Media in a brink of collapse, and a lesson to learn for greater good
An opinion of a media enthusiast who has been observing and learning media world for so long
Did you know that almost everything that you know are actually taught by media and not schools or colleges? Through school/college, we could only learn specific subjects but it’s the media that teaches us every little things that should matter to us. Imagine a world without media. Our understanding would be very limited. We would not be knowing what our government is doing. We would not be knowing about landfalls, about accidents. We would not be knowing that there is a pandemic going on until it hit us. Media is that important in our life, which is in a brick of collapsing since the pandemic.
Recently, many media from Nepal have laid off their staffs, including journalists, content creators, photographers, and many more, because of whom we were knowing what’s happening around at a comfort of chair. Mainstream magazine like “Nepal” is shut down. Press like Jagadamba is shut down. Newspapers, digital portals, televisions and radio stations across the nation are having to stop print editions or trim pages, downsize staff, cut regular talk shows and programs, and reduce radio broadcast hours. “At a time when the media’s voice needs to be strong to protect press freedom and act as a check and balance in our democracy, the media itself has been weakened by the pandemic,” says media commentator Namrata Sharma via Nepalitimes. Several world-renowned media houses are laying off their staffs. In response to massive job cuts, different world leaders are concerned as “that’s a threat to democracy.” Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan University and civil society leader shares the similar world view
If the media is in crisis, democracy will be in crisis, the media shines the light on issues in the public interest and keeps the state on its toes, to preserve democracy, we need to protect the mediaKedar bhakta mathema
So, how did media reach to this dire strait? Answer is, Media sustain on advertisements. Advertisements come from businesses and when economy is down, businesses cut off their marketing budget which means less spending on advertisements, ultimately media feeling the heat, and that’s what is going on worldwide.
Media is probably the only business where consumers don’t pay, call it social media, or print media, or blog. I mean, let’s take this post for example. You are viewing it for free. You are not paying for it. But to create this post, I need to be paid. For this website to be up and running, hosting company needs to be paid. To manage this website, IT team must be paid. There is so much of cost involved just to create a content and take it to you. Somebody has to cover the cost for the wheels to keep rolling and so far, it has always been advertisers and in situation like this, when advertisers can’t pay, media is destined to collapse, as a repercussion, people will be cut off from knowledge and information and news and stuffs and when people are not well informed, it’s a threat to democracy.
Media, despite contributing a lot in making world a better place, are least credited and respected. Maybe, because we don’t value what we get for free. Or, maybe, media is no more what it used to be and there is a reason for that, reason being media have been highly advertisement driven and less people driven. if Covid-19 has anything positive lesson for media, then that is, it is exposing the vulnerability of market-based world that it thrives on. Media unlike other businesses, are founded on nobility with a passion to inform people, educate people, strengthen institution, promote and support needful. How can one take such a big burden and responsibility with absolutely no help or support from anyone but only advertisers?
Media shall now invent different business modalities to not completely rely on advertisers alone. It should find a way to charge it’s audience, it’s readers and followers; should find a way to work closely with interest groups and foundations for it doing the work of informing people, educating and entertaining, so that even when market is down, someone would be paying for the writers, for the photographers, for the content creators, for the reporters and researchers to keep doing their job. Till now, no one is paying because they have been getting for free. Millions of newspapers used to be bought by very same people. It’s not like they can’t pay. But with the rise of Internet, Media turned itself into a race of clicks and views, hammered the very foundation of media business, and now they are licking the wound.
There are some voices asking government to rescue Media, but I would say NO. Media must rescue itself by changing the way it does the business. It shall now be humble enough to go back to audience, ask them to pay for the content in return of quality content, that’s useful, that’s genuine, that truly values their money. Learn to be at least in breakeven from subscription and paid content itself. Best thing about such hybrid modality is that there will be less information pollution, clogging and clouding our digital world, and only good and useful stuffs that should matter to people.
