The Convergence Newsletter
From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. VI No. 3 (October 2008)

Commenting on Convergence

By Brad Petit, Editor of The Convergence Newsletter

With a potentially historic presidential election approaching, the world is watching the U.S. right now, but this month we at The Convergence Newsletter are watching the world. For the second time this year, we turn our attention to convergence internationally, a subject we first devoted special attention to in April.

This issue opens with a look at the state of media in India, where Sunil Saxena says large-scale convergence has yet to take off.

We then turn our attention to China, where USC’s own Dr. Ran Wei has done quite a bit of work, especially in researching mobile phone use. Wei provides some insights about China’s activities in new media, particularly the mobile space.

TCN executive editor Doug Fisher closes this edition with a look at how we can all stay current on issues in international convergence without leaving our computer and Internet connection.

We're planning another special issue on worldwide developments in media convergence next spring. We encourage you to contact us with perspectives to share.

Between now and then (and beyond, we hope), we look forward to sharing some of the great research and ideas presented at the recent Convergence Conference here at USC. Presentations and discussions covered topics from politics to teaching to citizen journalism.  You should start to see some of that work in the newsletter before year's end.

Contact Brad Petit, editor of The Convergence Newsletter, at

View past newsletters at
Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at

Feature Articles

With Newspapers on a Roll, Convergence has yet to Happen in India

Mobile by the Millions: Pocket-Sized Convergence Goes Big in China

Keeping up with International Developments

Calendar at a Glance (Details Follow Feature Articles)

Dec. 3-5: Blueprinting the Internet Valet Economy, Columbia Mo.
Dec. 5-7: AEJMC Winter Meeting, Louisville, Ky.
March 6-8: AEJMC Midwinter Conference, University of Oklahoma
March 19-21: AEJMC Southeast Colloquium, University of Mississippi
April 16-19: Health Journalism 2009, Seattle
April 22-25: BEA annual meeting, Las Vegas
April 24-26: Media in Transition 6, Cambridge, Mass.
Aug. 5-8: AEJMC annual conference, Boston

---------------Feature Articles

With Newspapers on a Roll, Convergence has yet to Happen in India

By Sunil Saxena, Online Centre for Media Studies, India

“Convergence” found its way into the Indian media vocabulary in the late 1990s. Everyone talked about it, but it is doubtful if anyone understood its implications. Today, there is more clarity. Indian newsrooms are realizing they need to change the way they function. There is talk of synergies and better resource utilization that can flow out of converged newsrooms.

But the convergence is still to happen for three key reasons:

First, Indian newspapers are on a roll. There are not the same bottom-line pressures found in the western world. Newspaper earnings are climbing; so are the newspapers’ reach and penetration. Media giants like The Times of India and The Hindustan Times are scaling up operations by launching more editions, the Indian-language press is on a spectacular expansion spree with papers like Dainik Jagaran and Dainik Bhaskar setting up multiple editions, and business dailies like The Economic Times and Business Standard that so far catered to an upmarket, sophisticated city elite are launching pink papers in Indian languages to meet the needs of the upwardly mobile hinterland masses. The demand is for print journalists, not multiskilled journalists who can work in a converged newsroom.

Second, Internet penetration in India is still very low. This has badly limited the growth of Internet advertising. Whatever little is available is cornered by the Big Five –,,, Yahoo India, and MSN India.  Other Web sites, including media sites, are struggling to stay alive. Many would have died but for the lifeline extended by their parent companies. However, this support is limited – just enough to keep the sites going. The result is no innovation, and Web sites continue to be a side activity run by low-profile teams.

Third, the focus in India has shifted to the wireless world. The wired Net has been completely dwarfed by the rapid and dramatic growth of the cell phone industry. The rush today is to add technologies that can push content and value adds on the exploding cell phone market. Unfortunately, a clutch of telecom companies controls this market. They keep 80 percent of all revenues generated from wireless content. The remaining 20 percent is shared between the media company generating the content and the technology partner that provides the backend to transmit content.

