September262011

Monsieur Green meets cellphone again!

Few months ago we released some iPhone and Blackberry wallpapers based on the characters designed for last year’s AIPGM Tee. Here are the rest of the wallpapers based on those characters.

Tamil MG

Punjabi MG

Marathi MG

Bengali MG

Download: You can download the Zip Files from the following links

PG iPhone & BB Wallpapers Set 1.0

PG iPhone & BB Wallpapers Set 2.0

September72011

Why journalism education in India isn’t creating journalists

Every year April and May, we make rounds of the country’s top post-graduate journalism schools to hire two to three greenhorn scribes for our Editorial team. Having a slightly different approach towards journalism (I will come to that later), we don’t skip straight to a written test or interviews like the newspapers/TV news channels do. We first put forward our pitch in the form of an informal 15-minute talk and then throw the house open for questions (popularly known as the pre-placement talk —- PPT —- in campuses). The objective of this dialogue is not to maximize the number of applications to our job opening, but to help as many people self-select themselves out the process as possible. The reason —- we don’t want to waste time interviewing people who don’t ‘get it’. We’d rather invest more time interviewing those who do. Usually, about 80% of those present in the PPT apply (the rest are either not interested or have already gotten a job elsewhere but been forced by the college to sit for the PPT so that the ‘college-recruiter relationship’ remains positive). Those who apply are then sent a test over email and given a day to complete it and send it back. I won’t go into a detailed description of the test, but it suffices to say that it seeks to test the candidates’ news sense and writing skills and discover how well-thought their decision to be a journalist has been. The test is bloody tough. About one-third of those who apply answer the test. I have always wondered why the rest 2/3rd abstain from the test-over-email despite their giving me their resumes after the PPT, and shrugged it off as probably being beaten by a big newspaper or TV channel at the campus hiring game. Those shortlisted based on the test are interviewed once, twice, often thrice by more than one person. The process is tough and we rarely find people we can see ourselves working with. Between 2008 and 2010, only one received a final job offer and she worked with us for over a year. (In 2011, we decided to lower our bar and compensate for it by investing in more training than we’d usually provide and hired four kids. Of these, three have already been asked to leave. A high level of involvement, intelligence and initiative —- no unfair expectations for a startup news/techno media company writing for an intelligent audience —- are essential to survive and be respected at PaGaLGuY. Lowering our bar clearly didn’t help.) Then, starting September every year, something very curious starts to happen. We start getting direct job applications from many of the same people who had applied to us at J-school earlier that year or in the previous year but had abstained from answering the test-over-email. This time, they do a good enough job of the same test-over-email to land up an interview. At the interview, I start casually quizzing them about what just happened here and why are they now interested in a job they weren’t in earlier. I learn the following,

