Monday, December 10, 2012

6 top tips for using digital to foster extreme collaboration in your workplace

You might recall reading about Atos, a major European tech player, whose CEO Thierry Breton rolled out an 18 month plan to ban internal email. It sounded slightly mad, but it’s working — in part because it forces people to work more closely together and explore less static forms of communication.

Here’s the thing, Breton could come to be seen as a leading figure for a new way of organising employees and projects. Forget employee of the month, we’re entering the era of team of the month and, if you do it right, it’ll never be the same team twice.

The reason turning off email has worked so well for Atos is because we live in a time where there technologies that make email look like a slow lumbering dinosaur. Think about how much time you spend emailing your friends versus how much you spend interacting with them on social networks, or instant messaging services. Why should work be any different.

According to tech research company Gartner, applying this logic to the workplace could help foster a culture of what it calls “extreme collaboration”.

Doing so, it says, can “dramatically innovate the way people behave, communicate, work together and maintain relationships — often across wide organizational and geographic boundaries”. That’s what makes this form of collaboration so extreme. It shatters internal company boundaries that would have once been impenetrable.

The research comp

1. Foster the use of virtual, web-based collaboration spaces in people’s daily jobs One way to spur novel forms of collaboration is to select an activity currently handled through traditional methods, such face-to-face meetings or email, and encourage it to take place in a virtual, likely web-based, collaboration space instead.

These environments are easily accessed and almost always available. Virtual environments used to host such spaces can range from process collaboration environments to social networks or on-premises collaborative and social media tools.

2. Exploit the value of near-real-time communication addiction Let’s face it, we’re addicted to our devices and the communication tools on them: instant messaging, social networking and texting. Gartner reckons that businesses should embrace and encourage such behaviour.

Establishing real-time communication habits in the workplace enables a freer flow of information and more proactive notifications, so that people can respond more quickly to unexpected events.

More formal communication channels that run up and down the organisational hierarchy, or through defined email and need-to-know distribution lists can result in significant delays and frequently don’t convey the intended message clearly enough. Real-time communication can help smash through the hierarchy of a business, which is frequently the cause of the delays.

3. Use crowdsourcing and popular social media tools to foster communities and collaboration One good way to kick-start the mind-set for extreme collaboration is to host a “tweet jam” to trigger a dynamic community to brainstorm on a problem. This involves simply setting a time and topic, and encouraging people to participate and get working.

Unlike a conversation in a meeting room, everything is captured so there’s a clear record of what was discussed, who contributed ideas, and which participants excelled at facilitating discussions and problem-solving.

Crowdsourcing is also proving to be very effective for bringing together people — who often didn’t previously know each other — to tackle shared problems.

4. Reward collaboration Traditional management styles are ineffective, largely because they discourage collaboration by rewarding individual efforts to deliver specific, one-time outcomes, rather than rewarding collaboration and team efforts.

You should instead reward collaborative behaviour that contributes to resolving complex problems, in addition to rewarding individual who’ve delivered the good.

Design performance evaluations and incentives to foster teamwork and reward exceptional collaborators. The use of collaboration technologies also makes it easier to track collaborative behaviour and see how successful it’s been.

5. Use social network analysis to measure collaborative behaviour Another way to measure and reward collaborative behaviour is to track how people interact. Social network analysis (SNA) can help you monitor people’s social network influence.

You have to foster a culture of openness, trust and mutual respect and SNA is a technique to help identify strong social networks where a foundation of trust and respect exist.

Once such networks are identified, you should try to leverage these relationships by asking these groups of people to pool their collective strengths to address some critical challenges. Other social, mobile and cloud technologies will also provide new ways to track how and where people have collaborated and to measure what happened.

6. Plan group events to kick-start real-time communication and collaboration A few simple steps can help force people out of their “comfort zones” to experiment with new ways of collaborating and interacting, including:

■Designating mobile-video attendees at meetings. Mobile video tools allow people to attend meetings via their mobile devices. This use of mobile video is a dramatic breakthrough compared with videoconferencing, which requires dedicated facilities. Although perhaps not appropriate for larger groups or longer, sustained participation, mobile video is particularly effective for bringing key experts into the conversation when needed.

■Use game play to spur new forms of collaboration and creative interaction. Gamification is a great way to spur engagement in collective problem solving. Experimenting with game-based techniques can shake things up and get people working together in new ways.

■Consider turning off email for a defined time period. Email is the dominant means of business communication, but it’s a poor collaborative tool — and an overused “crutch” that keeps people from using more collective and interactive approaches to solving problems.

To break the habit, organisations should try turning off email for a defined interval of time, ensuring that alternatives are in place and easy to use. Such experiments will force people to use social networks and real-time communication in ways they haven’t before.

