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Time To Think, Dear Reader

It’s that time of year! The annual thinking, partying and event managing rituals by newspapers and magazines have begun.

Some people need a fest to know to what other “thoughtful” people think. If you were at THiNK (an ideas fest organised by Tehelka) at Goa’s Grand Hyatt (Bambolim), thinking and listening would’ve been comfortable activities to indulge in. Some minds can get exploratory annually at a fest. Given their sense of spectacle, you can bet on media houses to double up as event management companies to host such get-togethers in a cosy ambience (almost corporate). That’s what Tehelka organises as THiNK (THiNK 2012, November 2-4). Hindustan Times is ready with the 10th edition of HT Leadership summit to be held in Delhi on November 16-17, 2012, and India Today’s annual talk carnival (assuming some thought also goes into that) called India Today Conclave (2012 edition), was held on March 16 and 17, 2012 in Delhi.

The running thread: Venue, Invitees and the Missing “Dear Reader”

Venues for all these events are, of course, five star hotels. And just because you are a “dear reader” of these publications (and every editor’s note is addressed to you) does not mean that you can gatecrash these exclusive gupshup parties. Entry is by invitation/registration only. This simply means that only if you are rich or famous, or powerful or connected (with the former), or somehow “important”, you are welcome. For all practical purposes, the audience (and most speakers too) are part of an unofficial club who may be bumping into each other on several occasions. The same faces somehow never leave your television screens either.

And for dear reader, the affection has to be restricted to glossy spreads carrying event photographs and catchy quotes, the sound bytes and sometimes televised coverage of the talk-session by media partners. The rest of the media doesn’t take cognisance of the events unless in one of the talk sessions Advani announces that he is joining Congress.

Marketable Events and the Rituals of Brand Positioning: Sponsors and Media Partners

When media houses turn event managing firms, they know that they can market the assembly of talking heads. Fitting the event in the corporate jargon, the events are marketed as platforms for brand positioning. The grandnanny of media event marketing in India – Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL), has shown the way in the awards/contest segment (non-think part), and you know how brand positioning got lucrative in Filmfare Awards and the Miss India Contest (organised by group publications, Filmfare and Femina). The think-events have been following the same script. The latest editions of THiNK (organised by Tehelka), and India Today Conclave and the forthcoming 10th edition of the HT Leadership summit show the convergence of marketing and brand positioning in events conceived for niche consumption. How? Just have a glance at what follows:

India Today Conclave (March 16-17, 2012)

(Has India Today left anything without a sponsor? Only furniture, cutlery, toilet soaps and some other things used at the conclave had no sponsors.)

Tehelka – Airtel THiNK (November 2-4 , 2012)

  • Sponsors (Tehelka lists them as “patrons”) – Airtel (the company’s logo is sharing space with the crow perched on the event’s masthead), Essar, Mahindra, Chivas, BHEL, JSW group, United Phosphorous Ltd, News Corporation, Hero MotoCorp Ltd
  • Art Sponsor – Alchemist
  • Broadcast Partner – NDTV

HT Leadership Summit (scheduled for November 16-17, 2012)

  • Chief Sponsors – Aditya  Birla Group in partnership with CNN-IBN
  • Associate Partner – BRYS Group, ONGC, LIC
  • Summit Partners – Chivas, Petronet LNG Ltd, PGICL, KCC Institute of  Technology and Management, BHEL, SAIL, Mahyco Monsanto, Parker
  • Media Partners – IBN 7, CNBC TV18, Fever 104FM, Hindustan, hindustantimes.com, Mint, ht mobile solutions, ht Brunch

Hidden Costs – Dear reader/viewer has to pay with the ego-massage of the self- deluding “thinking” elite

The hidden costs for the five star think-fests have to be incurred by the readers of these publications and viewers of the broadcast partners. The readers and viewers of these media houses are made to believe that nothing else matters in the world for those two or three days except the ideas exchanged in the lavish talk fests. Of course, the media consumer has to delude the big shots that the exchange involves “public discourse”, though the thought-party is being hosted as a strictly private party. Someone has to provide the comforting thought that the festival is being watched and analysed. Ego-massage is the role readers and viewers are assigned. How? Just wait to see where the world would stop in the pages of Hindustan Times on Nov 16-17 (and for that matter, its broadcast partner, CNN-IBN). If in a hurry, try revisiting the copies of India Today following the March conclave. And was there anything else on Headlines Today and Aaj Tak other than conclave evenings? Clearly, ego-massage has a cost attached to it.

When media houses turn into event management entities with all the trappings of corporate lure, they stand exposed for something which is hardly a secret: how for them, readers and journalism are a sideshow, and how predatory they can get in marketing the gup-shup of an unofficial club. You, poor reader, were never part of this exclusive party, though you were always “dear”. Consumers are always dear. That’s what a central corporate tenet is, that’s what the who’s who keep telling you.

 

Image Source – [http://www.flickr.com/photos/wadem/2808468566/]

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  • http://twitter.com/karmicvoyage Shivanand Shahapur

    Good article Anand!You are getting better with each article. Cheers :)

  • Adn

    most of these events are mere farce intended for posh pompous elites and their rudderless ideas which in the end only think and produce nothing tangible

  • Pratik

    Anand,
    I find that of-late your articles are becoming less and less logical. I wish to see you spend more time writing these and making a better case for your arguments. As it stands, what is wrong in having such events. Some of them are free, as far as I know readers can attend them. You say it’s all about “ego-massage of the self- deluding “thinking” elite” I could use the same logic and say that writers on News Laundry are elites too. But I won’t, as I know that it’d be hyperbole..

    On that note, for News Laundry to be taken seriously, it has to start screening articles and not publish rants and raves by anyone who has a pen. I would rather read individual ranters on their blogs. I don’t need Newslaundry for that.

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