  1. Less than half a dozen students from their batch eventually landed up a proper News (-paper or -channel) job during campus placements.
  2. The majority eventually joined one of the various ‘content writing’ jobs on offer these days with a content outsourcing company, or were writing advertorials for inconsequential B2B magazines, or had joined a PR firm, or some such. Realising that the work there was far from journalism, they were now looking for a change.
  3. But working on content-coolie jobs had further erased their news sense and legwork ability so no news organization would touch them now, including us. On top of that, they were now expecting higher salary but without any experience of use to us.
Despite being from one of the supposedly best J-schools of the country, they were not journalists. Getting out of this vicious circle is apparently hard for them because we regularly get resumes of top J-school graduates from 2007 and 2008 who still haven’t managed a proper news job and are looking for one. Based on my information (assimilated from hundreds of job interviews and resumes), the batches suffering the most from this are from XIC Mumbai and IIJNM Bangalore. ACJ Chennai and IIMC Delhi too, but to a lesser extent. Why isn’t journalism education in India creating journalists? I don’t have the answers, but I do have a few insights that point out symptoms and the direction we are heading towards, and how J-schools are totally oblivious to it. J-schools don’t seem to care about the changing business of media. Forget about J-schools, even practising journalists in newspapers don’t, and this will hit them hard progressively as the next media shakeouts occur. Newspapers are declining wherever the Internet penetration is increasing and the Indian newspaper industry’s turn will arrive before the current crop of young journalists are even halfway into their careers. Newspapers have been hiring fewer journalists over time. Just enough to keep the boat running, before it sinks. No, news will not die. But the next-generation products that will replace the newspaper as pervasive methods of delivering news will require entirely different journalism skills that the current crop of journalists don’t seem to care about much. While the art of reporting and extracting information will not develop much (with more information making its way into the open, new efforts and technological capabilities would in fact need to be built on discovering stories from massive amounts of data), the medium and publishing platforms will evolve rapidly, both in form and function. The competitive advantage therefore will be in how you tell stories, how they are delivered to readers and not as much in what the stories are. I’d like to delve deeper into the ‘evolving medium’ half of the argument. If you asked any journalist (even the best) in the country what differentiates online journalism from print journalism, the two answers you are most likely to get are —- (1) Online journalism is a speed game and (2) the special thing about Online storytelling is the potential of using text, audio and video together. Anybody who has observed the worldwide evolution of news on the Internet will of course know that these were beliefs created back in 1995 but have been proved ineffective since because, (1) The Speed Game is a zero sum game. If the news website you slog your ass for can be really, really fast at breaking news on its website, so can its competitors. In the days of newspapers, breaking news had a shelf life of one day. In the age of TV and web, it has reduced to single-digit seconds. Many websites attach a booster accessory to speed using Search Engine Optimization (the technology used to improve visibility on Google) but that too is a commodity skill that everyone can and has developed. Nobody gets a real competitive advantage, the news shelf-life is too short for the website to build a long-term brand, and therefore nobody makes more money BECAUSE OF SPEED. That turns your job as a journalist into that of a commodity and when the Excel sheet of employee salaries is sorted to check for usefulness during a cost-cutting phase, you appear somewhere at the bottom. Think about it —- how can a ‘creative’ profession compete on quantitative measures such as time? (2) The ability to consume text, audio and video at a single place is a property of the publishing medium, not of the journalism. The guy who writes the text works like a print reporter, the guy who shoots the video works like a TV reporter and the guy who creates the audio capsule works like a radio journalist. One person on the desk then takes their inputs and publishes them on the website. It may be a different way of consuming news, but the journalism remains the same. In holding on to these pre-millennium beliefs, journalists and journalism leaders are missing other actual insights about the Online medium and how it could change journalism. The Print medium told stories using text. Photographs introduced still visuals. Audio brought sound and video brought moving pictures to stories. What new dimension did the Internet add? The Internet introduced Interactivity and Networkedness —- the fact that a computer/cellphone/tablet is a two-way device and is connected live to all such devices across the world. While news media companies have been great at harnessing the text, photos, audio and video to tell compelling stories and build billion dollar empires, they have until now failed miserably at harnessing Interactivity and Networkedness. When writers were slowed down by pens or keyboards that caused physical inconvenience, the pen and peripheral industries invented pens that were smoother and lasted longer or keyboards that were ergonomical. The still camera industry responded (and continues to do so) to the photographers’ need for lower production costs, better zoom and light control at a better resolution and more. Similar things can be said for recording devices and video cameras. When 3-D video becomes pervasive, TV news will perhaps be one of the first to adopt it (imagine watching a real war in 3-D!). In each case, the journalist or creative professional always had a frontier, a possibility, a ‘what if’ on his wishlist that the underlying technology could answer with a new product and help him use his craft to express himself or