Cutting out the middleman: Why the mainstream media must fear social media

Saturday, September 20, 2014 - 13:20

Dhanya Rajendran| The News Minute| September 16, 2014| 11.00 am IST

Scenario 1- A press meet called as a prelude to a big Bollywood release. The lead actor sashays in many hours late. Journalists are fuming, many wish to protest, boycott the actor’s press conference and all interactions in the future.

Some do walk out of the press meet. But everyone invariably returns for the next such interaction weeks or months later, the same actor walks in late, again.

Scenario 2- A newspaper misquotes an actor or reports a completely false story. The actor’s PR goes into overdrive to set the record straight. The actor is ‘hurt’ and ‘angry’ at the false reports and vows to boycott the paper. Next week, a movie release is slated for and the actor is back giving interviews to the same newspaper.

For years this interdependence between the media and the movie industry has been a symbiotic one. But that slowly seems to be changing, as was evident from actor Deepika Padukone’s tweets taking on the Times of India.

Read- Times of India saw her cleavage, Deepika Padukone shows them she has a spine too

The actor was seething as the Times of India reran a story about her ‘cleavage show’ at a movie premiere some months ago.

Padukone responded on twitter asking the newspaper if they had a problem with her being a woman, with breasts and cleavage. The newspaper made it worse by responding that they were in fact complimenting her, leading to a barrage of support for the actor not just from her immediate fraternity which includes Bollywood and India’s entertainment industry, but from people in public life, citizens in India and abroad.

The fact that Deepika Padukone, and many actors who voiced their support to her, lashed out against ‘yellow journalism’, shows that they suddenly have the confidence to take on conventional media, that too, a giant like Times of India.

So where does this confidence come from?

Deepika Padukone has over seven million followers on Twitter. India’s largest selling newspaper Times of India (TOI) has some 2.5 million. That alone is an indication of the reach an individual celebrity in India has. And that is the minor point.

Shah Rukh Fb

The larger point is that social media has not only changed the numbers- in terms of patronage, it has also changed the conversation, in particular for the media which had given itself powers that went beyond the realm of reality. After all, fans and consumers would rather connect directly with their favourite stars than read about them through the media. 

Today most actors have a huge following on many social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, Google Plus etc. The PR machinery is no longer needed to set the record straight; actors can react to rumours at an instant and are able to give fans a peak into their life and lifestyle.

A Hrithik Roshan can announce his decision to separate from his wife or slam a story on alimony she is demanding from him, directly on his social media accounts. The message, he is sure, will not get lost in translation. 

Hrithik Fb

Sreedhar Pillai, senior film journalist and analyst says, “Today the actors don’t need the mainstream media like they did even a few years ago. Mainstream media now makes stories out of tweets or posts by actors. Actors don’t need to go through their PR or a newspaper, they can just address their fans directly through social media. It serves their purpose well, and everyone is happy about this system other than mainstream media.”

And it is not just one newspaper or website; titillating pictures have always been good click baits on the net. But today mainstream media needs to worry and tread cautiously. Actors can connect directly with their fans. If anything, the Deepika Padukone incident is a wake-up call to the paparazzi in ways that one could not have thought was possible earlier. Media voyeurism may have just met its match.

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