Nepali Times Asian Paints
CK LAL
Fourth Estate
Online incline


CK LAL


Nepali Times was online for almost six months before hitting the newsstands a decade ago. Back then, access to the internet even within the Kathmandu Valley was extremely limited. Comments from online readers often bristled with the frustration of homesick professionals in self-exile who knew that few took their opinions seriously. Much time has passed, but the tradition of overseas Nepalis complaining about the situation back home is live and kicking (mostly the latter).

A critical mass of readers has since evolved that prefers to go online for news. Very few have the time or the inclination to read an entire article, most often clocking the title and pull-quote and scanning the rest of the page before firing off their reactions. The comment sections of web publications are thus often dominated by regular posters shouting at each other in an echo chamber.

The contribution of online readers to issues of national importance is thus minimal. But page views and comments provide some proof to publishers that the cost and effort of being on the web is not being wasted, even if the revenues from internet editions are negligible only nepalnews is reported to have crossed the break-even point.

Internet editions are favoured for three reasons. The first is the buzz in the profession that the web is the future of media. Second, a cyber presence lends a publication an international profile. Lastly, the marginal cost of having a web edition is insignificant in comparison to the production and distribution costs of the hard copy. The web is where everyone in the media wants to be, even though few can make convincing arguments for it.

Given Kantipur's full-spectrum media dominance, its group site ekantipur is somewhat lame. By comparison, nagariknews has hooked a huge following with simple design and eclectic content. Its sister publication myrepublica, however, could do with some innovation.

When it comes to page views, independent sites and weblogs such as nepaljapan and mysansar are not far behind media heavyweight sites such as ekantipur, nagariknews and myrepublica. But the revenue model of web publications and blogs is yet to evolve. Even a site as lively as mysansar is finding it difficult to raise money for server costs. Dainikee, too, lost popularity because its promoters could no longer fund the in-depth reporting that once made it famous. At the end of the day, what really encourages repeat visits is not simply attractive design and streamed pictures but hard news and thought-provoking commentary.

It's expensive to collect, collate and package news. Comments continue to be cheap. But good commentary costs money. Since the internet doesn't yet offer sustainable returns for journalists, web-only publications don't attract the best talents around. Citizen's journalism is all very well, but there is a limit to what amateurs and enthusiasts can provide to satisfy the information, education and entertainment needs of users of web media.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is said to have observed, "Content is not just king, it is the emperor of all things electronic." Unsurprisingly, some of his publications Ė The Times and the Wall Street Journal, for instance Ė charge for access to their online editions. But in Nepal, where less than one per cent of the population has internet access and media houses are just getting their online act together, this will not be an issue for some time to come. Facebook may be all the rage in Kathmandu, but rural Nepal still talks to itself at local chiya pasals, with a little help from the headlines in daily papers.

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1. Pradeep Kumar Singh
I agree with you that revenue model of web publications and blogs is yet to evolve. And the effort seems minimal. Its lame for those who have content and traffic but have not been able to try out different revenue channels. They have not been able to optimize their content properly and thus monetize it.
Social Media is at rage, which if used properly could double their traffic and also contribute to their revenue. Bloggers like us generate almost 60 percent of our revenue from Social media. So i think bascially Nepali Web publishers and blogs lack Social media optimization (SMO) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).


2. Sabin Maharjan
Although I agree with your opinions expressed in the article, your beginning of the article with the history of Nepali Times' online presence (probably used to compare the situation) may project the history wrongly with many of the readers believing that it was the first Nepali news website to go online. However, it was not the case and Nepali's online history probably began with Nepal Digest in USA (1993); The Kathmandu Post going online (1995); Mercantile's South-Asia.net (1999 - later NepalNews.com) and KantipurOnline (2000 - later ekantipur).


3. Arthur
The importance of online media in Nepal could change quite rapidly once an effective government capable of innovative development is in place.