Article first published on memeburn

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

OSISA media management scholarships for SADC women leaders

Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership invites applications for postgraduate scholarships from Southern African women media leaders who wish to study media management and leadership at the SPI in 2013. Successful applicants will register for the SPI’s one-year, fulltime honours-degree level Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management (PDMM), the only university-level media management course in Africa and the developing world.

The scholarships are sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and they are for women media leaders in OSISA’s 10 Southern African countries of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Women media leaders from Mozambique, Namibia, the DRC, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe are particularly encouraged to apply.

English is the language of instruction on the PDMM and applicants need to be proficient in both spoken and written English.

The scholarships cover: • The full cost of PDMM tuition • Accommodation and meals in one of Rhodes University’s postgraduate residences • Course materials and books • A monthly subsistence allowance • Medical aid • The Rhodes University Levy for SADC students; and • Mid-year internship costs.

The PDMM is a one-year, fulltime programme designed to provide people working in the media industry with critical skills and knowledge they need to perform more effectively and strategically in their organisations and to fast-track their careers into management positions.

The PDMM is equivalent to an honours degree -- it is pegged at Level 8 on the National Qualifications Framework set by South Africa’s qualifications-setting agency SAQA -- and combines rigorous theoretical and practical grounding.

The diploma is composed of eight compulsory modules covering media economics and financial management; media markets, audiences and advertising; managing media content; managing circulation and distribution; media management and leadership; media management contexts, policy and institutions; new media and convergence; and human resources management.

Application details and procedures: Only female students from OSISA’s 10 countries of Southern Africa listed above are eligible to apply for these scholarships. Applicants should ideally come from media companies. Successful applicants will be required on completion of the PDMM to return to their employers in their home countries to work there for a period of at least a year in partial fulfilment of having been granted the scholarship. Applicants should ideally have completed an undergraduate degree from a recognised university. Experienced media practitioners with diplomas in journalism or mass communication studies might also be considered.

Prospective applicants should:

• Complete the Rhodes University’s standard Honours Application form and the New Student form found at under the Courses section or at the main Rhodes University website at under Applying section, Postgraduate Studies. Alternatively, they can request these application forms from the SPI, telephone no: +27-46-603-8949/8851.

• Submit a detailed Curriculum Vitae, including contact details

• Submit a certified academic transcript for their highest qualification; and

• Submit a 1,000-word letter of motivation which explains why the student is interested in doing the PDMM, how the PDMM will assist the student’s career and why the student believes she/he qualifies for the OSISA scholarship.

The CV, academic transcript and letter of motivation may be submitted by email to Linda Snam at or faxed to her at +27-46-603-7527, clearly indicating which scholarship the students is applying for. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted after the applications close on 14 December 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

5 tips for drawing up your social media crisis plan

The social web is largely public. Yes, everything that gets shared, published, tweeted, liked, uploaded, pinned, +1’d or commented on. Everyone is now a citizen journalist, capable of sharing anything at any time. That means anyone with internet access. The web has gone mobile and so have all the users making use of the various social media channels available.

Did you know that it can take 140 characters or less to make or break a reputation in today’s digital business environment? Bad news spreads like wildfire and the days are long gone where a business that received negative feedback could wait and devise a plan before it published. If you are worried about your digital reputation or if you want to start promoting yourself on social media, having a social media crisis plan can help you when a negative comment about your brand or business snowballs online.

Here are a few tips to help you get started with your social media crisis plan:

1. Monitor the social web Set up a couple of listening outposts on the social web to monitor the conversations going on that are relevant to your business. This can help you to be notified of any issues before they turn into a wild-fire. When a crisis hits, assess and research everything you can about the situation.

2. Use social media as your communication vehicle Social media is an important communication medium to handle potential issues that erupt online. Determine where you will be integrating social media in your business communication strategy to ensure your message is consistent and efficient.

3. Build your digital footprint before a crisis If you already have a couple of social media profiles on popular channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, it will be easier to respond when a crisis hits. Start promoting your social media presence so that your clients will know where to turn in case of an emergency. To ensure you have a connection with them in advance, use these channels to engage and communicate with them on a regular basis.

4. Social media policies The middle of a crisis is not the right time to consider who can access various social media channels and what they can update on them. At a bare minimum, create a basic social media policy and guidelines around access restrictions, personal data, and comments. Outline what comments and information will be deleted and who has access to what.

5. Have an escalation procedure in place Determine who from senior management or the communication department in your company needs to be contacted in case of a social media crisis. This list must be updated often with personal emails and numbers. Who will be contacted during office hours and after hours?

In today’s digital business world it’s important to use social media as your vehicle of communication when you are part of a crisis online. Your customers, employees, and the public expect it because they are already using the social web to talk to each other.

