05 April 2020 00:36

MediAvataar's News Desk

MediAvataar's News Desk

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We are living through a global crisis, and we all have a responsibility to help where we can. Last week, the European Union asked companies like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to ensure that we are using telecommunications networks as efficiently as possible given the unprecedented demand they are facing.

We immediately developed, tested and deployed a way to reduce Netflix’s traffic on these networks by 25% - starting with Italy and Spain, which were experiencing the biggest impact. Within 48 hours, we’d hit that goal and we’re now deploying this across the rest of Europe and the UK.

Since we started making these changes we’ve had a number of questions from members and our Internet Service Provider (ISP) partners.

Our members have asked what this means in terms of video quality. Put simply the action we’ve taken maintains the full range of video resolutions. So whether you paid for Ultra-High Definition (UHD), High Definition (HD), or Standard Definition (SD), that is what you should continue to get (depending on the device you are using).

In normal circumstances, we have many (sometimes dozens) of different streams for a single title within each resolution. In Europe, for the next 30 days, within each category we’ve simply removed the highest bandwidth streams. If you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution. But you will still get the video quality you paid for.

On the ISP side, some partners in regions such as Latin America want us to reduce our bandwidth as soon as possible. But others want to continue with business as usual. This is understandable, as different ISPs around the world have built their networks in different ways, and operate within different constraints. For example, building a residential ISP network in a dense metropolitan area is quite a different prospect from building a residential ISP network in a sparsely populated rural area. Some ISPs build their networks with a substantial amount of excess capacity (“headroom”) others do not. Fortunately, we have a lot of experience delivering Netflix efficiently through our Open Connect program - as well as other technologies we’ve pioneered - and so we can respond to these different scenarios quickly.

So we will provide relief to ISPs who are dealing with large government-mandated “shelter in place” orders by providing the 25% traffic reduction we’ve started in Europe. For other networks, we’ll stick with our normal procedures - until and unless they experience issues of their own.

Our goal is simple: to maintain the quality of service for our members, while supporting ISPs who are facing unprecedented strain on their networks.

After launching a national awareness campaign ‘Care Karona’, one of the largest and most awarded private radio networks in India, 93.5 RED FM is now urging people to practice social distancing amid Coronavirus Pandemic and stay at home.

RED FM has come-up with a creative rendition of its logo to emphasize on the importance of social distancing.

RED FM’s ‘Care Karona’ initiative was launched to spread authentic information in this crucial period, which involved on-air and digital engagements. RED FM has continued to roll out creative communication and advertisements supporting “Social Distancing’ and ‘Work from Home’. Their latest piece highlights that copywriter and art director created the ad while working from home. The ad therefore, encourages everyone reading it to stay at home and follow social distancing.

Whether it is exclusive interviews with medical experts, RJs doing 20 seconds speed links in their shows with an alarm that highlights the importance of hygiene, taking-up WHO’s ‘Safe Hands Challenge’ or giving Work From Home to all their employees, RED FM is doing every bit to ensure mass awareness while maintaining safety of their staff.

Outbrain, the world's leading discovery and native advertising platform on the open web, announced today that it has entered into a strategic partnership with ScoopWhoop, a prominent internet media and news company.

The new partnership will provide ScoopWhoop with the opportunity to use the full Engage suite of tools including Smartfeed, a new digital experience that will transform ScoopWhoop pages into an infinite feed of discoveries - both paid and organic.

Outbrain’s innovative technology enables publishers to marry editorial curation with personalisation, drive audience growth and engagement, and increase revenue opportunities. It is designed for a range of content including promoted articles, editorial and branded videos and functions across all devices including desktop, mobile, and apps.

Through this partnership, ScoopWhoop will be able to leverage Outbrain’s platforms to grow their fan base and surface their own content in a prominent manner, as well as driving significant monetisation. As one of the most popular internet media and news company websites in India, they cover a wide range of content including news, humour, life, sports, food, travel and more that drive a 25 Million unique page views per month.