People can pay and will pay, just like good old days, but the greed of earning in billions from advertisers alone by flooding social media and digital world with flashy headlines and crappy contents for sake of views and clicks have gotten media in this brick of collapse. May everyone learn from it.
I have been waiting for the days where media plays a role of messenger, people pay for the messenger. Bad messengers lose the race, good messengers rule the race. Everything is balanced, no overdoing, no flooding. In this beautiful balanced ecosystem, advertisers are just the cherry on cake. Hope, the days have come. I truly wish.
Content Creators: The most significant but least valued creature
We all are content consumers someway or other. Know the world that feeds you.
The founder of Herne Katha, Bidhya Chapagain, had posted an overwhelming message on social media on the 5th anniversary of Herne Katha, a popular youtube channel from Nepal, expressing her concerns regarding her struggles in getting advertisements from Nepali market. Reading between the lines, I can tell she is frustrated for not getting any support from advertisers despite her channel being far deserving than many so-called digital and mainstream media out there who for strange reasons manage to get ads and support despite poor content. I doubt many even got the message she is trying to send out wrapping in that “happy birthday to us” post. Only content creators wearing the same shoes can actually see the unseen – a content creator saying “happy birthday to me” with teary eyes. That’s because many don’t understand the content world and business. No wonder everyone in the post is commenting congratulations and not at all a word on the issue she raised. This article is our attempt to let the general public know the dark side of the content world, aka Media world.
Understanding basics of content
Content is the most consumed thing by modern humans, after oxygen. Foods come second. Think of this, from morning till night, how much content do you consume every day through the internet, paper, magazine, TV and radio and billboards and books, and so on? We humans just can’t live without content. It has nothing to do with the internet. Go back to 80s and you would be hooking onto newspaper, TV or radio. Go back 10000 years back and even there, you will find humans consuming content in verbal form gathering in a riverside talking about dreams they saw, or the supernatural power they believe in; or gathering around elders learning about life and stuff. Actually, we humans can’t just stay ideal, thinking nothing, talking about nothing. We are curious apes, in constant desperation to learn and know about anything and everything that should matter to us or fascinate us. We like to communicate about things we know, things we believe in, things we imagine. Content in modern world is nothing but the same packet of knowledge, information, entertainment, news, perspectives, etc. In other words, stories. Stories are a very integral part of the human world. Be it science, be it religion, be it politics, be it war, anything you name and is a story. Just that some are fictional with no base and some are non-fictional with a strong base and logic. We, humans, live by stories without which we would not be humans.
Content creators are basically story-teller who feeds stories (content) without which humans would be going mad living in a blank and ideal state. That’s why books came into existence, movies into existence, newspapers into existence; then came the internet, then the social media, and many more on the way. All because humans need content and can’t live without it.
Now stop here and think. Humans coexist by trading. Earlier it used to be like “I give you food, and you give me shoes and we are cool” and now it’s “take this money, and give me shoes.” Basically trading. How do humans trade with content? or with storytellers? Unlike shoes or commodity trading, content trading took a very different approach. Consumers wouldn’t pay for the content, but rather donate – dakshina or baksis in eastern culture and “tips” and “tickets” in western culture.
As content creation became a profession, donations or tips and tickets got replaced by ads. “hey! so many people gather around you. What about in between your act, you talking about us? We will pay you for that.” That’s being media. Media is nothing but an organized group of content creators (storytellers) who like to tell fellow humans about what they know or what they can do to make them feel good (entertainer). The classic relationship between media and people is, “content creators” create content for “content consumers,” and the cost will be covered through advertisers who in return get to position themselves among content consumers.
Thus, the more people you can gather around you, the more preferred advertising platform you are for advertisers. That’s the basic funda. That’s how it works everywhere else.