Article first published on memeburn

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

LINUS GITAHI, Group Chief Executive Officer of Nation Media which owns thriving newspapers, radio and television stations across East Africa, was in South Africa recently to attend the inaugural meeting of the Board of Advisers of Rhodes University’s Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership, of which he is the chairperson. The meeting, held in Johannesburg, discussed a range of issues which impact the future of the SPI and African media businesses. Gitahi took time off to share some of his insights on the future of African media at a time of rapid change with FRANCIS MDLONGWA, Director of the SPI since 2004. Below are excerpts from the interview:

FIM (Francis Mdlongwa): Could you start by telling us why you are visiting South Africa at this particular time?

LG (Linus Gitahi): I came to attend the inaugural meeting of the SPI’s Board of Advisers. I took the opportunity to visit the university (Rhodes) to familiarise myself with it and specifically the SPI. It has been the most rewarding two-and-a-half days and I think we did have a good Board meeting today.

FIM: From your observations, what did you think the SPI’s most pressing needs were in connecting with the African media industry and the industry connecting with the institute?

LG: I wouldn’t say the SPI has pressing needs. I think one of things I was excited about was the SPI’s commitment to meeting the needs of the industry and we spent a lot of time looking at what those needs are, so it was in many ways affirming many of the current Institute’s programmes and hopefully giving input into what might form future programmes because, as we know, media is a very fast moving landscape and I think the SPI has the commitment to remain relevant and to make sure it remains cutting edge in offering appropriate training programmes and solutions to media leaders and managers across the continent.

FIM: This leads me to my next question, which is the advent of digital and social technologies and globalisation which are posing critical sustainability challenges and opportunities for media organisations worldwide. But how are African media organizations in particular coping with these emerging variables?

LG: I actually think that digital and social media are one of the biggest opportunities Africa has because of two reasons. The first one is that Africa is still a little behind in terms of the concept of Broadband, which is the key ingredient in driving the digital media. And the second reason is the result of the first: we in Africa have the luxury of a couple of years to learn from the mistakes that are being made in the West and to make sure that we don’t repeat them. We have the opportunity to experiment with newer ideas so that by the time we say Africa is fully digital, we can actually be right at the cutting edge of taking advantages of the opportunities that these technologies bring. I really think that this is where we need to invest a lot of our time, a lot of our energy. We have the opportunity in the media of actually ending up being net exporters of our ideas and business models to the rest of the world because we have that luxury of trying to study the mistakes of others.

FIM: As someone who is leading a thriving multi-platform media industry, could you flesh out these ideas and opportunities as they affect the African media?

LG: Let me give you an example. When you run a newspaper, you seek to drive up its circulation and you then use that circulation, meaning audiences, to go to advertisers to get advertising because you have got that audience. The game is not any different in a digital media; you have to drive audiences and then use those audiences to go to advertisers and monetise these audiences. However, because of the nature of the digital media, your audiences in many cases are many and splintered. Your news becomes a commodity for many, many organisations or even individuals who have specific needs. One of the opportunities that existing organisations have is to see how they can subject themselves into improving their content and making it very specific to certain niche markets so that if it is content from the Nation (one of the newspapers in Nation Media), somebody feels they have a need to get that specific content because it is different and appeals to their specific interests. For instance, are we just in a business of breaking news? Probably not because every citizen these days can break news because of the new technologies. But are we in the business of looking at how we might analyse a situation and offer different perspectives? Now, that would be the unique feature that established media organisations do. The other one is looking at specialist opportunities. For example around the world, there are media companies which seem to succeed in erecting pay walls on their digital content by offering specialist content, like the Financial Times. They are more successful than other media companies because they have specialist content, more in terms of the finance news which they provide but also the analysis that they provide. Some of our audiences will tell you that they need this type of content because they can only get it from that particular source and that this source is very, very good in meeting their needs. So even within Nation, one needs to ask the questions of what we might do in a Finance area, in the Health area, in the Environmental area that would constitute specialist content for people who might be willing to buy it. Over and above that, if we find that despite having all these big audiences the advertisers are not coming through, we have another fantastic opportunity of trading with those audiences and that is an opportunity that is not being exploited fully at the moment. This is one area that Nation Media is in the middle of looking to exploit. We did research that shows that many of the people who read the Nation online today are based in the Diaspora, and the same research told us that the one thing they do often is to send money back home in Kenya. So we are partnering with banks by delivering audiences to them. The banks are creating the right software to deliver money home easily without clients having to go through the hassles of some of these international transfer systems and, through that, we will get a commission, creating a win-win situation. We have got a credit card that is issued in conjunction with the banks. Although it is in the pilot phase now, we clearly think that if it is successful -- and we have no reason to doubt that it will be successful -- we can completely forget about having to charge our readers for accessing our digital content. This is because we would be able to trade with these audiences and they are able to offer us much more than the $1 or $2 that we might be charging them for reading our content. So there are all sorts of ways we can experiment with and possibly export to other countries and news organizations which might be struggling with what to do with digital audiences.

