WHAT THE NATION WILL KNOW

Submitted by admin on Tue, 05/02/2017 - 13:10

Having created massive buzz and huge expectations from viewers and the industry alike for his ventures Republic TV and Republic World, will Arnab Goswami live up to his own name?

 

By Priyanka Mehra

 

Ever since ace journalist and television anchor Arnab Goswami announced his venture, Republic TV, in December last year, he has constantly been in the news, be it controversy over the channel’s name, its aggressive digital strategy, his high-powered public-speaking appearances at industry forums and youth campuses and even legal proceedings to stop him using his distinctive line ‘The Nation wants to know’.

While the Nation definitely wants to know what his entrepreneurial venture Republic TV will be like, the man behind the furore is in complete ‘launch mode’, as he calls it, amidst content discussions, and people who demand his attention every few seconds. Goswami and his core team have been working till the wee hours of the morning, and he confesses to having wrapped up work at 3 am on the day we meet him for this interview.

 

‘I WAS ALWAYS AN ENTREPRENEUR…’

Has the impact of his own entrepreneurial venture sunk in, we can’t help but ask Arnab Goswami. “I was always an entrepreneur... even at Times Now, I was an entrepreneur. We went out and raised funds, built it from scratch, built a business plan, put out a channel, made it credible, and it did very well. In that sense, this is the second entrepreneurial stint for me. It is not like it is completely new, but doing it ground upwards is always exciting,” he says.

The notable difference between the two, according to him, is that he was earlier working for a corporate media company, and today he is working “only for journalism”.

“The last four months have been fantastic. Recruiting a bunch of new people is always exciting, moving around the country, evangelizing the channel, establishing the distribution network, setting up the basics of the organization, getting people to connect with each other, and now in the final stage, the plan to put the news together,” he says, with quiet excitement in his voice. “I was really looking forward to it; the last time I did this was more than 10 years ago. It was very exciting for me... 2006 was when I started Times Now, and now after more than 10 years, I am starting this all over again.”   

While Goswami and the Republic TV team remain tight-lipped about the infrastructure and technology going into the venture, Republic TV is said to have the largest newsroom in India and has been designed in tandem with global standards to make it one of the most inclusive and highly specialized departments.

 

BRAND-BUILDING, THE SOCIAL WAY

Unlike a lot of news channels, the whole evolution of Republic TV has been extremely youth-centric, right from using social media platforms to recruiting talent as well as building its viewership base. The channel has received immense traction across all social media platforms. #RepublicTV, #Republic, @republic, and #workwithArnab are some of the popular hashtags that  were shared widely with many people seeking to join the team and registering their support for the channel.

This approach has helped the channel cash in on Goswami’s loyal followers both offline and online in a cost-effective manner. The online push was supplemented by Goswami’s appearances wherein he gave passionate speeches at colleges across the country, garnering further support from the youth.

Interestingly, we also saw Goswami on lifestyle magazine covers and in mainline newspaper interviews—an avatar that we hadn’t seen earlier.

“I am talking openly on any media forum that allows me to reach my audience. All these interviews are a way to put my message across. I am setting up a news channel; I don’t have a larger budget for my marketing expense. Therefore, if I get a way to reach my audience and talk about my journalism, I will do that even if it means wearing expensive suits, which I don’t wear typically,” he explains.

 

‘THE PRESSURE IS ON OTHERS, NOT ON ME’

On being asked what he has to say to naysayers who caution that the first six months are crucial for Republic TV, and then it will be interesting to see how the channel fares, he replies, “It would be crucial for anyone. Post six months, we will be fine. I am ready for a marathon. The biggest lesson I have learnt in these last four months is that if you have the people’s support, you don’t need anything else. Media houses are not built on money or clout, but on belief.”

Now, having created massive buzz and huge expectations from viewers and the industry, what is on his mind, just days before the launch? “There is no pressure; the pressure is on others. It shows by the number of legal notices we are getting. They should overwork their news team, not their lawyers. The news team must work more than the lawyers, who should relax,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. 

This is the poorna swaraj moment for Indian journalism: Arnab Goswami

 

Arnab Goswami tells Priyanka Mehra that Republic World will be the most dynamic digital presence across all news networks, expected to take interactivity to a whole new level. He also tells us why people from Times Now have joined Republic TV, and how working in Mumbai helps him stay free and independent...

Q] It seems that you have leveraged the power of Brand Arnab to build Brand Republic...

I don’t see myself as a brand, but a philosophy in news. If there is a brand value attached with me, that will help the launch of Republic TV...  we will do everything possible to extract that. There is no Brand ‘Arnab’ without Brand ‘Republic’ anymore. My entire brand, if there is any, has been handed over to the organization.

 

Q] Your last day at Times Now was November 18, 2016. When did you think of Republic TV?

I immediately thought of it, worked towards building it up, and here we are, four months later, ready to launch.

 

Q] What does ‘Republic’ stand for?

Republic stands for complete journalistic independence. The ability to do stories without fear, I have always done it that way but now it is complete independence. As they would say, this is the poorna swaraj moment for Indian journalism. It also stands for building a new generation of journalists that will take this form of journalism forward to a new era. Republic World is also the coming together of Television and Digital media in a far more aggressive format.