Nepal is a different breed
The reality of Nepal when it comes to the media world is so frustrating and depressing for people like Bidhya Chapagain. Here, you don’t get ads for succeeding to gather millions around you. You get ads, not for a high number of followers, viewers, or traffics, but because of powers that you have access to, or a relationship that you have with the marketing team (or heads of the company), or commissions that you can share with agents. If not any of them, you should be good at intimidating the advertisers.
There is not a single player to be blamed here. Let’s dissect the issue:
The marketing department of most companies is there just to waste and burn the money of the company for nothing. In a true sense, what any marketing department is supposed to do is, identify different marketing channels, allocate budget to reach out to their potential customers through the channels, and while making the decision, it is supposed to be based on a number of reach and lead and other KPI’s. But that’s not how the marketing department works here. In most companies, the marketing department is full of sluggish staff whose job is to tie up with agents and place ads in papers and TVs and works done, salary justified! Who bothers about knowing reach and leads when the boss himself does not ask for. Thus, most money from the allocated budget goes to mainstream media like Kantipur and the remaining is left up to the department to spend arbitrarily which is often spent over those that came from “special referrals,” from “relationship,” and “trouble makers.”
A janapath/ghanapath or some silly media company with barely 1000 reach a day manages to get ads from Banks, ads from cement companies but media like “Hamro Katha” have to cry for ads for the reason stated above.
And then there is ad giant like facebook and google, which is quite popular among SMEs and start-ups, since they can advertise through them at as little as 5 dollars with lots of room to play per data.
Look at this website. It’s filled with ads. They are from Google. Some of those ads may be Nepali ads but irony, if I had to go to the same advertisers, I would not be getting it. Too many ironies in this advertisement world that it will baffle you more you learn about them.
Bottom line is, either you should be a big media house that in a phone call you get an ad coz they don’t want to mess with you, or you should be a friend or family to the department head or you should be a don to get things done. If not of that, then beg until they feel like “helping” you.
As a content creator, my heart bleeds to hear stories from so many passionate content creators talking about their vision to educate and inform people but failing to do so because no one is there to support them- not because they don’t have the reach and followers or traffics but because they don’t have the needed connection to the team. Or, because they don’t know to beg for money.
I know it’s sad and frustrating and there is no end to it until and unless advertisers themselves admit the fact that they are nothing without content creators. They exist because content creators took them to masses who trust and love them. Imagine a TV with only ads, Imagine a newspaper with only ads, imagine a website with only ads. Sadly, no one is imagining it.
Content consumers can’t live without content, advertisers can’t get to the public without content creators, content creators can’t carry on the work without money. Despite it, everyone has become too obnoxious and bogus to think they run the world.
You know what’s scary? If the reality as we know does not change, actual passionate, genuine, creative content creators will not get into this field, or even if they get, they will quit, and the field will be left for people who can intimidate, who can threaten, who can bribe, who can talk loud; content for the sake of ads, media for the sake of ads will be all over the paper, radio, tv, and internet. As a content consumer, that should be worrying you coz you are going to be fed junk content by junk people because no one in the market played by rule or valued.
What sets my worldviews
Yesterday, I went to meet a man I adore. He closely follows my words and activities on social media. The first thing he said, to casually begin our conversation, “what’s up embassy guy…been talking a lot about the US as if you get paid to support them.” Of course, he was joking about me being loud and open for MCC and relentlessly writing against Russia in response to the Ukraine invasion. But in between the joke, I know there is resentment and suspicion. He went on saying “being a media person, you should not be taking a side.” He told me “only party flag carriers are to take a side.” His argument was either you should be carrying a flag of a party and take a side regardless of what you believe in or just be neutral. To rationalize his argument, he gave an example of one guy he knows – whatever party says, he always says yes for regardless of whatever he believes on a personal level. Party line is what you speak in public. But if that’s not the case, you should not be taking a side. By that what he was trying to imply is that if you are an independent person with no affiliation to any group, don’t speak or act as if you belong to any specific group or idea.