FIM: But some people might argue that the experience of what is happening around the world so far is that many media companies, especially newspapers, are failing to make enough money from their digital operations. How are African media companies dealing with this challenge of not making enough money from digital platforms and, if anything, traditional media platforms are subsidising digital operations?

LG: Yes, I guess that is what I am talking about. We are not being innovative enough. That is why I have given you the example of the Nation Credit Card, the Money Transmission Card. I doubt that it has been done in many parts of the world…the only place I think it has been used, to the best of my knowledge, is India. So for Africa, we are pioneering this card and this is something other media organizations could learn from if we are successful. Another thing that we are doing is taking advantage of the many people who travel these days do. So in partnering with travel organizations where you don’t have to go to traditional travel agencies, you can create a portal on a website that gets people connected to the best tourism deals such as discounted hotel accommodation. Once you get connected to these deals, the guys offering those deals are going to give a media house such as the Nation a commission for delivering these audiences to them. So we can do a lot of stuff within the blogosphere, or within our online portals, to ensure that we are trading with our audiences. I believe that this type of trading is likely to be way more rewarding than creating a pay wall. I think the mistake we are doing in Africa is that because we are used to selling newspapers, we say ‘now let’s charge these guys and we create a pay wall’ – as some media companies in the West are doing. In creating a pay wall, unfortunately people disappear as they go, for example, to BBC News whose reporters report about Africa; to News24, which reports about Africa; to CNN, which also reports about Africa. This happens because news is a commodity. So there are two things which media companies must do: they need to look at creating specialist content and how they can engage their audiences in commerce. Previously, we used to let commerce be done by other people or we were content that people and organizations would advertise in our publications. Unfortunately, advertising these days is not coming through as much as it used to be, all of this being caused by the changing media landscape which is giving advertisers many platforms to choose from or to use. We need to look at partnerships as opposed to advertising alone to deliver the same revenue or better revenue. Because we must be able to sustain the media operations and grow them, I think this is an urgent imperative, not just for media companies but for the world at large.

FIM: Would you say that what you have just outlined are successful business models by traditional newspapers in the New Digital Age?

LG: What I am doing here is outlining the challenges that we, as media companies, face and what the Nation Media in particular is doing in response. What I am saying is that digital media is here to stay -- that is the first thing that all media organizations need to acknowledge. Of course, newspapers will always be there (in our societies), but their importance is going to decline as people migrate to other competing media channels.

FIM: Is it the importance of newspapers per se, or is it really the need for newspapers to change their role swiftly in line with the rapidly changing habits of their audiences?

LG: The newspapers are changing their roles with the changing habits of their customers, but an increasing number of people are not relying on the newspapers for their information and news. Instead, they are increasingly relying on the digital fashions of the newspapers. That is why the traditional print newspaper will decline as we go forward. It is not going to disappear but it will remain important but decline. It will decline because people are migrating to the other side (the digital and social media). My point here is that the other side is not all doom and gloom (as often portrayed in some media circles); the other side offers us immense opportunities that might actually be bigger, both in the short and long term. These opportunities might be bigger than the newspapers as we know them, but some people (journalists) are refusing to engage with the new reality; they want to carry on with their traditional journalism and ways of doing business as if nothing has happened. Why shouldn’t journalists be the ones who show our audiences where the nearest eating place is? Why shouldn’t audiences go to a newspaper on the web to find out about the nearest Indian restaurant, or the nearest South African restaurant? We (as journalists and media organizations) are not good in doing that on our digital media at the moment, and yet that is what we must do because that is what we are already doing in traditional print. If we do this well, then people will advertise around our new content platforms, and this is non-traditional advertising and is way better than just creating a pay wall that could be a barrier to some of our audiences.

FIM: The profit motive of media organizations, especially in the private commercial media, does not sit well with the public service role of independent journalism. Do you have a comment on this? Related to this issue is what you have already alluded to earlier: which is that some journalists are refusing to embrace digital media. So what could be done about this?

LG: I will say two things: the first is that I see absolutely no conflict in doing good journalism and doing good business at the same time. I think what is necessary in any media organisation is to have a Chinese Wall. In fact, I think it is an imperative, it is a necessary ingredient for the success of journalism that you should have a Chinese Wall between the journalists in the newsroom and your commercial guys. The moment those two get mixed up, I think for me that is the end of independent journalism; that is the end of the newspaper as we know it. So there has to be that Chinese Wall and I completely support that. But within the Chinese Wall, I think journalists are called upon to ensure that what they report about in the name of public interests are serious public interest issues. We must make sure, as journalists, that we are really dealing with the right issues in society, that we are not just reporting issues that are aimed at inciting people or hatred, or trivialising the public interest.

