Sunday, July 21, 2024
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    MediaNama Turns 16

    We’re turning 16 today, and this post might be new to people because I haven’t done a “MediaNama turns…” post for quite a while. Each year that MediaNama has been around has brought new challenges for us and the ecosystem we inhabit. The work we do, the industry we belong to, and the domain we focus on are almost always facing headwinds, and navigating those is always tricky and often exhausting.

    I’m not really interested in celebrating survival, and this last year hasn’t been about that: it’s been one of our best and most fulfilling years so far, and we’ve done some of our best work: on the Data Protection Bill, Surveillance, the Digital Competition Bill, Artificial Intelligence in India, among others. The reality of our space is that it is constantly changing, and while we capture that change while taking a body-of-work approach, we must change with it. How we’re changing is what is exciting about this last year.

    At the beginning of 2024, we set out with a clear goal: to embrace change and identify new opportunities for MediaNama, especially in areas of adjacency, and try and do a few experiments, sometimes in parallel. We explored creating AI-driven video content, especially that with a long shelf life, but decided against it because it turned out to be too much of a hit-and-miss business: there is commodification of content on the anvil with AI, and you’re left to the vagaries of platforms for success these days.

    For a few months, we considered reviving what we had in Delhi with MoMo Delhi over a decade ago. After exploring the space, all I’m left with is an assessment that in a year or two, we’ll need something like what Mumbai has with TEAM, because tech talent is leaving for Bangalore. The allure of Bangalore is just too strong.

    A tech policy consulting business which operates at an arm’s length with MediaNama is something that I haven’t yet figured out. I’m also not sure if there’s space for an entity that doesn’t end up operating as a secretariat or speaks on behalf of clients/members: we want to do meaningful work that helps people make better decisions, and retain our independence and impartiality, and always always always work with integrity.

    A MediaNama TV is also still of interest, but it requires time and resource commitment similar to that of a publication. On a related note, funnily enough, a Venture Capitalist friend pitched to me the idea of setting up an independent media property that brings our ethics and approach to news, but I’ll be honest: I love the Internet and the work I do has to be related to it. It’s the reason why I chose this domain in 2006 when it wasn’t as hot as it is now.

    There are other options that I considered, and we are currently working on two. The first opportunity that we’re actively executing is that of training: we bring in expertise in technology, media, journalism and tech policy that very few people have, and our first initiative — the AI for Journalism workshop — has been a success. Workshops that engage people and are created with the objective of ensuring immersion in the subject matter. I want people to go back feeling, as someone wrote to me yesterday, that “I have rarely spent ten hours more profitably.” There’s a workshop on Tech Policy for Founders and another on AI and Tech Policy in the works, and I think I should probably do another AI for Journalists workshop. Scaling workshops will be an interesting experience, but I do think this is something we should allocate time and capital towards.

    The other opportunity lies in AI. These are early days for AI, it’s a highly competitive market, but there are also some great opportunities, especially as the cost of compute goes down and the quality of LLMs increases. It is changing rapidly, but unlike Web3, this doesn’t feel like vapourware. It will take a few years to build something meaningful, but what’s exciting about this is that it also involves shifting from a content/project mindset to a product mindset. On that note, I had hoped to launch MediaNama’s first AI integration today, but I don’t think we’re ready for a beta rollout yet. Rest assured, it is coming your way soon.

    What’s really brought a lot of positive energy is the GenAI Delhi community, which I’m helping run as a volunteer, just the way I had helped Prashant Singh run MoMo Delhi. It has the same positive vibe: people building, excited about technology, figuring things out as they change. If there are constant headwinds in policy, there are tailwinds in the technology business, and this is a useful balancing force. On a related note, almost 1/3rd of MediaNama’s stories this year are about AI.

    You’ll also notice that our work is not behind a subscription paywall anymore. This was as much of a business decision as a philosophical one: we want more people reading our work.

    When we turned 1, we told our readers that we were in this together. Without the paywall, we’re able to serve more people in our community better. This also allows us to focus on other revenue streams: workshops, advertising and events, and some other stuff related to AI. I’m also keen on MediaNama resuming reporting extensively on the internet and technology business ecosystem, but now that that market is crowded, we’ll have to do things differently.

    As we enter Year 17, I hope this is a year of growth and exploration and impact. I’m trying my best to make this a defining year that helps chart a course for the next decade for us. It looks like it will continue to be fun, as long as we’re building.

    We’re in this together.

    The post MediaNama Turns 16 appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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