Every startup begins with a dream.
Some dreams are big and ambitious—”Ding in the universe” type of dreams.
Others are modest and realistic—”US$5,000 monthly revenue” type of dreams.
We fell somewhere in the middle when we began The Ken four years ago, in October 2016.
On one hand, we wanted to build a sustainable business with a steady and predictable revenue stream. That was one reason why we chose subscriptions instead of depending on the largesse of advertisers and sponsors.
But on the other hand, we truly wanted to build a media company that was impactful at scale. One that would provide an unbiased, informed, and honest view without fear or favour. That was a rarity in the Indian media landscape then, and sadly, all the more so today.
Fast forward four years and we’ve crossed tens of thousands of subscribers who have given us millions of dollars of subscription revenue. Tempting as it is for us to think that we’ve made it, in a sense, we need to start all over again, as Seema will explain.
The Ken is still a tiny publication, perhaps reaching only a certain kind of reader.
Yet, we like to think of ourselves as an early information system for the new economy businesses we write about.
Allow me to use an analogy from biologist-brewer Merlin Sheldrake’s dazzling book on fungi—Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures.
Mushrooms or yeast may be the common fungi that come to most minds. In nature, these organisms make up an incredibly diverse world of organisms and sustain virtually all living systems. You’ll find them sprawling for miles underground or linking plants together in complex networks known as WWW (Wood Wide Web).
Along with nutrients, says Sheldrake, fungi distribute information across plants.
For example, if there’s an aphid attack on a plant, it emits a “chemical shriek” that can be “heard” by other plants in the vast fungal network. This allows the networked plants to prepare by emitting a chemical that will beckon wasps, which will then eat aphids. Even if the “shrieking” plant derives no benefit, the fungal network benefits by keeping the rest of the plants safe.
Quality journalism is like the fungal information system. Its “shrieks” keep societies alive and healthy, now needed more than ever.
The embarrassing inadequacy of a large section of mainstream media today is worse than an aphid attack.
What we have in the name of journalism is a propaganda machine; hostage to half-truths and lies. Anyone with any clout can get anything published in the most mainstream of publications. Once published, if you don’t like your own quote, no worries, it can be edited, even deleted.