FIM: What do you mean by ‘right issues?

LG: For instance, if you are really serving the public, you must invest in serious investigative journalism. The reality is that the output of investigative journalism pieces should lead to circulation growth. If it is the public that you are serving, then that public ought to pick up that paper -- other factors being constant. So in other words, if you decide to invest your money in a phenomenon such as why birds are migrating from South Africa to Kenya every year, what serious public interest would you be serving? Or should you invest your money in investigating the impact of foreign exchange fluctuations and why the Rand is losing its value and what this means to the consumer and ordinary person in the street? If you do a good piece, I think it will be in the latter story. Both of them are public interest issues, but I think the latter story might be more relevant to more people. In other words, it is likely to lead to a bigger circulation of the paper and is likely to lead to sustainability, even though you did not wake up in the morning to say: what story might I do to drive up circulation?

FIM: So you are, in fact, saying that the issues which define public interest – that is more people being affected by an event, the immediacy of that event to people, its magnitude and so on – are still the defining issues for journalism in the digital era and that these issues are not in conflict with the business models of seeking, for example, to push up circulation to reach more audiences?

LG: I gave you an example in our earlier conversation. There was this issue I was dealing with not too long ago where the Central Bank of Kenya issued a directive that no person should be a director of two financial institutions. And this newspaper comes up the following day with a lead story, a headline, that Bank X is now affected because it has two people who are directors of more than one institution. Now that is exactly what I mean: for me, the bigger issue here is the overall impact of the Central Bank directive and, for me, good journalism would have analysed all the banks and not just focused on that one bank. In this case, there was a bank with even more directors but you see it was not even included in the story. Now what that leads to is somebody saying ‘why did you pick on this particular bank, or do we have another agenda?’ and the conversation completely changes. Instead of really doing a good journalistic piece that brings out the significance of the directive, you end up with a narrow interest story that appears to focus on someone purely for other motives.

FIM: What importance should African journalists and media organisations attach to the issues of ethical journalism and ethical business in the age where transparency, accountability and ethical conduct of people and institutions is becoming a growing concern all over the world?

LG: I think this is one of the most important issues… I have no doubt that good journalism is what will deliver Africa. Because when all else fails when you look at politicians, corruption both in the private and public sector, our societies want competent and ethical journalists who are going to bring sobriety to our lives; they want to see journalists who make a difference by playing the watchdog role. Therefore, it is important that our journalists are highly trained and that they get a fair wage for their efforts. I think this latter point is one of the biggest problems we have with journalism in Africa at present. Our journalists do not get a fair wage for their efforts and therefore they become more susceptible to also becoming part of the problem and falling into the same corruption temptation. So you got to figure out how we solve that problem. I must say that we at the Nation have taken significant steps in making sure that even freelance correspondents who for a long time were paid only for a story that they brought to the newsroom are now put on a retainer fee which ensures that at least they can pay their basic bills.

FIM: Why are we not seeing significant innovation and entrepreneurship generally within African media? Maybe the Nation is one of the few exceptions. What is lacking, what could be done?

LG: I don’t think there is anything lacking. I have to be honest: I think it is a work in progress. Because when I go around Africa, when I talk to many people, I think there is a lot happening. The problem in the past has been that many of the media organizations across the continent were struggling. But right now, I see huge beacons of hope. South Africa has many media organizations that are thriving and that are going to other parts of the country and the African continent. In Nigeria, there are quite a few media organizations that are actually thriving; in Kenya we have the same situation where we have thriving media that makes profits. So I think it’s work in progress. I have actually a dose of faith in the future of African media but at the same time I am very concerned about the viability of community radio stations or small radio stations in Africa. This is an issue which we must all address because many of these stations are small, many of them are vernacular, many of them serve their communities but they lack a revenue model that can be sustained. When you are entrusted with a microphone and you begin to get revenue at all and any costs, we have serious problems. The price that those communities end up paying is way, way disproportionate to the intentions of establishing those community stations. It is common knowledge that many of the issues in the post-2007 election violence in Kenya were caused by community vernacular radio stations. It is common knowledge that many of the genocide issues in Rwanda were linked to these radio stations. My worry is not about that alone, my worry is that even as we speak there are many such radio stations across the continent which may not be viable but are staffed by people with no training. Many of them cannot talk anything more than their local dialect and they are entrusted with having sensible conversations with the whole community, with call-ins and live coverage. Now, this is a bomb waiting to explode. I think media in Africa and the people in Africa must really confront this: how could we invest to make these stations viable? Should we consider merging these stations so that they become stronger with a critical mass for advertising? At the end of the day, we need to make them viable, we need to be able to make them able to do their business through thorough training, through employing the right people, and through having a revenue model that is sustainable because right now they are actually a huge risk.

