stopping the BMC from digging, reopening dance bars, making sure that page 3 doesn't become page 1, more sex on TV, being a Mumbaikar from Meghalaya, not being an IIM but still pretty cool - and a host of other identities Mumbai is supposed to embody. It's all about being your own newspaper. I actually love the concept.

TOI, of course, has hit back at the competition, with its 100% Mumbai campaign. True, it's borrowed from TOI's 101% Dilli campaign, which worked like a dream in the capitol - and true, it's not half as good. But it's already made an impact. 100% Romance, 100% Mumbai goes the slogan. 100% Bollywood, 100% Mumbai, screams out the poster of a yester-year mustachioed Aamir Khan poster on the hoarding. TOI came back with a vast 4-page international section (which is arguably all floss and no gum) and then a "new and improved" Editorial section. (It is of course ironic that the new section comes from a newspaper with a notoriously famous "no editors, please" punchline, but we shall skip that point for now.) Has all of this helped, in real terms? Has TOI increased its circulation? Probably not. But the wardrums are tom-toming away, anyhow!

And with TOI's Dilli rival, Hindustan Times, in the fray, the tom-toms are deafening! You can hear the advertorials loudly on GO 92.5 (the radio station owned by TOI's other rival, Mid-day Multimedia) which exhort: What are you reading in your newspaper? - about Patelji's daughter's wedding, the hottest Hollywood bimbette's underwear, a topless circus in Honululu - or news? The strategy, I take it, would be to jolt you out of your normal daily news reading - are you being informed, and not just entertained?! Bottomline: Is TOI the kind of newspaper you really want to be seen reading?

It's an interesting point, in the sheer aggression of its stance. It would, however, carry more punch if HT wasn't such an unabashed TOI clone in its home turf, Dilli. In good old Delhi, HT does a unique act of upmanship that leaves TOI fuming - be it in terms of price slashes, sexy babes on page 1, weird offers and huge prizes, or whatever. HT makes sure that the margin between TOI and itself is always maintained at the very least. So, what kind of newspaper are they reading, anyway?

Actually, it would be good to have some light in on the marqee, as HT would like to call it: it would be fun to see the fireworks... and the clowns.


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