Nepal is still too poor for the current USD $200 children's laptops that are being used to provide One Laptop Per Child in Latin America. But One Laptop Per Teacher should be quite feasible and make an enormous difference to teachers in rural schools and other educated people working in rural areas to deliver real services.

Although full internet connectivity would not be possible to most schools, email and websites including all the online newspapers can be delivered via email transferred physically through flash drives with a few days or weeks delay together with the entire contents of comprehensive libraries.

This could be extended to schoolchildren and households for audio material (only) by using teacher's laptops (and also mobile phones that have USB ports) to copy MP3 files with educational and cultural material (including the usual music) onto One MP3 Player Per Child for less than USD $10 each.

Separate SD flash cards costing USD $2 each can be used for transporting the files.

Small generators can be based at or near schools to provide the tiny amounts of power required for rechargeable batteries (also for mobile phones and white LED lights) even in areas remote from the electricity grid.


4. POKGY
It is the time to introduce Home Schooling using internet targetting the remote villages where kids don't have access. Here is a model: provide computers at extremely low cost to a group of parents (free stuff = negligence, therefore, there should be minimum charge), then teach them how to use internet. Give them video camera (integrated video camer would be fine) and microphone. Then, let them have government sponsored internet connection at no extra charge. Let them have the textbooks on PDF file format online, and also sent to them in advance by postal service in the beginning of the academic year. When it comes to lecture, let a video runs automatically on the screen of the computer for shared number of hours. Once students learn from video, then let them have some homework, and finally, let the kids scan their completed home work (to scan it, provide a scanner: it does not have to be very expensive full color mode, but a black and white type available on laser printer is more than enough), and one of the parent should know how to convert these scanned images into PDF file, and upload to the central repository system where teachers and volunteers can check their work and return to them with feedback. This is what we call here distance learning. This model can be very useful. In US, Blackboard.com (that now also owns WebCT.com) offers such product to almost all the universities as a part of their license, and it has been tested and accepted by almost all the universities in US. It is the standard in Distance Education system in US, and a similar system can be developed for local needs in Nepal. You will never need to see individual student's face, but their work is what we need to check and their competency is what we should improve. Education Ministry can announce such program, and let private sector develop, and if Education Ministry can sponsor or take certain cost, then it can provide job to young teachers, and computer programmers in Nepal to develop and compete each other. Once such products evolve, they will compete, and merge and grow bigger, and many private schools might use their teachers to check the paper of the students in those remote areas at a minimum charge. To maintain the quality, you can have joint accredation and watch dog body. Give a try. It should work. They will not have any rainy days, they will not have any effect from Banda, and it will have positive effect.  Now, how can I get the electricity to charge the batteries? Use small windmill or water spring or manual rotors to generate or run the dynamo as you do in your bicycle. Three bicycles if run manually, then we can generate the power to recharge the batteries to run computers. It can be fun for students. Instead of connecting these bicycle padles to wheels, connect it to dynamo or generators. It can be good for some fatty adults as well because they will get excercise, while recharging the batteries. If an adult walks for 20 minutes he can lose 100 Calories = 4186 x 100 Joule = Running a 70 Watt electric machine for ten minutes. Thus, 6 adults if excercise for 20 minutes each, then they can run computer for 1 hour. What else you want? Here we go?  

5. Puspa
The problem that has been persistently prevailed with any type of Nepali media that it can not influence Singhadurbar at all for all times. Nepali journalists yet to come above their inherited psychology of an inclined affection with 'funders' by and large rather than to audience. Hence it is always biased. It is a matter of great happiness that concerns have been raised by some prominent columnists in this regard, which need to be united. I am not blaming anybody there are abundant examples. This why it is not able to penetrate Singhdurbar and create echo with the voice of the public.

6. Slarti
"Very few have the time or the inclination to read an entire article, most often clocking (?) the title and pull-quote and scanning the rest of the page before firing off their reactions. The comment sections of web publications are thus often dominated by regular posters shouting at each other in an echo chamber."

