1. ‘Will you get me one lakh hits a day?’
The middle-aged man interrupted me in the middle of the conversation as I was telling him about plans to start an entertainment website that will be markedly different from all other Bollywood sites.
At the time of the interruption, I was talking about my editorial content plan. Being a senior professional with more than 30 years of experience in TV and the online space, I was expecting a few brilliant inputs from him. I was mentally prepared to tweak, change, alter or even dump my current content plan if he had a good idea.
At first, I didn’t get what he was trying to hint at. I shot back confidently telling him how I have perfected the content grid over a period of one year through trials and errors. I suggested that one cannot create web content thinking about the numbers (page views) it will generate. I tried to convince him that more than the numbers, it’s the content that matters. I tried to explain to him that I had been able to crack the content code to some extent…and I could do better than that.
2. ‘Everything depends on numbers. If you don’t have the numbers…you don’t…have the money…’
The middle-aged, heavy, be-spectated man with a goatee went on stressing that he plans to invest the company’s money and this means that I have to guarantee a required number of hits. At this point I agreed with him that if we create a new Bollywood site, we need at least 50K visits a day and I told him that my content plan was tailor-made for that purpose. In the middle of the conversation, the target was revised and suddenly we were talking about 1 lakh visits in 24 hours!
He insisted that to start a Bollywood site he needs me to guarantee that number without turning it into a porn site. Then he proceeded to add his two bits about what I should be doing….
At this point, I fell completely silent as he took off on a verbose soliloquy with animated hand gestures.
3. ‘Why don’t you do something like this?’
The gentleman was typing something feverishly on his Macbook as he spoke. He had a few webpages saved for me. All the webpages were content innovations done by the leading Indian websites which got a lot of traction. He asked me to create a plan which replicated all the innovations that he had hunted down from the net.
I told him that what he showed on his screen were all content innovations. When you copy an innovation, it ceases to be one. I told him that it wasn’t wise to join the tens and thousands of copycat sites that exist online. I showed him a few copycat sites and some proof that these hadn’t got the numbers (hits) that they had aspired for.
He then told me that it was a good idea to have a Meme on the site’s front page everyday. He thought that a Meme is ‘viral content’. I tried to convince him that one cannot create viral content on social media and that user traction decides the virality of content. I also tried to convince him that it’s not true that any ‘humour’ will go viral. There’s a method in the madness and creating arbitrary Memes doesn’t necessarily mean that it will go viral.
The man looked dissatisfied and disenchanted. He started describing his CV to me and spoke about the number of years he had spent in the market. It turned out that he has spent most of his creative days producing TV programmmes.
I nodded in appreciation and asked him meekly if I will be able to take the call on the content of the site. I also assured him that the website will bring him the desired numbers though it cannot be an overnight sensation.
He agreed with me but there was a ‘concern’.
He made it clear that he wanted to have a say in the editorial process and wanted to step in even into editorial micro-management. This effectively meant that he would be the last word in what ‘content’ would go into the site and what wouldn’t.
It became clear that he will, from time-to-time, dictate what should be editorially featured on homepage of the site. I tried to look for a solution. I agreed that he should intervene on the macro-management. This meant that I agreed that he should dictate and approve the editorial policies of the site. I clearly voiced my reservations about him poking his nose into day-to-day editorial matters as long as I stick to his brief.
4. ‘You can call on Bollywood stars to endorse the site, isn’t it?
He said that he is convinced that a Bollywood star endorsing the website would get him the numbers. He then reminded me that it is his money and that if I had the money myself, I wouldn’t have come to him.
I was still trying to keep a straight face. I tried to tell him that Bollywood stars don’t do anything for free. They will only endorse something that suits them, either financially or in terms of publicity. Bollywood stars only endorse a site if it promotes their film free of cost or pays them to promote something. I also told him him that some Bollywood stars now even charge to promote their film on smaller platforms. The stars, who will agree to promote his site for free, are all C listers. That wouldn’t help in generating any financial gain through the website.
He then hinted at my personal friends in Bollywood and I told him categorically that I wouldn’t like to ask my star friends to step in to promote a website. It will be awkward to do so.
Here are the conclusions of the meeting.
What he wants: Since he is providing the money to build and promote the website, he wants to choose the way to run ‘his’ business. This includes interfering into editorial matters (what I loosely refer to as journalism) as it is “an integral part of his business”. There will be no fixed editorial guideline and he wants to change and manipulate it all. He not only wants to dictate the content but wants to have a say on the headlines, captions and even on the display of content. He wants the content to be totally aligned to suit those who will help him run the website, either through free publicity or through advertisements.
What I want: I want him to dictate the broader philosophies of content management. I want to stick to that brief. I don’t want the site’s content to be manipulated.
5. ‘Let’s meet sometime later. I have to rush to a meeting. My secretary will get back to you’
The talks have since broken down.