FIM: So this takes us back to the criticality of having to ensure that there is ethical journalism and ethical business conduct?

LG: Yes, but I think it is not enough to be waiting for a problem to happen -- whether it is in Kenya or Rwanda. You have to follow up this problem because it is there, it is huge, and I think we need to address it if we have to move forward. For me, when you talk about media in Africa, my biggest concern is in how can we engage, empower and create business models for these little community stations to do what they are established to do in a sustainable and ethical way. That is the challenge and I hope the SPI can help Africa to address this issue.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

‘New’ business models dominate media economics summit

By Johanna Mavhungu

The recent World Media Economics and Management Conference (WMEMC) was a cornucopia of media management academic research and scholarship. Held in the second biggest city in Greece, Thessaloniki, the conference delivered thought-provoking presentations on the digital economy in Europe, South and North America, as well as in Asia.

Deliberations centred primarily on the voracious quest for ‘new’ business models, a topic that frames many of today’s conference and research agendas. The papers were presented with a blend of theoretical grounding in economics, political economy, management and the social sciences.

Concepts such as disruptive innovation, technological determinism, diffusion of technology, audience valuation and creative destruction, to name only a few, were the essence of research analysis. Unearthing new research directions and questions and evaluating the industry in four different continents was a remarkable achievement for the organisers.

Interesting research findings presented at the conference showed that:

- Young people in the US prefer online to print, using online as a form of ‘media snacking’ throughout the day (Chyi, H. Iris 2012).

- Newspapers using technology are not generating revenue to cover the significant costs of investment based on case studies from Finland, Russia, Germany and Austria. Austria was the only case study with evidence of sustainability (Koikkalainen 2012; Makeenko 2012; Freidrichsen et al. 2012; Grueblbauer 2010).

- The viability of media businesses depends on their business models and, to a lesser degree, technology (Peters et al. 2012; Graybeal 2012).

The theoretical analysis proved interesting, but little attention on media management research methodology was evident. Some conference participants asked critical questions that elicited responses from presenters about the challenges of data gathering, sampling, response rates, selecting the appropriate research paradigm and methodological approaches as well framing questions concisely, just to mention a few.

Other delegates mentioned that the conference could benefit from more rigorous economic data analysis and production of economic and organizational models informed by a quantitative research approach.

Nevertheless, the voice of African media management studies was ominously lacking at the conference. For media management scholars and academics in Africa, it is without a doubt that conferences such as WMEMC are expensive to attend but we need to find ways of participating in other forms locally and create platforms for different institutions to share ideas and collaborate more often on research projects.

Media management as a subject is fragmented, borrowing from a number of established disciplines, evidenced by the conceptual framing used in the synthesis of most of the papers.

But the fragmentation is an opportunity to study media work and organizational practices from diverse perspectives and to harness knowledge that benefits professional practice from a vast array of disciplines. The breadth and depth of the subject is an opportunity to research and contribute to public discourse about media management and leadership as demonstrated by the 120 researchers who presented papers at the conference.

Key words: WMEMC conference, media management, scholarship, Africa, Europe.

*Johanna Mavhungu is a researcher and lecturer at the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership at Rhodes University in South Africa. She can be reached at

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We are in this together, folks!

By Motalatale Sam Modiba

Recent months have seen a heightened focus on the state of media in South Africa. The machinery of government communication has also come under scrutiny as issues pertaining to the agenda of the media, access to information and journalistic ethics are debated in the context of our fledgling democracy.

It was within this context that I set out to attend the week-long course for “Government Media: Essential Tools for Editors and Journalists” hosted by the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership at Rhodes University on 14-18 May this year.

My expectation of this course, having heard about it from fellow colleagues who have taken part in it previously, did not disappoint.

I am convinced, despite the many challenges that confront those of us that ply their trade as government communicators, that in our midst lies many skills and experiences which, if correctly harnessed, can serve as some of the best practices as we strive to serve as ‘indispensable links between the public and government’.

Having said this though, and in view of my opening paragraph, it quickly became clear -- to borrow a quote from Themba Sepotokele, a seasoned journalist, spokesperson, speech writer, communication strategist and media trainer -- that “There is never a dull moment in the love-hate relationship between government and the media”.

From the robust engagements that ensued over the five days of the course, it was easy to understand why there is ‘never a dull moment’. As government communicators, we sometimes tend to take a very critical view of how the media operates and how we think the media should actually function and the same is true of the media about government communicators.

While at Rhodes University, a colleague of mine and I visited the Rhodes Journalism Department and hardly before we could finish introducing ourselves we were already having to deal with some misconception about government communications and their shortfalls thereof.

