One of the discussion topics on the recently held Bloggers’ Voices â€“ a gathering of Nepali bloggers â€“ was the old-yet-alive debate of online media versus mainstream media. As the bloggers, a few of us talked about chances of online media in overtaking the newspapers in Nepal (sadly, all of us who advocated in the theory were professional journalists employed by mainstream media).
We concluded online media has every chance to topple newspaper in Nepal and that could have had already happened had Nepal’s online media understood the power of being online.
Our conclusion was based mainly on the news coverage by the newspapers. Nepal’s newspapers seriously lack the investigative or exclusive news and features. The front pages of most dailies read similar because they are also event-based. There is hardly anything new if we have watched the television news.
If everything is said on television why emergence of the television stations with hourly news updates doesn’t replaced the newspaper? The answer is easy, the two media employs different senses of human â€“ newspaper are meant to be read. Television news are neither repeatable if not understood nor listenable in the time as wished by the audience.
Other factor could be the geographical structure of Nepal. Away from Kathmandu, newspapers are not something that arrives early in the morning. There are of course local newspapers in many cities but they lack in the coverage of political â€“ the most sought after news, because politics is largely based in Kathmandu.
Online media has advantage over newspaper for being quick â€“ that too all around the country. And, directly there is not cost involved if you have the internet connection while purchasing newspaper costs a few rupees.
Then why not that’s happening? There are two major problems â€“ first not many Nepalis have access to computer and internet (there are 300,000 internet users â€“ that too is a good number when the largest selling daily is printed 60,000 per day). Most of the readers of the newspaper have access to the internet.
The second problem is with the online media themselves. Nepal’s online media are much less aware of the power of the medium they are using. Although the rich multimedia content and videos may be not suitable for Nepal given the largely dial-up based internet connection, pictures can be very good idea of doing better than newspapers. Online media have the huge possibility of using photos but they have so far been ignoring the power of pictures.
Interaction is another tool that can draw more attention of people but are online media implementing that. To say, big online media have the commenting possibility but neither they appear with the main articles itself nor uncensored. If you leave a comment talking about mistakes in any news item â€“ Nepal’s online media are more likely to delete the comment and edit the news quietly (my own experience say so).
Only after blogs began to rise that a few online media have understood the power of using users for discussion thus creating discussion forums and such. But even now, users don’t have easy way to putting up their views.
Am I saying online media will kill the newspapers? No because the newspapers will respond to the online media and that will be their life-saver. Even if at some point of time, newspapers feel huge pressure from online media, they will survive by responding in the easy way â€“ going more into exclusive stories and better presentation.