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By 18 May 2010 | Categories: interviews

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Often the My News24 User Articles are some of the best read and most commented upon stories on the site. Did you expect that this would grab so much attention? 

Jannie Momberg (JM): Technological advances in mobile and the internet have opened up communication and acted as a leveller. The barrier to entry or the barrier to take part in the conversation has been lowered dramatically. Since the launch in 2007 of our user-generated section, MyNews24, we have placed great emphasis on growing our community. Many of the stories from our users are more interesting than the "traditional" media angles. It is not surprising therefore to see the popularity of user-generated content on News24. News24 now has more than 2 million South Africans visiting our site on a monthly basis. Over 220 000 people visited MyNews24 in April.

User comments seemed to have opened up a whole new dynamic to news. How can this be enhanced even further?

JM: We are looking at a number of options to empower our users further in this area. Some sites give more rights to loyal users, highlight "valuable" comments through user ratings and increase user engagement through comment threads. We are looking at all these and some others to improve the commenting experience for News24's users.

Why is comment restricted to only certain articles? Currently all comments are moderated on News24.

JM: It is impossible to allow comments and therefore moderate on all the articles we publish. As mentioned above, we are looking at changes in this area.

How much of News24's content is produced only for the net?

JM: More than 95% of our content is produced exclusively for our digital platforms (web, mobile and interactive TV).

Does Beeld have a period of exclusivity on their website before content is handed over to News24?

JM: No. There might be a delay as News24 must first translate and sub-edit the Beeld content before publishing.

A while back you delayed uploading content to Sunday paper Rapport's website till later the day. What was the impact on sales?

JM: There was no significant increase in newspaper sales during the month we changed our publishing times for Rapport's website. I believe there isn't a major overlap in audience between the various print products and their online versions in South Africa. The digital generation that is used to consume content online and on mobile devices, is not going to go back to buying a printed product. The cultural shift that has taken place over last 15 years is not reversible. The divide between the printed philosophy - presenting today's news tomorrow - and the digital philosophy - real time and sharing information - is getting bigger not smaller. These are international trends that also apply locally.

Internet-only news sources, such as The Daily Maverick, are adding to the mix. Do you think there is place in the market for them? Obviously there are many challenges?

JM: There is a significant place for an outlet prepared to analyse news events in the South African internet market. Local newspapers and magazines are also not particularly strong in this area. The great thing about the internet is the choice available. On a daily basis I read online News24, The Guardian, The Daily Maverick, New York Times, Huffington Post, BBC and SuperSport. Then there are blogs and social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The choices are endless. The difficulty for the Daily Maverick for instance would be to build a sustainable business in such a crowded space.

What is your feeling in regards to Rupert Murdoch's move to ask for subscription to The Times website in the UK?

JM: I personally don't think charging for news content online will work. Radio and TV don't charge, but work as advertising driven businesses. Murdoch is probably hoping to pay for his expensive print publications (including their distribution) through this plan. I suspect his aim is to force people to subscribe to the print products. The business model for charging for general online news hasn't worked anywhere and probably won't work for The Times either. Charging for certain niche and valuable information online does work. Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times both charge for financial information, but their general news is free of charge. Murdoch's plan to start charging for the content on The Times' website looks a bit desperate.

 

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