Companies are dying faster than ever before. Covid-19 as a Black Swan event is only accelerating it. To survive, they must define their business by a lasting benefit they bring to the world. This series — part of our Do or Die project — explores Indian companies we think might be next. We examine how a business is doing against the most common causes of company death, and how redefining their business could help. Read more about Do or Die here.
Why we’re watching them
The newspaper industry was dying even befor
A reliance on advertising has relentlessly driven the quality of journalism into the ground-- flatlining print subscriptions.
With advertisers now cutting spends and migrating to social media, publishers are worried about their dependence on a single revenue stream.
It has forced Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., one of India's legacy media companies and publisher of The Times of India and Economic Times, to erect paywalls in recent days.
Yet why would readers want to pay for ‘content’ that BCCL has consistently de-valued? A subscription for the e-paper of TOI costs Rs 199/- a month. Whereas, a basic digital subscription for the NYT is available for as low as Rs 60/- a month.
Good journalism costs money. When we enable greater monetisation, we get better journalism. That's the math.
To survive, Bennett Coleman will need to re-define its value proposition and business model to better serve the interests of readers not just advertisers.
The business they’re in, in their own words: “Create and build brands with differentiated content to capture relevant audiences and market the value of these to advertisers to help them sell and strengthen their brands”.
Death factor analysis:
We identify organizations to watch based on how well they’re preparing against internal and external death factors.
Here’s how BCCL did against each death factor in our analysis:
Failure to adapt to shifts in technology: Is the company incorporating or evolving based on key technological changes affecting its industry? 4/10. It’s not about technology. It’s about the business model. BCCL has tried piece-meal combinations of ad-free subscription and paywalls. However, companies like Tencent in China have trialled and scaled multiple revenue stream experiments within the entertainment space with great success. Beyond advertising and subscription, they've created multi-tiered offerings— from micro-transactions to membership-- to give people greater control of what they want to consume. A la carte rather than buffet.
Failure to adapt to shifts in customer needs: Has the company evolved to meet changes in customer needs or cultural shifts? 3/10. In an era of WhatsApp forwards, fake news, and Twitter mob rage, people are hungry for objective news from credible sources. Yet BCCL through its range of titles, lacks a voice on the important issues of our time—be it politics and policy, the economy, health and science, technology, culture or local news. Stories need to reflect the lived experience of every Indian not just the powerful and the privileged. Whether in India or abroad.
Failure to anticipate competitive threats: Is the company prepared to adapt to new disruptors in the market? 3/10. Facebook has shifted entire societies away from open, genuine debate into millions of personalised news feeds. Meanwhile, journalists, writers and podcasters are turning to Patreon, Substack and other platforms to fund their explorations of the world and foster meaningful exchange. For BCCL, desperate binge-publishing and click-bait stories in pursuit of any audience it can find is a race to the bottom.
Failure to act on a vision: Has the company identified a clear, authentic and generous purpose and has taken steps in service of that purpose? 2/10. Journalism as a force for truth and justice can and should matter. Yet "creating and building brands with differentiated content to capture relevant audiences and marketing the value of these to advertisers to help them sell and strengthen their brands" shows that there is no higher purpose for BCCL beyond profit.
Failure to focus: Does the company offer a cohesive portfolio of offerings that ladder to its vision? 4/10. BCCL's focus is to use its large content platforms to facilitate the interaction between brands and audience. In print and online, readers are bewildered by the quality of ‘news’ they see every day, nagged by intrusive ads, confused by what is real and what is fake and confronted with an experience that is neither useful nor enjoyable.
Failure to let go of legacy assets: Has the company optimized its assets based on its vision and on external market changes? 2/10. Trust in its newspaper brands have deteriorated over time. BCCL needs to identify the essential qualities of its journalism. Something deeper, not frivolous. For instance, what defines a TOI story? What feels like an ET perspective? What standards of reporting and writing does it adhere to? What is the meaning and purpose of its work? What role does it play in society? The answers lie in its past, present and future. The success of companies like The New York Times and The Financial Times point the way for credible journalism as a viable model.
How redefining the business they’re in can help
This is an opportune moment for BCCL to look beyond content marketing and re-define its business by a broader benefit it brings to the world. By rethinking its model, it has the power to unleash a new era for journalism in India. It needs to take bold steps now to make this mission real.
Do or Die is our modern survival-skills platform for leadership teams seeking to drive growth and ensure longevity in this unprecedented time of disruption. We guide leaders through a structured framework that takes a holistic view of the business to align on a Northstar that drives decisions and action.
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