Modern technological trends emerging in Pakistani media

 

A shift from tradition to technology, in terms of approach and tools, is actively underway in Pakistani media thanks to emerging digital means of communication.

Today, Pakistani media and journalists are reaching a growing audience not just within the country but also around the globe. Gone are the days of stagnant media websites. An increasing number of Pakistani newspapers and news channels now offer dynamic and interactive online platforms.

Although print media has existed in Pakistan since its creation in 1947, the arrival of private news channels, especially with the launch of Geo TV in the year 2002, provoked a media revolution in the country. Prior to that, there was only one state-run channel i.e. Pakistan Television commonly known as PTV.

Similarly radio, which had become limited to rural areas over the years, turned into a booming industry in the early 2000s when FM stations, mostly from the private sector, appeared in different parts of the country.

Today’s competitive environment has prompted media organisations to invest more in modern facilities in order to attract a maximum of readers, viewers and listeners. The number of online visitors is increasing faster on interactive news websites than on stagnant ones. Online traffic is also helping media organisations to attract online advertisements and generate more revenue. It seems that those choosing to ignore modern trends are, in the end, missing out.

Pakistani newspapers
Pakistani newspapers

Changing scenarios

In the wake of emerging technologies and new digital tools, the Pakistani media landscape is changing rapidly, as illustrated by the example of the English newspaper, The Express Tribune. Launched in April of 2010, the newspaper introduced a new trend when it started loading its website with videos from its news channel 24/7, which is the only English news channel in the country.

The largest Pakistani media group the Jang Group in late 2010 revamped the website of its English newspaper The News International, making it more interactive and dynamic, and provided it with video support from its news channel Geo News.

In order to maximise traffic, online editions of newspapers now offer readers the option to comment on their content and share links on various social networks. They also feature embedded videos, blogs, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. The concept of mobile applications including SMS alerts of breaking news on mobile phones is becoming a common phenomenon.

Similarly, the concept of webcasting - broadcasting live audio or video online - is also gaining rapid popularity. If the cable operators go on strike, viewers now have the option to watch streaming live television or recorded programmes of their choice online.

A number of other newspapers owned by media houses with their own news channels are now paying attention to their websites. But unlike The News International and The Express Tribune they have not interlinked their content. The website of The Nation, an English daily of the Nawa-e-Waqt Group, although recently renewed, does not even offer the possibility to comment on a story.

More than half of the mainstream English newspapers in Pakistan are however lagging behind when compared to those fully implementing modern digital trends. The online edition of The Statesman, an English newspaper from Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province is an example of a stagnant website.

Likewise, except for a few big names, the overall situation of most of the Urdu - the national language in Pakistan - newspapers and other newspapers based on regional languages such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and Balochi is quite pathetic when compared with English newspapers.

As per data available on the available All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) there are a total of 164 daily newspapers in Pakistan, out of which 27 are dailies in English while the rest are in Urdu and other regional languages.

Journalists and Citizen Journalism

Pakistani journalists are taking full advantage of the emerging trends and using new tools to reach more people, gather news, investigate, and even develop contacts or sources for their news stories.

For example, the slain governor of the province of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was gunned down on January 4, 2011 for controversial statements over an anti-blasphemy law, was followed by a number of journalists on his Twitter account.

Many journalists today effectively use social networks and publish their own blogs, or contribute to blogs to comment on themes and issues which they otherwise might not be able to cover in their news stories and articles. They also share their personal and professional experiences in a manner which was not witnessed in the past.

The modern tools have also led to the birth of citizen journalism in Pakistan, a comparatively new phenomenon as far as many developing and even developed countries are concerned. The influx of the latest mobile phones, iPhones and other modern gadgets related to information and communication is not only helping and supporting journalists more effectively but also encouraging citizens to capture and record whatever unusual and interesting events happen around them.

Realising the potential created by citizen journalism or street journalism, Pakistani media houses have also started to invest in this phenomenon by dedicating sections for citizen journalism on their websites and inviting people to share stories and ideas.

One of Pakistan’s most popular news channels Geo News has introduced a full-fledged website Geo Dost (Geo Friend) to promote citizen journalism while also telecasting a weekly programme based on videos received from people from different walks of life. Not all, but many other channels are now following this emerging trend.

Public reaction

“It is amazing to see that the latest innovations in computer technology are being exploited quite effectively by some media organisations in Pakistan,” says Rana Tanveer, an outsource employee for a multinational software house. “This is something not witnessed in the past and that definitely needs to be encouraged and appreciated.”

Tanveer, who spends most of his time online, laments however that modern trends in journalism are not being followed by all media, especially Urdu media. “By paying attention to their websites, media organisations can also earn revenue through online advertisements in the same way as they earn through advertisements in print newspapers,” he argues.

Online edition Dawn newspaper
Dawn newspaper, online edition

Instant accountability and challenges ahead

It is pertinent to mention that the emerging technological trends have also led to a form of accountability from media organisations. Now people can react instantly over a particular story or article through a commenting option unlike in the past when their only resort was to send a “letter to the editor”. Similarly people can now express their concerns through “live call” segments in various news programmes.

Today, there are many independent blogs and websites by Pakistani journalists and ordinary citizens who now do not seem to miss an opportunity to vent out their anger over misleading articles or even spelling mistakes, something that certainly did not use to happen in the past.

Although the powerful tools of the digital age are promoting freedom of expression, they are also making it more challenging for journalists to ensure the accuracy of facts, transparency and authenticity.

It is quite unfortunate that out of an estimated population of 180 million people some 60 million individuals are totally illiterate in Pakistan. According to Internet World Stats, only 10.4 percent of the Pakistani population is using internet in the country.

One can hope that an increase in literacy, especially computer literacy, will further the development of the media as well as the life style of citizens in this developing country.