Again at a Working Dinner session for course participants – it is traditionally held on Thursdays to continue deliberating on some of the issues which may not have been exhausted during lectures -- a debate broke out between a member of the Fourth Estate and some government communicators on the role of the media in society and who sets the media agenda and the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of government communication.

The course and our discussions at the journalism department and during dinner left me more appreciative of the reality that there will always be tension between my role as a government communicator and that of the media, although ultimately we are standing across the same fence: that is, our desire to relay messages to our respective constituencies.

What needs to happen though is to ensure that the unavoidable tension is a healthy one, and this can only be done when we all realise that what divides us is not a solid wall but a mere fence. This means that efforts must be made to build relations between the two groups and to understand the intricate environments in which each operates in, how and why.

Government communicators need to listen closely to what the media is saying, no matter how biased the media may be perceived to be. On the other side of the coin, there is a need for the media to not be condescending in their attitude and to at times appreciate the delicate environment in which government communicators operate in.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your vantage point, the tension will always be there. What both parties should strive for is to ensure that it remains healthy.

-- *Motalatale S. Modiba is a senior media officer at Ekurhuleni Metro in Gauteng, South Africa. He contributed this article in his private capacity.

-- Editing by Francis Mdlongwa, Director of Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership, Rhodes University, South Africa.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Emerging markets are driving the web, no bubble in sight: The Meeker files

Emerging market countries are driving internet growth. Thing is, it’s not the only the usual BRIC suspects that are steering the ship.

In fact the countries that are really surging ahead include likes of The Philippines, India, and Indonesia. That’s according to the 2012 Internet Trends report from renowned web analyst Mary Meeker, sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Net”.

Meeker, a partner at VC company Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB), unveiled her annual trends report at All Things Digital’s D10 conference.

According to Meeker, there are now 2.3-billion web users around the world. Despite continued growth however, global internet penetration only stands at around 32%.

Read more on memeburn

Friday, May 25, 2012

Radio and the Internet: creating a sense of community

By Linda Kunene

Much has been said about the effect of the internet on print media, with circulations of newspapers and advertising spend that they attract steadily decreasing in the developed Western world.

Television has also been negatively affected by the internet, with many people opting to watch YouTube videos and downloading movies to their personal computers. However, what is the impact of the internet on radio?

Radio is part of our everyday lives. According to the MDDA Report (2009), 94.1% of South Africans have access to radio. Broadcast and print media access are lower, sitting at 83.8% and 40% respectively.

As children, our parents listened to radio in the car on our way to school, listening to traffic reports and news headlines. The voices of Jeremy Mansfield and Bob Mabena are ingrained in our minds. As we got older, we started to listen to radio on our phones. With an endless amount of media content available online, our attention is increasingly becoming a scarce resource. How will radio listenership, a passive activity, compete with more interactive online activities?

Listeners want more control over their media consumption and the internet is an attractive platform. Pandora Music is a US-based online music recommendation service that gives users the power to choose their playlist. This works for those in the developed world, who can afford to stream radio on their phones or computers, but this is not affordable to most people in South Africa and Africa.

Moreover for indigenous/vernacular language speakers, how much choice does internet radio give its listeners?

Radio stations in South Africa seem to have not been negatively affected by online media. Looking at the listenership numbers of Ukhozi FM, 5FM, and Metro FM, their positions are still strong. Why is this? Well, for vernacular radio stations, they have little – if any-- competition online. Most content on the internet is in English, and this is the same with radio stations. One would struggle to find an online radio station in vernacular. Also, radio stations offer local content.

Danika Marquis, a radio journalism lecturer at Rhodes University, adds that the SABC stations provide enough variety in content for local listeners. For English speakers, there are stations such as SAFM, 5FM, Radio 2000 and Classic FM that cater for listeners who want analysis on political and economic events, or classic, rock and contemporary pop music.

However, there are listeners who look to the internet for more choice in radio stations. Many local stations are aware of this and are creating a strong online presence to remain relevant to their audiences. 5FM and Metro FM, for instance, are active on social networking sites. By doing so, they have a better chance of getting your attention while you are online.

Some stations have used the internet to complement their activities. For example, blogging is used by DJs to create a conversation with their listeners and open space for comments. The use of social networking to interact with listeners has also become important. The internet allows for a high level of interactivity, which, if used intelligently, can help analogue stations create a strong online presence. Social networking is being used to engage frequently with listeners. For example, 5FM’s DJ Fresh and 94.7’s Anele have a huge following on Twitter. They are also encouraging listeners to use SMS and phoning-ins for dedications, song requests and competitions.

The issue of access to the internet is another factor. Internet bandwidth is expensive and therefore it limits the amount of access that people in South Africa and Africa have to internet products/ services. FM radio, as Marquis observes, is not only free to the listener, but also much cheaper to produce than TV and print.