tell more compelling stories in a never-before manner. With the Internet, for the first time, journalists and creative professionals are at a complete loss of ideas, possibilities, a vision, a ‘wishlist’ that a technocrat can answer to with new technologies or products. A revolutionary new medium is taking shape around them and they have no clue what they would do with it, even if anything were possible. If journalists don’t stand up to take ownership of an exciting new medium and build great things on it, the engineers and the MBAs will. In the news businesses that will emerge, journalists will continue to remain at the bottom of the Excel sheet of layoff-ability. The next generation of media barons and journalists would be those who who discover ways to harness Interactivity and Networkedness to tell news stories, in ways as distinctly unique as print, video, audio and photography have been. And make profitable businesses out of that capability. Some work on this front is already taking place. Data Journalism —- see it for yourself —- is a phenomenally better way of telling trend stories, a staple of business journalists. Instead of the journalist selecting three or four top trends from an industry survey and writing it as text, he instead plots all the available data in an interactive visualisation which allows readers to become their own narrators. At PaGaLGuY, we’ve been doing it too —- example 1 and example 2. Game journalism —- telling news stories using games is another example of using Interactivity and Networkedness as storytelling artifacts. Perhaps the news stories of tomorrow will be entire cellphone or tablet Apps offering an immersive, visually dazzling and informationally comprehensive experience about a happening. The definition of ‘good storytelling’ will transform to a reporter’s ability to gather facts and get scoops AND creatively design an App that offer the best immersive experience for that story. The Apps would also have built-in ability to make people’s lives easier. For example, a news App on the Japan earthquake would, besides delivering news updates, visuals, 3-D panoramic views and videos of the affected sites, live statistics, also allow those stranded to ping their location to the world and initiate rescue operations, continuing to allow journalists to do good with their work. All that combined with phenomenal journalistic legwork and investigative skills to put the best stories out there in the most awesome possible manner, journalism would reclaim its status as a truly multi-disciplinary profession and in the process, spawn ideas and technologies that other disciplines could make use of. Easy-to-use software tools to create such Apps would be available as easily as Microsoft Word is today. The best journalists would of course, even know software coding and design. They’d be the ones rightfully climbing up editorial leadership positions. Today, at the very basic, including readers into one’s storytelling process is a hugely effective use of the Interactivity and Networkedness dimensions. On PaGaLGuY, Techcrunch, Engadget and many other hugely popular niche news sites, readers are themselves sources and almost always, a story is the sum total of what the reporter wrote and what the readers commented below it. Only after reading both does someone fully comprehend the story. As journalists at PaGaLGuY, we measure our success by the amount of discussions our stories were able to spark off. Of course —- the emphasis on factual accuracy, speed and elegance of language in the reporter’s work is an uncompromising requirement. This is not merely a matter of adding a ‘Comments’ feature to your website or the laughably contrived concept of ‘citizen journalist’. This is about creating a vast, responsible, dedicated and deeply integrated Community around your news website whose members put as much thought into participating in discussions around your article as you did in writing it in he first place. Often, big stories are broken by stakeholder readers in these discussions, the kind that would award promotions to journalists in newspapers. That’s broadly where the world seems to be going. In contrast, the course content under the ‘New Media’ degree at India’s top journalism schools comprises tutorials on Dreamweaver. In 2011! These are skills which were obsolete 7 years ago. The students ought to sue their schools for this ghastly under-delivery of service. At the least, there should be a full course on ‘The Business of News Media’ at these J-schools which broadly brings the attention of future journalists to the following, (1) Journalism is going to change, and in India too. If you are under 40, it will probably affect you before you retire. Prepare yourself for it and build skills so that you don’t end up at at the bottom of the list of dispensables when the next shakeout happens. (2) Take an active interest in your employer’s business model and if possible, learn how the revenues for your division have changed over the years. If you are Math-challenged, ask for help from someone who understands it. If the revenue of the division you work for or the part of revenue that draws from your skills is in the pits, it means your skills are on the way to become obsolete. Upgrade yourself, watch out for companies at the forefront of evolution in news and connect the dots. It will tell you what you need to do to stay relevant. (3) “I want to be a journalist because I love writing” will not last you an entire career or help your retirement planning. In another 10-15 years, the newspaper industry may transform into or be replaced by a technologically-savvy version of itself that competes based on how well it tells stories using immersive and interactive experiences. Invest in yourself by joining a news company that cares about the Internet so that when the change comes, you are among the early starters, experienced and badly wanted. Else if all you want to do is write all your life, become an author or an analyst in a KPO. Much of this has already been written about across the world. I thought I’d share it all here so that those who follow PaGaLGuY may understand why we hire the way we do. We care about a lot of these things, and we see journalism on business education as a nice petri-dish to apply these ideas on. Your reactions will be welcome.
May182011