The other day, I was with a relative who too closely follow me on social media and had been watching me. He asked me if my support for MCC is “for engagement” or. He didn’t complete his sentence but I got it. I could clearly read his question – either it should be for engagement or for some gain as if no one can support any cause or idea or debate voluntarily by genuinely believing so.
Those are just two out of many incidents dealing with awkward questions and bizarre allegations. I often get to read comments like “how much did you get paid for writing this” every time I take a side. To me, they represent how people in this country think and perceive in general. If you are taking a side, either you are doing it for some sort of gain or you belong to a specific group or organization. Seems like, there is no grey zone in this part of the world, where you can be independent with your own sets of values and principles and wants and desires and speak up voluntarily without any gain. Seems like, in this part of the world, an individual cannot lead or advocate for any idea without carrying a flag or ID card of any group or organization.
I think it has a lot to do with our history. For the last 70 years, in this country, change is being led by political parties and NGOs/INGOs. Unlike the developed world, agendas like democracy, liberty, freedom, equality, are not carried by individuals as their values and principles. If anyone speaks about them, either they are a politician or NGO/INGO founders. This must have set the culture and mindset among general people that if anyone advocates for anything or work towards establishing an idea, he/she is not an individual speaking voluntarily but rather a party worker or INGO/INGO worker paying their loyalty for unseen gains behind the doors.
But I know through myself what an individual is capable of. How they can pick up a gun to fight for a cause risking their own life voluntarily. How they can run a blog with zero revenue to spread ideas and knowledge to make the world a better place. How obsessed and determined an individual can be to contribute in establishing certain ideas and norms that he/she deems would benefit people in large. For all that, s/he does not need to carry a party flag or join NGO/INGO. I learned this 6 years back. Talking for myself, I learned that it’s possible when you as a human have discovered your own sets of values and beliefs and would like to see them being established in the world that you plan to live in and that you want to bring your children and grandchildren in. But before that, you need to suffer so bad that you explore answers, like Buddha did, on your own. Sooner or later, you will find the answers that seem so convincing and promising. These discovered answers and ideas will be your values and principles framing your worldview, life, and people. Here onward, you are a sole fighter, advocator, messenger, and teacher. You don’t need any political party membership to set your worldview and policies; you don’t need a job or incentive to advocate for any specific idea or concept; you don’t need special benefits to march for a mission. You can do it and will do it voluntarily because those values, those ideas, those desires, and wants are now yours as well, for the world you want to live in and for the world you want to bring your children and grandchildren in.
“forget about everything, all the ideologies, politics, issues, and agendas, and ask yourself, what kind of world do you want your children to come in? Is it a world where s/he can be whatever s/he wants to be in whatever way s/he enjoys or is it a world where s/he can be only what someone else wants him/her to be even if s/he would not enjoy that way? Keep you and your children in the center, and you will find all the answers regarding which side you need to take, what you need to advocate.”
Every time I am in a debate or in an argument with anyone, I always ask this simple question “forget about everything, all the ideologies, politics, issues, and agendas, and ask yourself, what kind of world do you want your children to come in? Is it a world where s/he can be whatever s/he wants to be in whatever way s/he enjoys or is it a world where s/he can be only what someone else wants him/her to be even if s/he would not enjoy that way? Keep you and your children in the center, and you will find all the answers regarding which side you need to take, what you need to advocate.” I think this is a very important question we all need to ask ourselves, every now and then. If we start seeing the world in east, west, north, south or through nationality and culture, we will not find the correct answers coz we have already blocked our mind by thinking emotionally and not rationally and critically. I started finding the right answers when I learned to remove all the barriers that limit me to geography, to a nationality, to culture, and looked at the world as a free human with limitless potentials and opportunities and freedom. We all live once, what kind of world do I want to live in? My children and grandchildren will also live once. What kind of world they should live in? All the 7 billion humans also live once. What kind of world do they all deserve to live in? When I learned to put people above anything and everything, human life over anything and everything, I started understanding many things about this world, good and bad, rights and wrongs; what should have been done, what should be done; flaws in our thinking, flaws in our culture, that resulted in present reality.
