Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hype to kickstart the New Year

With a tad less than 30 years working experience in the media industry, I would have to be all sorts of gullible to believe that opinion polls conducted by newspapers and market research companies have any significant veracity. Oh, there's truth in them, sure. Slightly over 1000 people spread over five major Indian metropoli certainly have opinions on the questions they were asked, there's no doubting that actuality.

Yes, such things matter when the spread of urban population in the states where these metros are located as their capital cities have the following 2001 Census of India statistics to vouch for them. Delhi: 93.01%; West Bengal: 28.03%; Maharashtra: 42.40%; Karnataka: 33.98% and Tamilnadu: 43.86%. The combined urban population in these states is 121,487,387. People polled for the opinion poll: 1031 - 0.00085%. Yes, such findings are of great import to us.


What is more important is the reason to suddenly spring these minutiae on a New Year readership. Really, how impressed are you to know that 14% of Calcuttans who were polled prefer money over job satisfaction and confusingly enough, social service over money? It leaves you gasping to be informed what the balance 86% prefer.

Seeing these results, I think back many years ago to what a boss of mine had said about Calcutta (read the East) being merely 25% or less of the all-India consumer market. In The Telegraph New Year Poll:City Scan, questions as mind-numbingly diverse as “Why do you want to earn?”, “What irritates you” to the ├╝ber-cute, “I think...”, the Calcutta respondents hovered around the 20s percentile except when 66% wanted to help their family and 65% felt pleased that their knowledge was appreciated.

Mind you, I am not putting the Calcuttan down. I think this conservative, under-response only shows that my fellow citizens have their heads screwed on right, and are not overly concerned with owning iPods, cars, fashion, succumbing to peer pressure and so on, ad nauseam. If one must willingly suspend disbelief, Delhi and Mumbai-walas are extremely opinionated about such things, as are Bangalore-wasis, though not so much the Chennai folks.

I believe these idiotic polls are just a way of telling advertisers that the newspaper is a true reflection of Calcutta's urban attitude. It is part of a process that I call 'hype-as-myth-making', something marketing wastrels love. Just the age group of the respondents is enough to set the next quarter's marketing budgets a-flutter – 18 to 25 years.

Consider what, in the same day's edition 5 pages away, an erudite Mr Ashok V Desai has to say in his column Writing On The Wall. “So I am tempted to formulate the following laws of development under communism. The communist state is a slave of its trade unions. It is forced to rely on big industrialists because small industry cannot survive organized, militant trade unions. Amongst big industrialists, it prefers foreign ones who would have no constituency in this country. If it cannot get them, it will settle for Indian ones, but only if they accept CITU. And competition in product markets weakens the bargaining power of trade unions; so it would prefer firms that have a monopoly or a niche market.

These are stringent requirements; if the West Bengal government sticks to them, it may attract Tata Motors, but it will achieve little overall industrialization of the state. If I am right, Buddhadeb will face increasingly obstinate opposition within the CPI(M) family, will win ever greater admiration from the bourgeoisie, and will be largely ineffective. It is not his fault; it is the party he belongs to. He should bend it to his will, or split it."

One presumes that a newspaper so divided, and therefore balanced, in its approach to the new, resurgent Calcutta and Bengal, must be right somewhere. Or is dear, old departed King Crimson's, 'Confusion will be my epitaph...' the swansong? In either case the paper is certainly not helping readers like me to form opinions. Not that my opinions are required. I do not fall in the polled age bracket.

4 comments:

prepwdb7 said...
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prepwdb7 said...
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prerona said...

Everyone is talking about brand buddha and tata. what do you think?

Happy New Year :) Everyone is talking about brand buddha and tata. what do you think?

Happy New Year :)

Prerona.

p@tr!(k said...

wish you a great new year too! ;D

kothai? kolkatay?

buddha is arrogant because of the perceived success with his bourgeois middle class electorate in calcutta and urban centres as far as his versions of perestroika and glasnost is concerned. as a commie, he should have taken careful consideration of the inputs from the people who actually use the land they live on. but then again, some are not as equal as others, no? still, hope is a long-term thing so... :)