The result is that new media and all their attendant avatars have yet to become revenue earners. In the initial years, they were propped by hype; today they live on hope. Another interesting phenomenon is compartmentalization. Traditionally, Indian media companies were present only in print. Today, they hold properties across platforms. The Times of India Group has built properties in print, television, new media, radio, event management, outdoor advertising, and mobile. So has the Living Media Group, the publishers of the prestigious weekly India Today, or the Anand Bazar Patrika Group, the company that owns The Telegraph.

But independent content-processing teams handle each activity. These teams sit on separate floors – if they are housed in one building – or in different buildings spread across the city. There is no synergy, especially between the print and new-media teams. During the day, the Web sites use wire copy to publish breaking stories; at night, they upload newspaper content after the paper is put to bed. There is little effort to transfer readers from a newspaper to its Web site. Similarly, interactive content generated on the Web site rarely ends up in newspaper columns.

Television channels are not so closed. There is a more focused effort to transfer viewers onto a station’s Web site. News videos are hosted online simultaneously, and reporters are encouraged to churn out short copy for the Web.  Viewers are constantly encouraged to use short codes to transmit content or take part in contests and opinion polls. Selected user responses received as SMS messages scroll along the bottom of the screen.

One element missing in the convergence matrix is radio. The Indian government does not allow news transmission on private radio channels. The Indian media also do not embrace podcasts as a communication medium. Things may change once the government opens the FM band to news.

Right now, the government decision to allow private telecom players to bid for 3G spectrum has created great excitement in the media. There is widespread curiosity about the kind of media products this decision will spawn. However, much depends on when the 3G devices attain critical mass.

Today, India is still strongly moored to traditional media. All energy and investment is directed at strengthening newspapers and TV networks. There is little or no substantial convergence, only feeble stirrings.

Sunil Saxena is dean of the Online Centre for Media Studies in India. Contact him at

Links referenced in this article:
Yahoo India:
MSN India:

Mobile by the Millions: Pocket-Sized Convergence Goes Big in China

(Editor’s note: Dr. Ran Wei is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. A native of China, Wei has extensively researched China’s rapidly expanding excursions into the new-media sphere. We recently sat down with Wei to glean some insights.)

TCN: Your research has shown that the use of mobile devices in China is advanced beyond that of many other places. In general, what can we learn from China about the convergence of technology and media in the mobile space, especially as to how it changes audience behavior and the relationship between audiences and content and technology providers?

Wei: China has the largest number of mobile phone users – close to 600 million, which is almost twice the population of the United States. The reason for that primarily is because people don’t have access to PCs. PC penetration is pretty low in China – it’s like 20 (percent) or something or below – so people have to use other alternatives to use the converged infrastructure. Another reason why the mobile phone is so popular in China is because China is in the process of rapid urbanization and industrialization. What happens is, every year millions of farmers leave the country and go to cities for jobs. And those people normally find jobs in manufacturing places where they are housed in a dorm or something. What I’m saying is this is a largely migrant work force, and they don’t have roots or connections in a city, and they don’t have a fixed mailing address, they don’t have a fixed phone line, and if they apply they won’t get it. But on the other hand, they do have the need to keep in touch with their families … so those kinds of needs are best met by the mobile phone. … So they kind of have a phone that’s their walking dictionary, address book, everything goes with them, and they don’t feel suddenly there’s no way to get in touch with folks back home. …

(The ubiquity of mobile phones) drives the need to push the mobile phone further as a kind of convergent medium in the sense that people use it creatively. Most of the people use it for text messaging. You know every day there’s a billion text messages sent in China. … That’s a huge amount. That’s one use that’s very popular that generates a lot of advertising and marketing messages. …

The service providers in China are basically like AT&T – telephone people – they don’t have the media experience. So what they did was open up some of the content provider market to anybody. As a result they attracted quite a number of content providers who specialize in one thing or another and then it’s like pay-per-view. That profit is shared by the service provider and the content provider.

