Slow death of a giant

For many TamBrahms like me there was a point in time when the morning coffee will taste bad without the morning newspaper – The Hindu. I remember days when I used to fight with my brother for the paper in the morning to read the sports column. And then, there were times when I have relied on the Hindu editorial more than ‘Word Power Made Easy’ for my preparations towards management exams.

I have also worked on some brands from ‘The Hindu’ family briefly during my stint at Ammirati Puris Lintas. The brand and the group have been very close to my heart.

Unfortunately, the group is facing a very slow cancerous death. I can see it! The editorial in the mainline daily is not as it used to be. And the change has unfortunately been to the worst. While many used to refer to the Hindu as a boring newspaper, there were also anecdotes doing the rounds back then about how the publication was a stickler for correctness of information before it gets printed. People used to joke that if you are pronounced dead on ‘The Hindu’ then you are actually dead. Else there is at least a fighting chance.

There are two other papers (worth this blog mention) apart from The Indian Express, in what used to be citadel of The Hindu. ToI & Deccan Chronicle. They have cornered a fair bit of space by doing one or more of the following:

  • Yearly subscription for Rs.99/- (Beat that! We would buy that paper purely for waste paper purposes) That makes your entry absolutely easy and you are the second paper at least for Raddhiwala / Pazhaya paper purposes. (Pardon my inclusion of vernacular terms, but it gives the authenticity to the point that I was trying to make).
  • Making Madras sound like Bombay by introducing a Page 3 culture. Generation X, Y, Z, ZA and whatever thrives on gossip. They are more likely to pick the ‘second paper’ for the juice in the morning than the ‘Oh! So boring national news where some minister has surreptitiously consumed 800 Crores of taxpayer’s money’. I am not saying that they are irresponsible. Without them Anna Hazare would still be a village headman rather than a national icon. However, this generation is not the kind which would prioritize something like national interest over Trisha or Sneha (or are they passé? I think it should be Tamannah / Tapsi?). Maybe I am wrong, but that’s the feeling I am left with.
  • Editorial content based on ‘flavour of the day’. Scoop. It doesn’t matter if the printed word is true, partially true, pinch of truth or a complete figment of some journalist’s imagination. There is a requirement for trial by media in our corrupt society, but some of them take it way too far.

And The Hindu has not been any less in helping their competition. The group today is suffering from many types of malignant cancer.

  • Their family feud has been one of the worst cases of dirty linen being washed in public. There are people from the family with a clear divide who have spoken to other media houses about their family fights and it has in one way become a national exhibition.
  • Blind in terms of polarity. The publication has not been a neutral entity for quite a while. There was a time when the publication was known for its anti establishment stand. Today they are almost seen like a Congress DMK combine newspaper. Much of the 2G scam was soft pedaled in The Hindu, which I believe was a disaster in waiting.
  • Not moving with the Times (certainly not a pun). Their editorial IS (let’s face it) boring. Their writing style doesn’t make good reading for today’s audiences. The publication gives a feeling of talking from a pedestal still which leaves much to desire. No wonder TOI is taking a huge dig at The Hindu. Watch the TVC here. A boringly long 65 seconder echoing the boring newspaper.

  • And what did The Hindu come up to promote itself? This?

Too bad, they thought that South was their bastion forever. They bloody well have to do better than this! They never had felt the need to advertise for a long time. But today, when they have to, they didn’t know what the brand stands for. Solution: Throw a few adjectives, show a few Tams (and TamBrahms) doing their daily morning chores and voila! We have the Hindu Ad. Shame!

For old times’ sake, I hope these guys come up with something to end their feud and focus on the brand which Mr. Kasturi Iyengar started around the same time as Coke. Not the same genre but similar legacy!

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