Interesting, but like many other, you misread the situation with your own biases. Earlier, in the age when people could not shout, scream, and throw a fit in the "echo chambers", evidence shows that the commentator of the newspaper - often - got away with murder of an idea or truth. 

The voice of someone like you - powerful, intelligent, insightful - would often be the only one echoing (in a good sense) through the land (on a particular subject). What was written in the paper was part of a conventional myth. The talk in the chia pasal would end with "but CK Lal said so".

In small towns, like Saptari, where politics dominates the conversation on Machans and dalans, credible evaluation of a situation would come only through commentators like yourself. The impact of it was that certain biases, misconceptions, misinformation, and obfuscation of the highest order seeped into general public space.

The online world, on the other hand, and relatively cheap access to it in internet cafe's, now allows ordinary people to offer a different perspectives through the "echo chambers" of the comments section.

One of the reasons for that is the fact that people often do not scan through the pages, they look for hidden meaning. For example, the quote above is proof (if needed) that unlike my belief that only other readers with a lot of access to the net read the comments, often authors themselves do so.

If the idea, feeling or thought is expressed clearly, directly and effectively than it is bound to register. Whether it is shouted, screamed, kicked, hurled, (or whichever other implied expletive you choose to use) is not material. The idea and the essence of the message is.

The threat that you can figure out the location of a writer because of the IP, flies on the face of the fact that a lot of young people, in some hopelessly remote places, are smart enough to know that. And they have ways to make sure that in this very small country, knowing and finding out about someone is not difficult. I do, however, hope that my identity is safe with NT, because believe it or not, I am paranoid about my privacy.


7. Reb
Yes, the overseas Nepali may be live and kicking the commentators, but from afar, they also see the Maoists and the other clueless and self-serving politicians kicking the lives of their family, friends, and fellow citizens.  All they can do is shout from afar and lay bare their inner frustrations, they very well know they cannot provide any meaningful contribution.  For some, even the autoratarian regime of the Shah's,which they hated, wasn't this bad.  Now, isn't that a shame.

I find it amusing and frankly invigorating that you could not resist the punch line, which you skillfully to weave into your opinon.  I guess you had to relay to your commentors what you really think about thier opinion given the barrage of criticisms hurled your way recently.  It seems you could not resist the temptation to sweep it away as meaningless even though it seems to have pinched you somehow.

The publishers have provided this format and so the readers are making use of it, so don't blame the commentators.  Before, it used to be a one way conversation from columnists to the mass, now the mass can provide feedback to the columnists on what they actually think.  Only those with either authoritarian attitude or thin skin cannot digest the evolution of this communication medium, that is, if they are at the receiving end of the kick.  I wonder if the kudos were piled high, and instead of a kick it there was a pat on the back, what the reaction would be.

When you and others are being taken to task for you views regarding the Maosits, I believe the commentators are trying to remind you all to be fair and balanced.  Everyone who has any sense knows that the maoists and the political parties should come to an understanding to resolve the issues and move on for the betterment of the country and its citizens. That may be what you all are trying to say in a round about ways and your intention. 

However, what we cannot fanthom is why cannot you all say that the maoists have terrorized and caused mayhem to the very citizens they claim to uplift.  Why only extole the idealistic virtues and principles behind their mini-revolution?   Since that is not done, the commentators can surmize and theorize the columnists intention, rightly or wrongly.  To some readers, you are not calling a club a club, but instead call it a heart and hope no one says anything since the big player in the table holds the all clubs and may leave the game if not allowed to win some hands.

Although, this is not be related to the topic on hand, you provided the opening by giving a quick lively back-kick to the commentators.  You should be happy that you opinons create a rush of comments, which means that people like to read your opinion.  Those that don't get kicked don't get read or given much after thought, so take it in a postive light.




