The Double-Edged Sword of Content Consumption in India
Aditi Maheswari, award-winning author Jayant Kaikini Manasi, and Ravi Singh talking about publishing translations at Jaipur Book Mark.
Aditi Maheswari, award-winning author Jayant Kaikini Manasi, and Ravi Singh talking about publishing translations at Jaipur Book Mark.(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@jilpanz)

The Double-Edged Sword of Content Consumption in India

The annual B-to-B platform for content industry in South Asia- Jaipur BookMark is organised under the aegis of Jaipur Literature Festival. The festival organised the roundtable conference on the burning trends and questions on data creation and consumption in brand new digital India. The conference was chaired by Vani Tripathi Tikoo, the youngest member of the Censor Board of India.

The trends and scope of content consumption is a new question in front of the entire publishing and entertainment industry. The very definition of a book has abruptly expanded from being restricted between the covers to being spread across digital media.

With the changing dynamics of reading, from traditional print to digital, in audio, audio-visual or ebook format, the idea of content economy has redefined the sales and marketing strategies for content producers and sellers.

‘Books Adapted on New Media Always Make a Headway in the Market’

The emerging patterns have explained that the books that are adapted on the new media always make a headway in the market in terms of sales. “Seventy percent publishers are ready with the ebook product of their intellectual properties which proves that the trends are changing,” said Vikrant Mathur from Neilson.

Does it mean that the future belongs to the books that are going to be turned into digital content? “I hope an author is not known because of the movie, television series or OTT series made on the book written by her or him. It will not be the same world if Ghalib was known because of Jagjit Singh even though Jagjit Singh made Ghalib more accessible to the younger generation,” opines filmmaker Sudhir Mishra.

Also Read : Good vs evil fight in storytelling has caused harm: Sudhir Mishra

“The world of books and readers will be at a deep loss if the books were known by the films developed on them. The movement from the abstraction to the concrete is the hallmark of literature. It should not be the other way around,” he added.

However, the other spectrum of response from the industry contradicts Mishra’s opinion.

Bobby Bedi, the producer of Bandit Queen, says the sales of the books that have influenced the films have spiked and ended up benefiting everyone in the book trade.

Household storyteller Neelesh Misra understood early that Indian audience needed to return to storytelling and therefore came the reconnection with the oral tradition through Yadon Ka Idiot Box.

Also Read : The Neelesh Misra Show: Young Indian Muslims Deserve to Be Heard

‘Transformation of Content onto Digital Format Democratised the Way It Was Consumed’

According to a report by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the mainstream media gave not more than 2 percent space to the reports from rural India, a space that not only literally feeds the country but also has the onus of preserving and developing the repository of traditions and culture.

Neelesh Misra defied the logic of content creation prescribed by newsmakers and marketers. The Gaon Connection, a rural newspaper he began publishing, and now a major digital initiative, transformed the narrative and brought a much-needed balance to reporting from the field.

The transformation of content onto digital and audible format resulted in democratisation of the way it was ever consumed. This has also resulted in lowering of the age of the book consumers.

“The power of content is realised to core today especially in the rural set-up where the video stories of Gaon Connection are shared through ShareChat even in areas where there is no penetration of internet. Can anyone stop this movement of data?” The answer is obvious.

In the times when books are created and stories are written over excel sheets to keep intact all sellable coordinates, the pressure of producing the “bestsellers” seems to dominate game.

Whereas literary agents like Anish Chandy look out for contemporary narratives that can be turned into bigger projects, there is an author who took six-and-a-half years to create a masterpiece on Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar.

‘Book Will Remain at the Core of the Content Economy’

Yatindra Mishra’s interviews with the legendary artist bagged him a Swarn Kamal, the prestigious Golden Lotus by the Government of India. In times when the OTT, radio and other digital platforms are producing quick content, taking more than half a decade to complete a book will seem like an oxymoron.

Concurring with Sudhir Mishra, Yatindra believes that it is the book that will remain at the core of the content economy.

Anish Chandy sees this shift. “I receive several pitches each day. Since the last decade, the closing line of the pitches usually said that their submission would be a “bestseller”. However, since last two years, the pitch has been about how the submission is a possible next “screenplay”. This transition in awareness is new and a welcome change.”

Smriti Kiran from the MAMI, the platform that created space for the content to be monetised and put up for various other formats, said, “It is so much about creating the processes like agreements, timelines and packaging and adding value to them.”

‘Content Customisation May Play a Big Role in Deciding What Will Work’

Yogesh Dashrath, country head of Storytel, feels that audio is the next big phenomena in not only publishing, but in the arena of content consumption.

However, he does feel that content customisation may play a big role in deciding what will work on a platform and what will not. Also, the question about filters for younger audience can become an area of concern in near future as the digital space enjoys relaxed censorship.

“The confluences in the digital arena is leaving us with more questions than answers. It is time that the industry came together and brainstormed to understand the future and its demands,” said Tikoo balancing the juxtapositions in ideas underlining the ideas shared on the roundtable.

In addition, the festival Co-director Neeta Gupta proposed to host more engaging discussions on digital economy in future as the Jaipur BookMark has remained a pioneer in being a space where books are discussed in totality.

“We have over 22 languages and produce millions of books each year. The publishing industry employs over 40,000 people and produces content that is now reaching its audience through unprecedented ways. We want to understand these trends and remain at helm of the game”, she said.

(Aditi Maheshwari Goyal is the executive director of Vani Prakashan. She is the managing trustee of Vani Foundation and teaches publishing at Delhi University. This is a personal blog and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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