Masixole Mdingane, Station Manager of Rhodes Music Radio (RMR), says one of the greatest things about radio on your phone is that it is everywhere you are: in your home, your car, and your pocket. This makes it so much more easily accessible than online streaming, with bandwidth being so expensive in South Africa. Patterson and Modisane (2011:32) say that “21.6% of all radio listeners tune in via their cellphones”, and indications are that this number will continue to steadily increase.

According to the AMPS June 2011 data, “total radio listenership percentages are slowly but steadily increasing, with both commercial and community radio stations improving compared to 2010” (Patterson & Modisane in The Media magazine, 2011: 32).

This is because listening to the radio gives you a sense of community that listening to your mp3s cannot provide, according to Terry Volkyn, CEO of Primedia Broadcasting (The Media Collection. Radio Edition, 2012). It is a space where the audience can engage with the DJ/ host and other listeners about local issues. This is very different to the often solitary activity of listening to your own music. And since humans are social beings, they are likely to gravitate towards activities where they can interact with other members of their communities.

All radio stations need to make use of the internet to interact with listeners and therefore provide a sense of belonging and community.


• 2011. Radio’s feel-good effect. [Online]. Available: [26 April 2012]

• 2012. Commercial Station Summary.'11%20-%20Feb'12.asp. [22 April 2012]

• Bunce, R. The real trends in the radio sector. In The Media Collection. Radio Editionmagazine, April 2012.

• de Araujo, G. 2012. 2012 Trends. Reasons not to ‘touch that dial’. [Online]. Available: [22 April 2012]

• Marquis, Danika. 2012. Interview with Rhodes University radio journalism lecturer on 11 May 2012. Grahamstown.

• Madingane, Masixole. 2012. Interview with Rhodes Music Radio station manager on 28 March 2012. Grahamstown.

• Patterson, G. & Modisane, O. Latest AMPS heralds big changes in the media. In The Media magazine, November 2011

• Rotherham, S. 2011. South Africa’s Fundamentally Flawed FM Radio “Listenership”. [Online]. Available: radio-listenership/ [22 April 2012]

• Sheikh, C. 2011. The business of SA radio advertising: where to from here? [Online]. Available: re-to-from-here/. [26 April 2012]

• Smith, D. New Media: where is radio going in Africa? In Mdlongwa, F. (ed). Doing digital media in Africa. Port Elizabeth: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. p. 41-45.

*Linda Kunene is a student on the Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management at the Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The future of convergence: Next steps for the smart era

By Michelle Atagana

Technological evolution has brought about many changes to human life and has served as a “big momentum for growth” for emerging market economies.

That’s according Suk-Chae Lee who was speaking at the Korea Communications Conference about our connected natures, the future of smart convergence and the new opportunities they provide.

Lee is the CEO of KT Corporation, a South Korean integrated wired/wireless telecommunication service provider.

“People are now living in world where they can be connected wherever they are with introduction of smart devices — the smart era,” says Lee.

He reckons that this new era, which is the third industrial revolution, can be characterised by digitisation in manufacturing, which is one aspect of smart convergence. Lee believes that smart convergence will lead to innovative changes in how we communicate.

“The core of smart convergence lies in the connectivity of people in a world without and space restraints. [The] fragmented virtual goods market will be integrated and create the global single market. The creation and consumption of virtual goods, such as apps, games and music are continuously growing and what used to be physical are converted into virtual goods, such as e-health, e-book, e-learning and smart city,” says Lee.

He explains that this new era will see the global virtual market exceed US$160-billion by 2015. Digital content such as music, ebooks and movies will take two-thirds of this sum, while the rest will comprise the app market.

“The size of the market will grow exponentially due to lack to transport costs and tariffs,” says Lee.

He cautions though that all this will depend on the speed of smart device penetration. Even if only 50% of the world population have smart devices, more than 4-billion people will be connected, which makes the “revolution” possible.

Next major steps for the smart era

Lowering startup risks: Lee believes smart convergence will lower startup risks, due to virtual offices and easy connectivity. This will also allow companies to focus more on the business than the infrastructure.

Smart working: If more organisations make smart working a trend, this will help build a work force that is not restricted by geographical location. This could help curb unemployment.

Mobile payment will be the norm: The smart era has already begun ushering in mobile payments. Soon there will be no need for cards or cash. More devices will be NFC-enabled or have some form of mobile payment system.

Machine-to-machine and peer-to-peer connection: Lee believes that will see more machine-to-machine connections as well and more peer-to-peer connections.

There are some risks to the smart era, he warns. The more connected we become, the more data we will require and diversification of smart devices. Data speeds may increase but combating things like piracy will be key to success in the smart era.

Article first published on memeburn