Has digital media come of age?

by Jamsheed Gandhi    Mar 22, 2010

India is a country that loves statistics. Keeping track of a cricket match score, India’s GDP growth, Bollywood box office cash collections, the Sensex opening and closing are all part of an average Indian s talk points. This too is reflective in the media industry where the cost of every customer engagement activity is measured in seconds for broadcast, clicks for the Internet and the number of mobile users a message reaches out to. With about 65 million Internet users and about 400 million cell phone users the surface, we believe, is just being scratched.
Digital media is transforming with every passing day. Although it has been around for the past few years, it has yet to effectively scale up to engage with consumers in its own right. Currently all digital media is a replication of styles and substance of the print era. Digital media products are still being built in a linear form which is most receptive to the human brain. The biggest transformation that will emerge in the digital media space is the emergence and mass acceptance of Web 2.0 technologies. It s going to be small products that will be expected to deliver a specific function thus engaging the consumer in a way that we have only imagined.
Traditional broadcasters have their shows running on various channels as well as have an archive running on YouTube. Reality TV shows are integrating Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) and SMS-based polling to empower the masses to decide on  who they would like to see perform for them — week after week. There is no better way of empowerment to a consumer who decides on the content he or she would like to watch.
The Internet took away the exclusive right to publish from the media barons and gave it to the Independent thinker. The cellular revolution released people from geographical isolation. Digital media has yet to find itself.
In order to do this effectively, a different thought will have to be undertaken at the content conceptualization stage. A thought, driven more from understanding the functionality of the technology at work and how it can be used to engage with the consumer effectively than what is currently being used. Digital media now needs to bring into its fold the Intelligence to determine how effective a campaign is, not by clicks but by the action that the user has executed after the click. It is like measuring the impact of a movie — not by its box office collections but by the effectiveness of its message to society. We should not be bombarded by random SMSs — instead, an effective way of user profiling should emerge so that we are looked upon more than just as a number. 
Digital media globally has to undergo a lot of transformation before it can stand up and be counted as a serious medium. It will require the minds of people to break down conventional thought and the will of various stakeholders to put their money into it. RoI or Return on Investment, the most loved acronym of the business community, will have to find new parameters to be built into it taking into consideration these factors. Only then will people bite the bullet. 
For a nation of statisticians the figures clearly state the infancy of digital media. The principle of evolution means you never have to stand still. The principle behind survival is the same too. But the path for both of them is diametrically different.