“We are very excited about this partnership with ScoopWhoop. Our aim at Outbrain is to help our partners maximise monetisation by personalising the content experience for their audiences. With our personalised feed technology, we are able to support ScoopWhoop with their goals of engaging their existing users while also finding new untapped audiences for them to grow”, said Sandeep Balani, Head of India at Outbrain. “We look forward to building a strong partnership together that will deliver a premium experience to ScoopWhoop’s audiences while opening up new opportunities for our advertisers.”

“Native is gaining an increasingly important position in the marketing place and within our own strategy. Providing quality user experiences while effectively monetising our news & entertainment content is key to our future growth and success. The decision to partner with Outbrain relied on its brand global reputation, ability to attract quality partners and flexibility indicates a team always dedicated to achieving mutual benefits, which is essential for a long-term partnership” said, Rishi Mukherjee, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at ScoopWhoop.

Anand Makhija, Director Business-Development commented: “It is thrilling to establish our partnership with ScoopWhoop. Together we will be focused on driving strategic and sustainable growth. Outbrain is committed to creating the best native experience for the consumer, whilst also connecting leading brands to ScoopWhoop’s highly engaged set of audience. This engagement is proof of our dedication and investment to supply the best monetisation and engagement tools to the top publishers.”

To debunk a myth that continues to circulate, INMA looked at the scientific research behind surface-based transmission of the coronavirus — notably newsprint and paper products.

The evidence is overwhelming: no transmissions, porous surfaces are safe, and newsprint is safest because of the sterility of ink and paper processes. Beyond this, publishers are taking delivery precautions.

There has never been a documented incident whereby the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted from a print newspaper, print magazine, print letter, or print package, according to the world’s top doctors and scientists.

In recent days, the International News Media Association (INMA) has received a few inquiries about this scientific possibility — to which we cited World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on the matter. Yet the unprecedented global pandemic naturally breeds a paranoia about everything we touch, so let me present to you what INMA knows on this subject.

This article distills research and guidance from four sources that debunk concerns:

World Health Organization (WHO).

The Journal of Hospital Infection.

National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (NIH).

John Innes Centre (MP3).

We will augment this research with secondary sources and our own member publisher feedback to conclude that newsprint is a safe surface in the current crisis.

ABP’s Telegraph in Calcutta, India, produces an advertisement showing the safety measures — from production to distribution to street sales — being undertaken to ensure print is safe for readers.

What scientific research shows

Here is what the WHO says about whether it’s safe to receive a package from an area where COVID-19 as been reported: “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperate is also low.”

Hartford Healthcare put it more bluntly: “Don’t worry about deliveries to your house. Coronaviruses don’t last long on objects.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says “it may be possible” for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

The WHO and CDC statements sound like a hedging of the unknown — fair enough in these times. Yet the fact remains there have been no incidents of transmission on print materials.

A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), UCLA, and Princeton University scientists published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the varying stability of the coronavirus on different surfaces. Across aerosols, plastic, stainless steel, copper, and cardboard, the lowest levels of coronavirus transmission possibilities were via copper because of its atomic makeup and cardboard — presumably because of its porous nature. (The Economist has a fantastic graphic illustrating this study.)

Emphasising that the virus spreads when transmitted by aerosols, researchers duplicated these droplets and measured how long they stayed infectious on surfaces.

The coronavirus lasts longest on smooth, non-porous surfaces. Researchers found the virus was still viable after three days on plastic and stainless steel. Researchers say that is not as ominous as it sounds since the virus’ strength declines rapidly when exposed to air. Because the virus loses half its potency every 66 minutes, it is only one-eighth as infectious after three hours when it first landed on a surface. Six hours later, viability is only 2% of the original, researchers found.

The virus was not viable after 24 hours on cardboard — and the good news here, like plastic and stainless steel, is lower and lower potency when exposed to air.

For newsprint, which is much more porous than cardboard, virus viability is presumably even shorter.

In a March 13 Washington Post article, author Joel Achenbach put last week’s study in human terms:

“Outside, on an inanimate surface, the virus will gradually lose the ability to be an infectious agent. It may dry out, for example. It can degrade when exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A person sneezing on a surface may deposit many thousands of virus participles, and some may remain viable for days. Still, the likelihood of a person who comes into contact with the remnants of that sneeze goes down over time, because most infections are the result of a large viral load.