8. GyaRel

In the past before the invention of Internet, particularly, before the weblogging (BLOG) culture was developed, CK Lal likes opinion writers have sole access and monopoly in the newsmedia to run their opinion as if it represents the whole population. Today, CK Lal like opinion writers see BLOG and access to comment section in newsportals as threat, and challenge to their rhetorics, and come up with such silly and hateful phrases "echo chambers", "regular posters" .... targetting these commentators. CK Lal does not have courage to take these comments in positive way, but goes on old ways of name calling.

CK Lal fails to understand that in democracy (unfortunately he was turned himself to Maoists aligned writer after GPK's demise) every one whether literate or illeterate or rich or poor have the same say in election "one vote no matter how intelligent or rich you are", in the same way in unmoderated web-portals, everyone gets the same access to their say whether it is shout or intelligent write ups. You have to accept it, not try to discredit them by using name calls as CK Lal did in this web. I remember once Govind did similar attack on these commentators in Myrepublica.com (earlier avatar was Dainikee, and he was the moderator of the comments section). I know for CK Lal these comments are annoying, frustrating, time consuming, and painful to find a right and useful comment, but if you don't have time, why don't you go through these regular posters, and get the essence of their comments, and scan the rest. WWW has such tremendous information, that it is not for only you, and you can never ever read all these contents, so forget about dreaming like that. I remember the video of discussion between Yahoo's CEO, Yale Univ's President, plus other three great people in planet, they told in the video that next generation will have abundance of information, but finding an information that suits your need will be a great issue, and the biz model will be moving towards that direction.

In the past, there were few opinion writers like CK Lal, but now because of open forum like (moderated to keep sanity) NepaliTimes.com, CK Lal does have sole access in printed form, but in this discussion forum,  have several commentators who can scissor the issue, and explore and educate us all the facets of the discussion topic. Therefore, CK Lal should rather improve the quality of his writing, but not feel challenged and discredited by these commentators. Your old rhetorics do not work. You need keep updated, and informed more. As in the video mentioned above, when write an article, better well prepared and write contents not based on what you believe or perceive, but what evdience you have to present to validate that you belief is acceptable to the readers. You should be proud that you are getting much better readers, and the old way of flowing your vested interest based statements are gone, but it is the age of two way communication no matter what type of article or information you try to pass on to readers. CK Lal, you must accept the reality, and avoid the mistake Govind did in Republica and corrected later after realizing the power internet based readers.

GyaRel



9. Anil Bhattarai
What about FM? More than daily prints, I can imagine local chiya pasal gossips getting their cues from the news rounds from the radios.

10. Nirmal
I would not take this space as a way CK Lal observed here, nor I would search the origins and physical conditions of those who contribute to this space. rather i think it is the space moderately proletarised, sometimes the coincidence of same etimology of certain words do not confirm that they mean same as is the case with proletariats and proletarisation.

when this space will be free of prejudices, sometimes of prolifics and sometimes of those who respond to the call of prolifics?


