“Why another newspaper or magazine, you may well ask. Don’t we have enough?”, Jaideep Bose, editor, The Times of India and The Times of India Crest Edition writes in the editorial of the first issue.
And I try and answer.
One, that when Jaideep Bose was convinced to stay back at The Times of India when he was being wooed by Network18, he was assured greater challenges in the form of a paper he could build on his own. This is it.
Two, that, finally, a newspaper that puts a premium on content – something that I have written about many a time and oft – was required; this is a pointer to things to come in the newspaper space. The Times of India Crest Edition is priced at Rs.6 as opposed to the Rs.4.50 that one pays for The ToI + Mumbai Mirror or The ToI + Economic Times combination. And the Rs. 6 price is an Introductory price, leaving room for a hike if the newspaper is received well.
Three, that, after the repackaging (both in content and in form), The Hindustan Times is making significant inroads into the Mumbai market, becoming the second newspaper in many households and becoming the only newspaper in some. That’s dangerous for the ToI. I have no data to support this statement, I see the ‘signs’ around me. More of my friends buy HT now than six months ago, more conversations about HT stories than earlier, etc.
So much for the whys.
Now to the paper.
I’m disappointed at many levels.
First, the form.
I expected superior newsprint, I expected the paper to be gleaming white. Much like The Independent when it was launched.
I certainly expected better design. This is hardly a designed paper, it’s almost anachronistic in the approach. Long, 2000 word pieces are fine – and perhaps wanted and required, but today’s readers certainly want more relief to break the tedium and monotony. More highlights, more graphics would have been welcome.
The black and yellow slugs leave me confused. What with the non-white paper, the slugs instantly remind me of The Indian Express and that’s not a memory The Times of India Crest edition wants to invoke. Overall, the layout and colours are vaguely The Hindu meets The Indian Express.
Now to the content. I’m relieved that the content is not what the disastrously designed and written brochure promised. (If you haven’t seen the brochure, good. The chances are that you would have run a mile from The Times of India Crest Edition had you seen the brochure).
There’s enough to read in the 40-page issue. Enough of the unusual, stories that make me go, “Hey, I didn’t know that.” Cases in point include the cover story on Indian farmers and agriculturists out to conquer the world with the backing of the government and the revamping of text books.
But the navigation is unwieldy. That’s not surprising when it’s day one of the paper. I have no clue what the next page will hold. That’s still OK, it’s day one. But there are some expectations caused by years of newspaper reading. Sports bang in the middle of the paper? It jars.
While the choice of stories is certainly an editor’s call, I’m surprised that a weekend (premium) newspaper targeting New Delhi and Mumbai ignores the English Premiership and Formula One. Both sports are weekend sports and a paper like this should be lapping them up. No better time for a preview of the weekend fixtures or Sunday’s qualifiers and the race.
Kept reading till I found the Books pages. Huge disappointment. Dan Brown? Give me a break. Tintin and racism? Perhaps the next edition will discuss the Golliwog in Noddy books. Quick reviews have to be timely – and these are dated. I’ve been there, done that, bought the book and thrown it away.
The book ‘feature’ is a great read. History made fun: 10 Must reads was a must-read. And having read, a few pages earlier, how Indian textbooks are being revamped to make them less tedious and more appealing, this piece was enthralling.
Can’t understand the lack of tech/gizmo/gadget pieces. This is a premium newspaper targeting (presumably) premium readers. Certainly don’t get enough on what to spend one’s money on.
I certainly haven’t wondered how porcupines have sex, so I skipped the page.
Skipped the depressing (I’m sure they were) stories on Afghanistan and refugees from Pakistan. In future I’ll skip all depressing stories on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Unless the headline (and perhaps some graphics, please) tells me that I’ll learn something I don’t already know.
No cryptic crossword. Ah, well.
I’ll buy the paper happily. But I’ll hope that Jaideep picks up the phone and calls in a few designers for a pitch. Not Garcia, he’s done a few thousand newspapers by now.