All these questions and thinking lead me to answers and arguments that seem pro-western, pro-American for people who have limited their thinking by limiting themselves in the bubble of region, nationality, culture, and ideologies. Fact is, I am for individual freedom where people have the freedom to pursue a life and style as it pleases them, I am for democracy where people have the freedom to choose their government, I am for changing the world in an entrepreneurial way because that’s the only sustainable way. Everyone must learn and explore their life and evolve accordingly. Don’t defy nature. Don’t put groups over individuals. It has nothing to do with America or the west. It is shared values across humanity. In this part of the world, it used to be known as Moksha, Dharma, Karma, Artha.
Humans since the dawn of humanity wanted a simple thing – freedom to live, freedom to choose, freedom to explore, freedom to grow, freedom to pursue happiness, freedom to be himself/herself without harming others. And people in power, people in a privileged bubble, people in their comfort zone have always played against that simple desire so that they could have better life forever at the cost of billions of people. The world is a battleground between these two. I choose the side of people and organizations or groups that value freedom of people over privileges of few; my rights and wrongs are decided by which sides benefit the most. It’s not about being biased or taking a side, it’s about being honest and having clarity over your own values and principles.
4 Life Lessons to learn from Prachanda’s life
While writing this, “Maobadi” party, CPN-M, is having its general conference. Before them, UML, RPP, Nepali Congress had their own general conference, and relatively speaking, the general conference of CPN-M is quiet. It looks like a bunch of lost people having a soul-searching moment that the world outside doesn’t care much about, where their tribe leader, Prachanda in his trembling voice, desperately is in search of a magical wand to bring back the lost glory and in his eyes, everyone can see even he does not have the hope. There was an incident during yesterday’s General conference event where Prachanda was trying so hard to ensure that the alliance will be intact even during the election and for that he was clearly playing with words buttering Sher Bahadur Deuba. It was kind of funny and sad coz that’s the desperation level of Prachanda right now because deep down his heart knows that his party is facing extinction from politics without the support of any other parties.
How a party that once shook the country ended up to this level? Prachanda is probably the most taunted political figure on social media. How a personality who once was Robinhood for poor and marginalized has become a lonely dog searching for a master to adopt? I guess there are many reasons, and those reasons do serve as a life-lesson for many. After all, the mistake of one is lessons for many.
It is important for us to have this discussion because I see there are still many out there wanting to be a “change-maker,” and without discussing about Prachanda and his party, those high in spirit may fall into the same trap.
Don’t “Use and Throw” people
We all have goals in life and it’s natural to seek out for help from fellow humans. What’s unnatural is using them, dumping them, and never turning back. You sell them dreams, you sell them benefits, you sell them good days, hopes and promises to use them as horses and once the juice is sucked, you abandon them like they mean nothing to you. NEVER DO THAT.
That’s what Maoist did, or to be more precise Prachanda did and does and all the negativities and lonesome are of the result of that. It’s not the war alone they waged, it’s not the radical politics alone they did but how they used each individual during their political journey. Every single individual has 5 family members, which means being known as A-hole for one individual makes you A-hole for 5 other individuals. Those 5 spread their views further and it goes on. Eventually, you become the person no one trusts, no one likes, no one wants.
In 20-25 years, Prachanda has used many people, be it ordinary people in the name of People’s war, business people, fellow politicians and cadres, friends and families, diplomats and intellects. There is probably no one left that he had not used just to throw them like they mean nothing to him as soon as he finds another horse to ride on. In short term, it may look like a clever move but in a long run, the very same pattern will hunt you because by now your true self is known to everyone.
So, learn to take care of people who took care of you. Even if you have other priorities in life, make sure they don’t feel like being used, being abandoned, being forgotten.