11. GyaRel

Oooi Nirmal,

Forget about being in utopia by getting rid of prejudices, greed, selfish, .... Face the real world. These are relative terms, and we are human beings, therefore, they define us. These characters motivate us to remain unique from others. Therefore, it is not about getting rid of these characters, because getting rid means you have to waste a lot of money, and it is about minimising to the lowest level that is acceptable to all of us based on our resources. It is matter of time. Prejudice, greed, selfishness, egos that we have today, will be of no worth tomorrow, as the history tells us. You can not kill someone to get rid of his prejudices, greed, selfish, and ego characters, but as the generation moves ahead, these will change, and reshape our world. Yesterday, Bahun were superior just by having Janai, their pride of having janai is no worth today. Majority elder Nepalis are still cynical, because they had never seen positive things in their life. If you tell anything positive about a fellow Nepali, the senior Nepali's first answer will be "denial" e.g. the persone most have some influential, he must have cheated, he must have misused ..... like that kind of excuses of denials. But, if you look at the young Nepalis they are mostly positive, very optimistic, and they have pride and ego, that is why when you say something negative about a fellow Nepali or fellow human, they will ask you why are telling it to me, why should I know, do you think I will enjoy it? But, if you tell the same story to someone who is very senior in age, and is not related to that person, then you will find him very interested and the person enjoys the failure of fellow Nepali because majority of Senior nepalis have less successes, and not many positive things happend in their whole life. Young Nepalis son and daughter of the cynical "senior" Nepal have transformed to a new level pride and ego, and have slowly competing with the Y and the X generation. Thanks to these senior nepalis who gave them the ability to think positively by sending them in best schools the ability they lacked knowingly or unknowingly. I am very proud of the next generation kids who will lead Nepal for better economy, and better lifestyles with positive attitude. CK Lal, unfortunately, writes most of the articles on failures, cynical, and less on what positive we have, what we can improve, .... he could not realize the positive side of these few echo masters in this forum who with their prejudice, pride, ego, and selfish character try to defend what is right on their mind, and bring evidence one after another to validate their thoughts, and majority of them use head than heart to win fellow reader and commentators. CK Lal should learn that heart is very cosmetic in influencing people, but without head the heart may beat, but it is very selfish because it can not deliver ions to the rest of the body, and keep them working. CK Lal should transform himself and take shower, and be with these young minds if he wish to continue to challenge their thoughts, otherwise, his days are limited on printed form. CK Lal needs paradigm shift in his thoughts and respect to others thought. Period.

GyaRel



12. zarathustra
It is ironic how a self-proclaimed liberal and socialist person that Mr Lal is, chooses to quote Murdoch when his prejudice demands a justification. Being a "media mogul" never made anyone a undisputed source of opinion, forget credibility. Murdorch's ways are highly criticized and even rubbished by the champions of freedom and internet. Incidentally, most such people happen to be liberals and/or socialists themselves, and they have greater reasons to feel scorn for Murdoch, some of whose news outlets are knows for their vulgar and overt support of the American right and the corporate class, mostly at the expense of even the basic of the journalistic principles.

The internet is a very messy thing and people like Lal are bound to be threatened by it, and call names to those who love participating in the online forums. True, I agree that the quality of comments in most Nepali publications might not be very high, but who rates the quality of news and opinion in Nepali press anyway? The Web used to be a monopoly, like all other forms of publications, with a single information producer and multiple consumers.

The new internet or the Web 2.0 has changed all of that, and it has made us- the customers and the readers (the consumers) powerful - we can generate content as much as any corporate or "a mogul" can. And we can question them, mock them or even reject them altogether. The times, they are a changing- and if the erstwhile elites of the information society- the corporate publishers and their comfort-loving writers and analysts taking their power to preach for granted dont change their ways- its better to start digging a grave for yourselves. This has already started to happen in the west- its only a matter of time before it will happen in Nepal.

Mr Lal, here is something I want you to read: "To the media mogul- you blew it" http://www.ewan.net/2009/04/08/to-the-media-moguls-you-blew-it/?wpmp_switcher=desktop

I hope you will be able to make slight change of tone in your attitude after the read- otherwise your analysis in this article is just fine- I just feel that the tone is so skewed that it makes your otherwise fine article look totally stupid.

Zarathustra


13. Khaki
FYI
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/magazine/16Journalism-t.html?pagewanted=4

One thing many of these new strategies have in common is a willingness to transgress time-honored barriers ‚ÄĒ for instance, by blurring the division between reporting and advertising. True/Slant offers to let advertisers use the same blogging tools that contributors do, to produce content that, while labeled, is blended into the rest of the site. Such marketing deals are central to the company's plans for future revenue growth. "Everywhere I go the whole notion of enabling marketers to create content on a news platform is well received," Lewis Dvorkin says. "It's the way the world is moving."

