Eclairs, people of a certain age would surely remember to be a sweet candy of delectable flavour and feel. What is now available in the market under the same name bears no comparison to the almost divine taste of the original, which, it should be said, came wrapped in a hideous orange and moody brown outer wrapper and tawdry golden inner.
The original eclairs was almost unanimously liked by all across all age groups. Kids naturally slobbered over it. And oldies were made to forget their diabetes for that short moment of ambrosian delight in their mouth.
And then? Well, the MBA-types who decide things at big companies stepped in, and pulled off this popular candy from the production line. Why? Madness would be the obvious reason to anyone even with the thinking ability of a cabbage.
But I don’t want to be a recipient of the considerable wrath of the MBA-types by committing myself so in print. So I would venture only as much as to suggest that those who decided to call back the original eclairs would have given a superiority complex to a humble cabbage, which many of you would realise doesn’t have any apparent brain.
But big corporates, backed by their intense research and understanding of the market, always do this. I don’t know what they actually research on and whom do they take their inputs from. But you can always trust them to do things that are as logical as trying to enrol Osama bin Laden to Amnesty International.
Take the case of the industry that I am in: Newspaper and journalism. Right from the day I stepped in, the one plaint that has been constant is: ‘The reading habit is dying and the youth don’t read at all.’
Initially, freshly into the profession, I thought this to be a direct fall-out of my getting in. But this chant was insistent even on days when I was on leave. And slowly it dawned on me that this talk of falling readership has been around right from the day the first newspaper hit the stands.
And every time this idea of falling readership becomes even more insistent, the industry has only one solution: ‘Target the youth’. And we have been trying to do this, even though there is no plausible proof to suggest that this stellar strategy has ever worked. Is there a moral in this story? There is, and that is there are many in the newspaper industry who can make even the cabbage seem to be possessing the IQ of Einstein.
So, the same newspapers, which scream shrilly that the youngsters of the day don’t read anything other than that comes printed on menu cards or shopping mall price lists, forever tailor their writing to suit their (youth’s) reading tastes, whatever they are. Ergo, you have reports that are by the day getting shorter than Shreya’s skirts or Parliament’s serious working hours. All sentences will begin and end with the same fullstop. And all news reports will have to carry photos, including those about power shutdowns at the dead of night.
The day is not far off when the biggest news story in a paper would make a verse from Thirukural seem verbose in comparison. It is not just the reports that are being sheared. Even the paper size matches the attention span of young readers. Soon we will have newspapers in the dimensions of a normal envelope, and the special supplements the size of a postal stamp.
And what of the content to attract the sterling colts? Everyone in the news industry, in his or her infinite wisdom, has now come to the conclusion that today’s youth set is sold out on technological gizmos, movies, celebrities, hot spots, bikes, cars, apparels and the idea of looking good. This is all to the youthhood, the newspapers believe. So naturally we are full of the stuff that the youngsters reportedly crave.
But are the youngsters going to read? No way, seeing the stuff that is printed, they get more reasons to spend their time on technological toys or go to the movies wearing expensive clothes.
The direct upshot of trying to appeal to the youth is that older and trusted readers either stop reading us or begin to develop fetishes of the young crowd. So the next time you see a grizzly oldie wearing an ill-fitting Bermuda shorts, Nike sneakers and trying to send an MMS on his N-series Nokia then you can be sure that newspapers’ last bastion of readership has fallen, frantically at that.
But is there a surefire way to attract young and old readers alike? There is. And that is to put the names of nubile young actresses in the heading.