Life is full of mistakes, and there will be more mistakes if you are walking the road that no one has walked before. With those mistakes, you are definitely going to irk people but deep inside humans can’t hold grudges for long, but that does not mean you just ignore them. In a long run, people don’t have a problem for you making mistakes but they will have a problem if you don’t accept your mistakes, don’t have the courtesy to say “I am sorry.” One simple sorry would flush off half of the negativity and anger towards.
Prachanda never felt sorry for wrongs he and his party did during the Maoist insurgency. Thousands of people lost their lives, lost their homes, lost their present and lost their future. Betrayed fellow politicians, betrayed many, hurt many, and Prachanda never felt the need to apologize for real. Whatsoever, people know Maoist insurgency was a necessary evil but that does not mean he could live and walk unapologetically. There are tons of mistakes from himself and his party, and a genuine apology would spurt the positivity. It would be good for himself and generations to come.
Don’t fake. Be honest
An honest fool is more respected than a pseudo intellect because at least the honest fool does not claim to know or be someone that they are not. Prachanda is the kind of person who claims to know things that he actually does not; claims to understand things that he does not. He claims to be the voice of marginalized, claims to have an idea over the economy, claims to have an understanding over global politics and world, but in reality, he actually knows nothing, understands nothing, that overtime everyone had learned.
Until no one knew him everyone thought this guy had everything figured out, but as people started knowing him, they realized he is the kind of guy who can’t even write a column expressing his thoughts and ideas. The so-called Prachandapath was a mere idea of someone else that he stole. He is clueless about economy, he is clueless about society, he is clueless about global issues. He is just a random Facebook guy who steals everyone’s status and goes viral. Can you remember any speech where he had clearly expressed out his principles, thoughts, beliefs, like how a leader is supposed to? Other than vague and half-baked knowledge over certain agenda with fake tears and manipulative tones, he never could offer anything that a leader is supposed to. A genuine leader that of his status was supposed to have a clear logic behind his argument, are based on the theoretical framework, references and principles to back those ideas. You don’t get to hear such a thing in Prachanda’s speech and that’s how you know he is a fake guy who luckily had managed to put himself in the center of politics. If he was of this timeline in his 20s, he is just a random guy on Facebook with radical views, who has only read one book and has a problem with everything that goes against the book.
People are getting smarter day by day. Thanks to education and the internet. So, don’t fake to know things that you don’t understand; don’t pretend to be someone that you are not.
When you get more than you deserve, know when to retire.
Whatsoever, life works mysteriously. Some people just manage to keep on dodging bullets in life, keep on avoiding consequences, keep on climbing the ladder even without being undeserving, keep on hitting the jackpot cluelessly. Maybe, it’s nature’s way of paving the path for the future leader through them. We never know how Universe works. So for such people, there is a beautiful quote by Joker “you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain.”
Prachanda had a perfect opportunity to retire after merging to form NCP, but he didn’t. If he had, he would be a respectful figure in history and politics despite all the flaws and weaknesses mentioned above. The desire to remain supremo despite lacking integrity, intellectualism, honesty, and positive mass perception only made him look like a loser that anyone can make fun of, taunt and despise. Sadly, Prachanda and his party always mistook them as “coming from reactionaries and right-wingers,” which is not actually the case. Anyone with critical thinking and rationalism and a bit of intellectualism can outright say Prachanda and his party is a clueless youtube channel that happened to get popular for covering issues and stories that were ignored by others. It gave momentary popularity but overtime every other youtube channel who actually knows to do it in better took it to next level and now Prachanda and gang look like Bhagya Neupane, busted!
That is why you should never be in a stage for long that you happened to get into by accident or situation. You were supposed to find a meaningful closer as soon as possible and go back to the seat, looking like a hero.
These are life lessons I can draw from what i could observe Prachanda and his party, their rise and fall because deep inside, we all are change maker – in house, in work place, in society, in country or in world. There is so much to learn from others mistakes so that we don’t walk the same loop.
No hard feelings.