‘Why are newspapers here not taking the 1MDB scandal to Netflix?’ – Raju Narisetti on reviving print at Publish Asia

At the Publish Asia seminar, held last week in Singapore, a dominant theme was how legacy print-driven media houses could regain relevance.

Former Gizmodo Media Group CEO and Columbia University professor Raju Narisetti who gave the closing keynote had several suggestions to move publications beyond reader revenue and subscriptions.

Newspapers as content companies: Narisetti cited the example of Netflix paying $30 million to American media company Univision for a series on Mexican drug lord El Chapo. He said: “Why are the newspapers here not taking the 1MDB scandal or the Carlos Ghosn scandal to Netflix? Can we turn our journalism into television shows and sell them to the Hulus and Netflix of the world?”

He pointed to Delhi Crime a series on Netflix based on a rape case in New Delhi that drew global attention. He believed this was a missed opportunity for the Indian papers which had covered the incident in considerable detail. He said: “Most newsrooms are a fount of great stories and we are not tapping enough of that.”

Newspapers tying into commerce: The New York Times bought a company called Wirecutter which specialised in product recommendations. Narisetti spoke of how the paper was now leveraging editorial properties like its annual New York noise survey with recommendations from Wirecutter for noise-cancelling headphones, for instance – a good strategy so long as editorial integrity was maintained. Newspapers turning subscriptions into membership: Narisetti pointed to the Wall Street Journal which, for the bulk of its existence, typically did not communicate with its readers except when a subscription came up for renewal.

Besides costing a fortune in direct mail, such communication invariably made readers think of the many free alternatives or substitutes to the paper.

Instead WSJ had recently begun repurposing its subscriptions into a membership programme. The benefits stemmed from being part of the News Corp empire which allowed it offer its readers discounted books from Harper-Collins, being part of the live audience on Fox shows or visits to the newsroom.

Narisetti, who had previously worked with The Wall Street Journal said: “We would serve up cheap wine and offer a conversation with an editor. Most people from outside of journalism imagine a newsroom – the most boring of places – to be very exciting.

“But money couldn’t buy this tour, and one had to be a member. It changed the conversation. It was not about renewing a subscription but all the value you were getting which we pegged at $1,000 on a subscription that cost only $250.”


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