Ebela, the ABP group's new Bengali publication, follows every rule put down in the tabloid-bible to the T. It keeps the politics and daily news banalities to just 10 pages, leaves 22 pages for sports and entertainment. It speaks in a Bengali easily recognisable by the city's English medium-bred young and plonks itself right onto the laps of those who would push the day's Bengali daily away, towards the fathers and mothers. The tone therefore is conversational and the tabloid, unlike its mother publication, the widely circulated Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika, approaches news more with a perspective, than sticking to just colourless reporting.
For example, the cover story of the 21 September edition is on the bandh. However, it tries delving into the economics of the bandh rather than reporting events. In fact, it engages the reader with a very basic question, "Why is Mamata happy?"
The centre-piece of the publication, however, is Obela. With a clear emphasis on images and lighthearted writing, Obela seems to channel what t2 does for The Telegraph - entertain and grab eyeballs. Kareena Kapoor, in her Heroine avatar, therefore graces the cover of the 21 September edition of the Obela section. The second page, and this one's a personal favourite, carries Feluda, Kakababu and Byomkesh Bakshi cartoon strips. The following pages carry reviews, extensive interviews, set visits etc of the local film and television scene and and equal amount of Bollywood masala. Interestingly, most of the entertainment articles are come with colorful blurbs - teasing, fun and literally put in candy colour boxes. The sports section too, stresses on pictures and spice-packaging.
With the Times of India about to release its Bengali daily soon, the ABP seems to have already upped its game with Ebela, which comes for just one rupee. The Telegraph, one can recollect, went on a similar image overhaul with the launch of its daily tabloid supplement t2 a few years back. It's supplement Metro, which marginally covered entertainment and lifestyle, was at one point faltering at the face of the Calcutta Times brand of lifestyle, entertainment and Page 3 reporting. It was then that The Telegraph made a splash with t2, a snazzy, glamorous answer to Cal Times, that every any-page celebrity in Kolkata now wants to be on.
Going by the general Times group trend, its Bengali daily seems set to be a young in tone one, with an emphasis on lifestyle and entertainment. Seems like Ebela came an answer to it from the ABP group who didn't want to disturb the thousands of Bengali readers blissfully attuned to the Anandabazar Patrika routine.
It also says a thing or two about the vernacular media market in a city like Kolkata. Given that two of the biggest media houses are rolling up their sleeves to fight it out in the Bengali daily news market, it becomes clear that it is still the vernacular market that waters a media house. Also, given the kind of packaging that Ebela has come up with, the demography of the Bengali daily reader seems to have changed for the younger. Now, only time will tell if the new papers are able to get the young back to Bengali print media.