Everyday I travel and I see people reading the Mumbai Mirror, I ALWAYS make a note of how much time they spend over each section. And every day, I juxtapose this analysis with that section’s content. (For an insider, it’s great fun because you see the product get ready in front of you and are aware of the kind of fuck-ups and tensions that went behind that newsprint matter.)
Here’s one of the analysis:
Subject: A typical office-goer (shirt, pant and stuff), somewhere around his late 20s, travelling from Andheri to VT.
Page One: Reads the entire story. (Phew!)
City section: Reads the headline and strapline (Not a single story read in detail)
Special report page: Missed
Mumbai Talking: Missed
Sports: Glances through the pictures (However, spends approximately 15 seconds more on each page as compared to the city section).
Views page: Terribly missed (It was Aseem Chabra’s column. He flipped the page as if reading even a word would be a sin.)
You page: Reads the Watsa column in and out. The story above the column was about things you must keep in mind before you lose your virginity. Again, read completely. The longest time spent on any section till now.
Entertainment: Reads EVERY FREAKING STORY! EVERY FREAKING WORD! I know it for a fact cause I could see his eyes as they scanned every line!
Chai time page: Solves the Sodoku till he reaches VT.
Bottom line: Issues and views can go take a walk. SEX and CELEB are in demand.
That’s what people read. Hence, that’s what we give them. And they read it even more. Yes, the intellectual and the crème-de-la-crème will read Aseem’s column, but sorry boss, they don’t boost the circulation figures. And it’s the circulation figures that get advertisers knocking on the door.
Some say people will soon get bored of it and demand some REAL journalism. I don’t think so. Sex and gossip cater to everyone’s primal instincts and I doubt if they will ever go out of fashion.
Of course I want to know if Kareena and Saif were really making out in the JW Marriot pool. Of course I want to know how to get rid of that extra flab. And hell yes, I want to be a sex god in bed and want to hear my wife’s pleasure moans every night. Cause these are MY issues. The fact that someone was run over by the local train is none of my concern. It doesn’t make my life any better. Yes, I will be careful next time I cross the tracks. Thank you.
And then, there’s an entire breed of journalists being indoctrinated into that philosophy. They may be disillusioned today, may detest doing the shady work tomorrow, but will come to accept the realities day after. Those who disagree will go the Tehelka way and cater to a handful readers. Others who get addicted to the ‘kick’ of being read by millions will be with Mirror. Yes, they are two extremes, and in the middle, somewhere, I will find my space, at least I think I will.