Monsieur Green meets cell phone [updated with BB versions]

Preparations for AIPGM are in full swing at the HQ. This year in addition to AIPGM Tee shirts we are planning to give away some stickers based on the characters designed for last year’s AIPGM tee. We have also created some wallpapers for your cell phone based on these characters which you can download from here.

Instructions: Click on the image to open a larger version. Right-click on the image and save it your computer. Sync/transfer to your phone and set as wallpaper.

1. Mallu MG

2. Rajasthani MG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. NRI MG

4. Gujju MG

Stay tuned for more wallpapers from us :mg:

Blackberry Versions

January172011

Lord of the beans

Lord Of The Beans
After countless hours of brainstorming, hundreds of suggestions from FB friends and a lot of debate, we have finally settled on a name for the office cafe. The winning suggestion came from Apurv Pandit of the Editorial team — ‘Lord of the beans’. Unfortunately our cafe has not seen much action since its founding. Hopefully the new name will bring some luck. We are also planning to get a cheaper filter coffee machine for the less persistent ones in the office. If you have any suggestions in this regard please drop a comment below. Now all we need is a new toaster (again suggestions welcome), a placard for the cafe and lots of craving for caffeine.
December232010

The new addition

Mona Lisa. Wasn't she italian?

We’ve done rather tough things this month, but the toughest of them all was deciding on a good coffee making machine.  Espresso? Filter? How many bars of pressure? Frother? Lattes?  Cup warmers? Fully automatic? Semi Automatic? Manual?  Sometime after a couple of weeks of agonizing, Sreeraman (our resident gfx dude) just headed out and got us this coffee machine.  Make the caffeine flow never stop. Drop by our office sometime and we can together fiddle and try to get this baby working. Next week’s project is getting a cafe inside the office. The brick walls are done, the coffee tables & chairs are done. The coffee machine is done.  Will upload pictures as soon as that is inaugurated. What do you think we should name our office cafe?
March102010

Ping

Pong Pong

October62009

Updated hiring pages

We have moved our hiring pages from our blog to a separate section on the main portal itself.   We did it because we wanted to share a more thorough view of the workplace, our expectations and the positions that we are looking to hire for.  To understand more about how we hire, the work environment and career opportunities, check out our new join us page.

This re-arrangement aside, one of the biggest changes has been the way we write our job descriptions.  Our new job descriptions are a more accurate portrayal of what your average day/month might look at PG.  We have moved beyond the traditional listing of skills and key-words and have tried to portray a more vivid picture of the kind of work you will look to do at our workplace.

If you have any comments or thoughts or if you felt something was missing, give us a yell.

Some of the pages you may want to take a look at:

Join us,  how we hire, things we’ve done,  people @ pg

September112009

The 7th Anniversary Mayhem

We turned 7 on Sept 2nd and a rather weird idea was proposed. People were supposed to wear a minimum of 7 pieces of clothing before entering the HQ. The person with the maximum number of visible clothing was going to win those many number of prizes.   We expected people to show with just 7 pcs - but then who were we kidding. Folks at the HQ are competitive and always ready for a good laugh.

Check out the celebrations at the HQ!

pic_slog_1.jpgpic_slog_2.jpgpic_slog_3.jpgpic_slog_4.jpgpic_slog_5.jpg

Oh and yeah, the winner Sukita had an astounding 17 pieces of clothing on her.  Oh and yes, people had to wear all of these and head to dinner at a restaurant ;)

September82009

The PG Song - We’re rocking!

The PaGaLGuY SongHere’s to all the friendships we’ve made on PaGaLGuY, all the people on the forums who’ve become important to our lives and the force that PaGaLGuY has become in all our lives in the last seven years. We finally recorded The PaGaLGuY Song - until now performed live only at the All India PaGaLGuY Meet - at a studio in Hyderabad. Listen to / download the song now!

Click the Play button to listen to the song here.

Download the song for your iPod/computer/MP3 player (Right click and save as…).

Feel free to forward it, copy it as much as you want to whoever you please.

PS: The voice is that of Sarang Tatimatla (IIFT Delhi batch of 2009) and everything else has been played by Apurv Pandit. Recorded in Mumbai and Hyderabad over a period of two years!

August282009

Human Resource Champions

It is a rare time that you read a book and it feels like someone just put words to your thoughts and presented it back to you.  Here is one such book.  Human Resource Champions by David Ulrich.

In his book, he identifies the following very clearly.

Old Myths:

1. People go into HR because they like people.
2. Anyone can do HR.
3. HR deals with the soft side of a business and is therefore not accountable.
4. HR focuses on costs, which must be controlled.
5. HR’s job is to be policy police and the health-and-happiness patrol.
6. HR is full of fads.
7. HR is staffed by nice people.
8. HR is HR’s job.

New Realities:

1. HR departments are not designed to provide corporate therapy or as social or health-and-happiness retreats. HR professionals must create the practices that make employees more competitive, not more comfortable.

2. HR activities are based on theory and research. HR professionals must master both theory and practice.

3. The impact of HR practices on business results can and must be measured. HR professionals must learn how to translate their work into financial performance.

4. HR practices must create value by increasing the intellectual capital within the firm. HR professionals must add value, not reduce costs.

5. The HR function does not own compliance - managers do. HR practices do not exist to make employees happy but to help them become committed. HR professionals must help managers commit employees and administer policies.

6. HR practices have evolved over time. HR professionals must see their current work as part of an evolutionary chain and explain their work with less jargon and more authority.

7. At times, HR practices should force vigorous debates. HR professionals should be confrontative and challenging as well as supportive.

8. HR work is as important to line managers as are finance, strategy, and other business domains. HR professionals should join with managers in championing HR issues.

Now that this  is articulated, makes our life a lot easier for the next time we are hiring. Thank you David!

← Older entries Page 1 of 6