Not long ago, such an idea would have been considered heretical, and in many newsrooms, it still is. But clearly, attitudes are shifting. "Hopefully we're breaking down the silliness of how church and state was historically implemented," says Merrill Brown, a veteran media executive and investor who is currently building a network of local news sites. Once, most journalists took a posture of willful ignorance when it came to the economics of the industry: they never wanted to sully themselves by knowing the business. The recession has, through fear and necessity, made capitalists out of everyone.




14. Bhul chuk linay dinay
CORRECTIONS:

Contrary to what Lal has written, The Wall Street Journal used to charge for online access well, well before Murdoch bought it. 

Contrary to what Lal has written, The Times of London will start charging for online access from June 2010. (Read respective wikipedia entries for additional information).

Contrary to what Lal has further written, more than 1 % Nepalese have access to the internet. These 500K+ net users in Nepal make up the audience that advertisers and opinion-writers should want to influence. Money that this audience would have paid for hard-copy subscriptions is lining the pockets of internet service providers.






15. Thurpunsich
Mr. Lal's non-so-subtle, below-the-belt dismissive commentary aimed at "homesick professionals in self-exile... overseas Nepalis" is a symptomatic delusional paranoia that he seems to suffer from. While he declares that "[T]he contribution of online readers to issues of national importance is thus minimal", he fails to tell us what yardstick he uses to come to such flippantly broad conclusion. Perhaps the ailment he suffers from is narcissistic personality disorder of exaggerated self-importance.

If Mr Lal wants to keep on writing, he must expect critical and sometimes acerbic comments, together with commendation. Readers' response is a mixed bag. That is the unavoidable bane of journalism. I'm sorry, but that's the truth.

Speaking of me personally, I've both lauded and criticized Mr Lal on occasions. Take it or leave it. But, readers won't take op-ed writers' dismissive attitude sitting down.


16. ssrj
"The contribution of online readers to issues of national importance is thus minimal." I really don't understand where Mr Lal got that ( I suppose that is just one of his opinions presented as some well researched fact)  but I am not sure  the contribution of wavering "opinion" writers like Mr Lal to the national discourse has much more importance either especially when allegiance changes so frequently. I remember he used to be an adherant supporter  of GPK.  As soon  the  MJF became a political force, he started writing in favor of it. The MJF didn't look too promising after the intial interest it generated, so he went back to singing praises of his old Pal GPK. Now he seems to see the maoists has the savior. The point I am trying to make as some others before  me have is that those of us "regular posters" in the "echo chambers"as Mr Lal would like to call us give our opinion for whatever it is worth. The difference between many of us (some just rant, I agree) and the professional "opinion wirters" is that we write what we truly beleive in without any hope for any benefit from it. I feel it is important that voices of individuals who can  think independent of the prevailing political atmosphere (which can influence people's opinion), be heard as much as of opinion writers like Mr. Lal.

17. Aakar
Yeah ! Mr. CK Lal. Your opinion are to the point. And if we all  have access on internet, then all paper will be displaced by online portal. But anyway, some sites are doing really a magical things. 

18. Himal
Just because you are a professional commentator does not mean you are free to write anything thing and the readers have to agree with your opinion. If one peruses though all the comments, any writer can get the approximate worth of his writing. The majority of the comments are accurate and fair and there are always few ranters. In fact, most of the time, some of the comments are more insightful, fact based and enlightening then the opinion of  writing they are commenting on. 


19. jeev
It is funny when established writers take it personally, more so if they can fool themselves to believe all the crap they write is actually making a difference.
I am the type of reader that goes through clicking titles, scanning the content and leaving comments... I like to believe I read through the article but Mr. Lal your article is but a bad piece of poetry gone through an obsolete thesaurus and I say this again, " you do draw good comments" and I read yours view for the comments on them. Now as to how useful the comments are, well that what democracy is based on, not on speeches delivered from high rises, but the way the average Joe interprets it... I rest my case, its all in the comments.


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