Friday, July 15, 2005
The light is quite bright
The business of newspapers is to give news. And that, happily, seems to be the business the Hindustan Times is in.
DNA has been far more aggressive in terms of 'marketing'. But finally, HT pulled the rug from below their feet by not only launching its newspaper 15 days earlier than DNA, but doing so with a really Big Bang.
Not with some mega promotion like "buy this newspaper and get X, Y or Z " free. And not because the paper itself is free.
HT said "buy me because I have a story you just have to read". The Salman-Aishwarya transcripts will be remembered for a long time to come. It's not a new story, just concrete proof of something we have always known. But chilling for sure, to see the words (and such unparliamentary language) in cold hard print.
Questions which arise:
- Why would someone like Aishwarya put up with this kind of abuse? The tapes are from 2001, she finally broke up with him in 2003.
If a woman as beautiful, talented and rich as Aishwarya is willing to behave like an insect in her personal life (aap gaali dete raho, main sunti jaaoon), what hope is there, really?
- Kitna sach ar kitna jhoot in what Salman says about his underworld links. If these links exist, why did he get away with it while Sanjay Dutt and Bharat Shah at least went to jail?
- Why doesn't Salman seek psychiatric help?
Since the story has become a national media obsession, HT continues to milk it on the second day of publication while TOI ignores it completely (sister publication Mumbai Mirror has a cover feature on the subject but refers to it 'as reported in a section of the press').
All in all, HT has managed to pull off quite a coup. In one fell stroke it erased the perception many had of it as an outsider, a 'Delhi paper'. Bollywood and underworld are the two things intimately associated with Mumbai. Two things Delhi does not have.
A story with only Bollywood would have been too frivolous to be a lead. And there's too much underworld already, everywhere. What HT pulled off was therefore a 'dream debut'! And a tough act to follow for DNA.
On the whole, HT is an interesting read. There are too many typos in the supplement but I guess that should get ironed out in time. Of course, page 3 people are featured but somehow it's not as in-your-face and low IQ as Bombay Times.
Also, the design of HT is easy-on-the-eye and makes that of TOI look a bit jaded.
HT is definitely on my reading list, despite the 'over 100 pages' also arriving at my doorstep. But a bod can read only so much and so I think the Asian Age will be the first to drop off my radar.
How well Mumbai has taken to HT will, of course, only be clearer in a month. By which time the novelty factor wears off and the real readership pattern will emerge.
And it just may have some surprises...