Monthly Archives: June 2010

The future of newspapers

Falling revenues, increasing user demand for free online content, and Google’s “misappropriation of stories” on the Web threaten the survival of newspapers in the digital age. Is Google’s ‘First Click Free’ programme part of the answer? By Zafar Anjum
04 Dec 2009

Being in the media industry I’m often asked if we have figured out our media strategy. Well, to be honest, being a journalist, I am not directly involved in the digital strategy of the media company I work for. It’s my publisher and our marketing team who have to square up to the challenge of the digital age: how to monetise content for a readership that wants full access to all our content free of charge?

But to answer the question, I am tempted to bring in media baron Rupert Murdoch into the picture. Even a man as astute as Murdoch is still in the process of figuring out the media strategy in the digital age.

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Why Copenhagen must fail

Looking at the leaked secret Danish document, Copenhagen seems more about money (carbon markets) than about climate change By Zafar Anjum
10 Dec 2009

I am not a climate change denier. Climate change is a reality because climate is meant to change. It is a dynamic phenomenon of nature and it has been changing ever since it came into existence.

When we talk about ‘climate change’, we refer to the phenomenon of global warming due to the greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major component of the greenhouse gases.

The question is whether it is the humans that are emitting the excessive carbon dioxide that is polluting the earth and making it an unsustainable place.

For years, this was the main question in the climate change debate: one group blamed the humans, another the sun (the sun argument being that the sun was getting hotter and hence was the main culprit behind the earth’s rising temperatures.)

Proponents of both sides of the argument have been championed and funded by vested interests. The ‘humans being responsible for the climate change’ side has been championed by the green brigade. Some political groups even brand them as “the green fascists” who want “to impose their de-industrialisation agenda to kill people”. The other side, the climate change deniers, are often backed up by the traditional energy—oil and coal—industry.

There are climate change scientists in both camps to argue for or against the motion. The common man was confused, not knowing which side to support. Until Al Gore walked into the picture.

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Cinema and Technology: Simon of the Desert (1965)

This is the time of the year when God and the glamour of technology come together in a bright, dazzling way. By Zafar Anjum
22 Dec 2009

Since we are reaching the end of this year and Christmas and the holidays are round the corner, I thought I would leave you with a sober thought by talking about a film that looks at spiritualism and technology.

This is the time of the year when God and the glamour of technology come together in a bright, dazzling way. Think of the illuminated streets and shopping malls, the festive spirit, the exchange of gifts and the celebration through various symbols of a great spiritual figure’s birth, a figure who changed the destiny of mankind.

I cannot think of a film more appropriate for this time than Luis Bunuel’s Simon of the Desert (1965). Bunuel (1900-1983), a Spanish-born filmmaker who acquired Mexican citizenship, is considered one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. He worked in Mexico, France, Spain and the United States and made a number of remarkable surreal and philosophical films including Belle de Jour, That Curious Object of Desire, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, among others.

Simon of the Desert is the last film that Bunuel made in Mexico, using Mexican actors. The film, at its 45 minutes length, is incomplete because the producer ran out of money after five reels.

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Cinema and technology: Avatar (2009)

The geek shall inherit the earth. I mean the good geek. That is one of the principal messages of the James Cameron film. By Zafar Anjum
07 Jan 2010

Like many of his admirers, I have been waiting for James Cameron’s Avatar for the last 10 years. I was not aware of any of Cameron’s films before I watched Titanic (1997)—the international smash-hit that became miraculously popular even in countries such as India and China. The only exception was the 1994 terrorism drama—True Lies, that precociously confirmed my fear that after the fall of communism, it was global terrorism that was going to be the American empire’s next bogeyman.

AvatarRemember, this was way before 9/11. But I knew that the global managers of perception and culture will replace the red terror with green terror. Every state, as the political theory goes, whose soul is locked in the monster of military-industrial complex, needs an enemy to keep its artificial unity intact. So, one or another kind of terror has to be perennially invented (before you create a hero, you have to create a monster—that is one of the rules of script writing).

So, when a precocious and visionary filmmaker like Cameron announces a venture like Avatar, one’s ears are pricked. I was hungry for any information on this sci-fi film’s progress: Cameron is working on the design of a new camera that could capture the kind of motion he wants to film, he is scouting locations in New Zealand, he is working with Peter Jackson’s special effects team, and so on. The news kept rolling in, whetting my appetite. Meanwhile, I watched some of the earlier ‘alien-themed’ films by Cameron.

When finally Cameron’s labour of love hit the screens and created another big bang box office history, I had to watch it.

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Lessons for PR professionals

Public relations in the age of new media By Zafar Anjum
21 Jan 2010

Public relations (PR) has existed ever since mass media came into the mainstream of the modern civilisation. Mass communications as we know it cannot survive without public relations and advertising. Supported by these two disciplines/practices (you may even add the think tanks here), mass media embarks on its mission of manufacturing consent and glamour and shaping public opinion and taste. It guides the reader to choose from simple consumer goods (a cone of ice cream, a piece of lingerie, a laptop) to complex ideas and ideologies.

It can be argued that while the media industry has rapidly changed after the arrival of the Internet (is still changing), the PR practitioners have not. With the exception of some, they have continued their past practices, especially in Asia. The same old press releases, phone calls to journalists, media briefings and the odd luncheon—there hasn’t been much change in their age-old practices of interacting with the members of the press.

The question is how long they can stay insular and impervious to the sweeping changes affecting the media landscape.

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Lose control

In the interesting times that we find ourselves in, we seem to be asked to lose control over everything that we have. By Zafar Anjum
19 Feb 2010

A few years ago, there was a Bollywood film song that became a rage in India. “Lose control”—that’s what it urged the country’s youth to do. The song purported to be the guiding philosophy of a bunch of never-do-well college kids.

Well, it is a bit unfair to pluck the song off its main narrative context but its refrain, “lose control”, pretty much signifies the zeitgeist of our times.

In the interesting times that we find ourselves in, we seem to be asked to lose control over everything that we have. The paradox of this development, if you will, is that what we have is private and at the same time, it is public too. The only thing is that either we don’t know about it or we don’t realise it. And it all happens in the name of privacy or security or the best of all the ruses, for the greater common good.

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Cinema and Technology: Up in the Air (2009)

I wanted to watch this movie because I read a blog that said: don’t let your boss watch “Up in the Air”? Why? I wanted to find out. By Zafar Anjum
12 Mar 2010

Up in the Air (2009) was in this year’s Oscars race but it did not win an award. For good reasons.

It’s a nice, little ‘corporate’ culture movie with a great authorial voice (the movie is based on a novel by the literary editor of GQ magazine, that’s why). The suave and sexy narrative voice is that of George Clooney (as the central character Ryan Bingham) who has this knack of turning out meaningful yet entertaining movies year after year (remember Syriana, 2005,  Good Night and Good Luck, 2005, Michael Clayton, 2007, and Burn After Reading, 2008, among others?).

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