And one thing that is uniquely Chinese and hugely successful, they call it “e-newsletter.” It’s unlike anything else – they call it cai xin; literally it means “colorful papers.” And this can be sent to your phone twice a day if you pay a couple dollars a month. It’s so inexpensive, it’s so effective, everyone is reading it now. You simply click on it and it pops up as a PDF newsletter … and it has some simple links to the story in detail. … I think this is the most successful media product that’s delivered to the phone users. I think the user number is close to several hundred million.

TCN: What is the role of the Chinese government in the development, diffusion, and impact of digital new media in China?

Wei: Chinese policymakers are very aggressive in terms of adapting to this kind of new media – which is decentralized and digitalized, that’s for sure – and also they spend billions of dollars investing in new technology. One of the motivations for them to be competitive is that China has a huge market for communication services like telephone, like Internet. They have learned a lesson from the PC. You know, for every PC you buy from anywhere you have to pay the license fee for Windows. That’s a lot of money to be made in the Chinese market alone. China wants to have some kind of their own patent rights to the technology. So China is very, very aggressive in doing this at this point. … Other than that, there is a lot of deregulation going on as well in the sense of trying to open up the market. …

(There is now) kind of a dual goal of building media infrastructure: one is for economic benefits, the other is for the ideological controls. They still maintain the official voice that will be disseminated across all kinds of networks. … They’re still trying to have their official voice put out in these new channels. Which is part of the strategy, trying to reach every corner of the country with all kinds of technology. But how successful they are is quite another story. We know on the Internet people do not necessarily go to those official media sites, they go elsewhere.

TCN: Does China's experience in the mobile space suggest any kind of long-term viable business model?

Wei: I think they are learning. In terms of business models, that’s the question. … Right now, not everyone is making money in the new-media business except the system operators. … How do they really take advantage of that and put up some business models that will really put them up to the next level? I don’t see a lot, but I know they are aggressively looking everywhere and trying to get something up and running.

TCN: Given the sizable rural population in China is there a significant digital divide in that country, and what does a digital divide mean for Chinese culture and society?

Wei: Yes, I think that China has one of the worst problems in a widening gap between the rich and the poor. We probably think about the Olympics – the festivities, the high-tech, flashy stuff – but remember China has two thirds of the population living in rural areas and their income is below $300 a month … and most of them do not have a PC at home and that’s really a phenomenon. A lot of social unrest nowadays can be attributed to those kinds of gaps between the rich and the poor. Basically in Chinese context, it’s the rural and urban area. That’s the major dividing line. …

The Chinese government knows this. … They have a policy to have reduced prices for refrigerators, television, cable, and the mobile phone, at the reduced price to every village. They’ve had this program going on for a few years. So in terms of hardware they are trying to deliver. So actually the fastest-growing sector of mobile users is in the rural areas. That’s because of the subsidized price. … So it’s really hugely popular and it pushes up the adoption rates in rural China. But the other thing it’s also the knowledge, technical know-how and also the kind of social capital that is part of the digital divide. But that may take time to really address, but you can see they know about it and they’re trying to do something to close the gap.

Keeping up with International Developments

By Doug Fisher, University of South Carolina

To see the possible media horizon in this country, you have to keep an eye out overseas. (Apparently if you want to be envious, too. See the article elsewhere in this issue by Sunil Saxena on the booming Indian newspaper market.)

In mobile, the Asian and European markets clearly have led the U.S. Much of the testing of e-ink and e-paper has been done outside our borders. The assault on Canadian and U.S. markets by free circulation commuter dailies, though faltering now because of worldwide economic problems, got its first wind in Europe.

But how to keep up? An e-mail account, an RSS reader, and a few good online sites can provide a pretty good surveillance system.

Most of these sites have RSS, the electronic beacon that sends out an alert every time content is added. There are some good online RSS readers (Bloglines, Google Reader, Netvibes, among others) and others you can install on your desktop or laptop. They exist to make your life easier – to know when something has been updated, get the new content, and display it so that you don’t have to go to the blog or Web site.