 

Q] What was your initial game-plan in terms of media visibility... your youth campus speeches and aggressive strategy on Digital seems to have worked, without any traditional form of advertising until the last phase before launch…

There is no game-plan. The feeling is that the people of India believe in us and the journalism we do, so how do you talk about it? You just spread your message by speaking in different places and then people get absorbed by their own vision of what media can be, eventually a lot of people in the country want a new vision for the media.

They want a dynamic shift and they want to move away from the past. They want to get into a better future for journalism. I was basically busy putting together the anatomy of the organization and now am in a position where it can launch. So it is nothing unusual, the only difference is that I am up against players who are still thinking traditionally and they have tried this ‘block and tackle’ childish tactics with me and all those tactics have failed.

So they should stop trying so hard to block me, because eventually the viewer will decide what to watch. You can’t push content on people anymore.

 

Q] What are those tactics you are talking about?

One particular media house has gone and told distributors “we will pay you six months of distribution money upfront if you stop Republic TV for a couple of weeks” and one particular media house has told those who were quitting their jobs will not be given their PF or gratuity. It has all failed because it was destined to fail. This is what Republic is all about.

 

Q] Did you expect the kind of opposition you faced?

No. This particular media house has been wasting its energy on fighting me, but I have not responded if you have noticed, even till now. I have been focused supremely on my team and on what we have to do.

 

Q] What is the content format for Republic TV?

It will be the best in the industry; I would rather not talk about it. You can’t construct news in a ‘X’ way or a ‘Y’ way... it is just news and eventually it will just be the news. I can tell you that I’ll be on at 9 o’clock on the new channel as well. I hope people watch me.

 

Q] What is your take on the 9 pm slot now?  

The 9 pm slot is a very important slot for news channels, I think we will get the audiences at 9 pm. You must understand it is just not 9 pm - it affects viewership of the entire news channel. Eventually, I look at it as primetime, super-primetime, etc. However, I am not looking at any one slot in particular, but 9 pm is extremely critical.

 

Q] We have seen how the 9 pm slot has created affinity for channels through the day as well. What is it that Republic is going to do differently, supplemented by Digital for audience engagement?

Republic World will be the most dynamic digital presence across all news networks; we are going to take interactivity to a whole new level, with innovations on a different scale altogether, including surround sound and few things that have not been done in the past. We are collaborating with a few groups internationally to produce this. So RepublicWorld.com will be looking at all facets for Digital natives, it will also have fantastic live-streaming of our channel, and will on its own collaborate with third party providers. So Republic World is a completely separate company on its own and will be launched together with the channel.  

 

Q] Is there any particular segment of advertisers you are seeing traction from?

It is all segments of advertisers, including many who have not looked at news as a genre for advertising in the past. 

 

Q] What do you think about the launch of Mirror Now?

What is Mirror Now? I never heard of it. You must tell me about it. What is it?

 

Q] Times Network has re-launched Magicbricks Now as Mirror Now, and positioned it as its second English General News Channel... What is your view on this? 

There are channels changing their names three times, you can change ‘Property Times’ to ‘Magic Bricks’, or ‘Mirror Now’ or whatever. I don’t think anybody in India is watching them... you can go into my newsroom and ask them... and no one will know. Good luck to them.

 

Q] How many people from Times Now have joined you?

At least 30-40 people... A lot of good professionals have joined us from Times; I don’t think anyone, especially at Times Now, should fret over it. If people are leaving them, they must introspect on why people are leaving them, instead of sitting and fretting over it. Many people from Times Now have joined me because they believe in my journalism, and nothing in the world can deter them or will deter them. A lot of these people have joined in spite of personal hardships and difficulties. They believe in the form of journalism we do at Republic TV. I am grateful to these people for being a part of my team.

 

Q] What are the learnings from your previous role that you will apply at Republic TV?

All that I have learnt is from my reporters and editors. I have not brought into this organization the values of any corporate media group. I carry my values with me.

 

Q] We are given to understand from people who have worked with you at Times Now that you were vehemently against branded content. What are your views now?

I don’t sell news; I don’t let anyone sell the news.

 

Q] What do we expect from Republic TV and Republic World?

Independent, straightforward journalism, that comes from the heart and frees reporters, and gives news out without the fear of reporting. You know my journalism, I have always done that. TV and Digital can come together to build society and transform the nation in a positive way. I want to do this with Republic.

 

Q] You have made a conscious decision to be based out of Mumbai.

I like to work in isolation and generally there has been too much geographical force around Delhi. I want to have a little sense of balance on that and that is why we are located in Mumbai. It is a conscious choice, it is free and independent and there are many professionals who choose to work out of Mumbai rather than Delhi. It has an open environment.

 

Q] Does it really keep you away from what Delhi has to offer, when you talk of it being the central hub of politics? Are you really away from that?

I don’t need to stay away from politics. I talk to the politicians when I need to; I don’t wine and dine with them. So I don’t miss it. Actually there is a lot more in media to cover than pure politics.

 

Q] How much difference does it make when you are not based out of Delhi?

It makes a huge difference because you get focused on your work and, anyway, I don’t socialize much.

 

@ FEEDBACK

priyanka.mehra@exchange4media.com

Category: 
Volume No: 
13
Issue No: 
47