Cornell University infectious disease expert Gary Whittaker told The Post it typically takes “an army of viruses going in” to break through the natural defenses of a human being — meaning surface transmission is a low likelihood of transmission.

In a March 10 interview on BBC Radio Scotland, John Innes Centre virologist George Lomonossoff, who uses molecular biology to understand the assembly and properties of viruses in the United Kingdom, debunked the idea of transmission through newsprint: “Newspapers are pretty sterile because of the way they are printed and the process they’ve been through. Traditionally, people have eaten fish and chips out of them for that very reason. So all of the ink and the print makes them actually quite sterile. The chances of that are infinitesimal.”

How publishers are reacting and communicating

News publishers are reacting in different ways to concerns — expressed or unexpressed — about newsprint:

Home delivery: On a basic level, they are providing hand sanitizer and wipes to home delivery staff and leaving newspapers outside of buildings.

Single-copy distributors: I’m hearing stories of publishers providing gloves, masks, and sanitizers to newsstands, distributors, and street sellers ostensibly for the protection of its workers — yet I suspect equally to reassure the public when buying print newspapers and magazines.

Notices about print processes: The Wall Street Journal put a fixture in its print edition starting this week referencing its paper production process is mostly automated and the risk is low.

Don’t forget our replica: Out of an abundance of caution, publishers are emphasising their digital replica services for those still worried about newsprint — something already being promoted to hotels.

Plastic polybagging: One interesting tidbit emanating from this topic is plastic polybagging. While many publishers have been reducing plastic in recent years, plastic may be necessary for good quality home delivery in some markets. Again, there are no examples of plastic carrying the virus.

In other words, in addition to the scientific research about porous surfaces and the particular sterility of newsprint, publishers are taking extra steps to ensure print newspapers are touched by no unprotected hands by the time the product reaches the customer.

What’s not clear to me is whether it’s best to proactively communicate to customers this “non-transmission via print” news. There are a few incidents of publishers sending reassuring communications to readers — only to see cancelled print subscriptions as a result. I can only assume that readers had never thought about transmission until the publisher brought it up. Instead, I’m hearing publishers developing talking points for when readers ask about print transmission.


All scientific evidence suggests porous paper surfaces, to which we include newsprint, are safe from the coronavirus:

There has never been a reported incident of COVID-19 being transmitted via newsprint.

The early scientific research on virus transmission to inanimate surfaces suggests porous surfaces carry the lowest potency for the shortest period of time.

Newspapers are even more sterile because of the ink and the printing process they go through.

Publishers are protecting customers through health and safety precautions at printing plants, distribution centers, newsstands, and home delivery.

We suggest these be talking points distributed to media company staffs as customers inquire. Be careful of elevating these points that might inadvertently create fears where none are warranted by the scientific evidence.


Written by Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA.


Let’s not go by rumour mills and fear mongers. The newspaper delivered to your home is safe. And this fact is endorsed by several reputable authorities.

WHO, perhaps the organisation in the best position to comment on the matter has stated that couriers or packages delivered to homes (and that would include newspapers) carry a very low risk of infection even if they come from an infected zone!

“it is safe to receive a package even from an area where COVID – 19 has been reported.” In their release, they’ve further state that “The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low”

Eminent doctors and leading virologists of India have stated categorically that newspapers delivered to your home are safe.

The government itself which has put the country in a lockdown have maintained that newspapers are an essential service and plays a positive role in disseminating authentic information and updates on the epidemic.

Despite the assurances from medical and other authorities certifying the newspaper delivered to homes as safe, we as the publishers continue to take extraordinary precautions to avoid infection under any circumstances.

Our plants are fully automated so the risk of infection is zero. The transportation and handling right up to the depot is done in fumigated trucks by masked and gloved handlers.

The vendor community is acutely aware of the dangers of infection not only to themselves but to the readers they cater to. With the help of the publishing community, they are taking extraordinary precautions themselves. They are turning back any delivery boy who has any symptoms like cold, cough or fever. They are using sanitizers liberally as also gloves and masks wherever they are available.

We are confident that the product we deliver is safe and we encourage our readers to enjoy their daily read with confidence.

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