If you prefer e-mail, just turn those RSS feds into e-mail summaries and have them sent to you. Go to or to do it for free. You’ll also increasingly find that many of these sites have e-mail newsletters to subscribe to.

Where to start?

You might make your first stop the Editors Weblog by the World Editors Forum. It’s comprehensive and has an e-mail newsletter in addition to its RSS feed. A nice touch is that the site also has feeds for each of its segments – analysis, multimedia, newspaper, newsrooms and journalism, Web 2.0, and the World Newspaper Congress.

Also high on my RSS reader is Newspaper Innovation. The site, by Dutch journalism professor and former journalist Piet Bakker, is the go-to spot on the free newspaper business, especially the commuter papers popular in Europe. So far, those papers have gained only a toehold in the U.S., but they can’t be ignored.

Another good source is consultant Juan Antonio Giner’s Innovations in Newspapers. And take time to pop a feed in from, with its wide selection of resources and daily articles.

Indispensable in my e-mail inbox each morning is the executive news summary from Ifra, the German-based consulting and research organization that also helped found Newsplex here at the University of South Carolina. Ifra has also just released a news industry-specific search engine.

Ifra’s daily newsfeed comes as part of a subscription to its magazine, but don’t let the daunting form and price stop you. The little secret is that as long as you are getting the electronic version, Ifra will give you access. Just fill out the form at and submit it. Many newspapers already have access through Ifra’s affiliate relations with various trade groups.

The International Newspaper Marketing Association provides another great e-mail roundup, this one weekly, of major developments around the world. The INMA is another pricey group, but it does offer a free membership that lets you get to this and a few other resources.  The INMA’s Forum4Editors blog has even more international information.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point you to a little project that a handful of international journalists and I are involved in, the Carnival of Journalism. Once a month, this group of folks in newsrooms and industry observers tackles a timely question related to journalism, news media, newsroom management, the disparities among legal systems, etc. With participants like Adrian Monck, Paul Bradshaw, Andy Dickinson, Adam Tinworth, Jack Lail, David Cohn, and others, you’ll get a good portion of the thinking on both sides of the pond.

What are your favorite, most useful sites for keeping track of developments in international journalism, communications and convergence? Please share them by posting a comment on The Convergence Newsletter blog.

Doug Fisher is an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina. He is also the executive editor of The Convergence Newsletter. Contact Fisher at

Links referenced in this article:
Editors Weblog:
Newspaper Innovation:
Innovations in Newspapers:
Ifra search engine:
International Newspaper Marketing Association:
Forum4Editors blog:
Carnival of Journalism:
The Convergence Newsletter blog:

---------------Conferences, Training and Calls for Papers

Blueprinting the Internet Valet Economy
Reynolds Journalism Institute
Columbia, Mo.
Dec. 3-5

AEJMC Winter Meeting
Louisville, Ky.
Dec. 5-7

AEJMC Midwinter Conference
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Okla.
March 6-9
Call for Papers deadline: Dec. 13

AEJMC Southeast Colloquium
University of Mississippi
Oxford, Miss.
March 19-21
Call for Papers deadline: Dec. 5

Health Journalism 2009
Association of Health Care Journalists Annual Conference
April 16-19

Las Vegas
April 22-25
Call for Papers deadline: Dec. 5

Media in Transition 6
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Mass.
April 24-26
Call for Papers deadline: Jan. 9

AEJMC Annual Conference 2009
Aug. 5-8

---------------Publisher and Editorial Staff

The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.

Executive Editor
Doug Fisher

Brad Petit
Katie Toole


Visit The Convergence Newsletter blog at, where you can comment on recent articles and keep up with the latest in convergence news. There is also an RSS feed option for those who want alternative access.

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The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence. We welcome articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. Please send all articles to The Convergence Newsletter editor at along with your name, affiliation, and contact information.

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