Leadership (Abuja)

29 April 2014

Nigeria: Online Is Future of Journalism - The Cable CEO

interview

Simon Kolawole is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cable Newspaper, publishers of TheCable, a start-up online newspaper. Until June 2012, he was Editor of ThisDay, regarded as Nigeria's most influential newspaper. When he was appointed Saturday Editor of ThisDay in August 2002, he was the youngest editor of a mainstream publication in Nigeria. In 2009, Kolawole was named one of Africa's Next Generation of Leaders by The Banker, a publication of the Financial Times. He is also a 2010 Mo Ibrahim Governance for Development Fellow. In this interview with EKELE PETER AGBO, Kolawole unveils the future of TheCable, saying online is the future of journalism as our children won't buy newspapers.

You will be launching an online publication on Tuesday, April 29. Can you tell us what content value the www.thecable.ng will bring to bear on online journalism in Nigeria?

Our niche will be our authoritative, in-depth reports and rigorous analyses to be presented with elegance. We seek to be part of the solution to Nigeria's challenges, not just to highlight the problems. We want to help citizens and leaders in government and the private sector to make informed decisions. Our coverage of entertainment, lifestyle and sport will be outstanding. We have Newslive, which is a live text reporting from morning till evening. As news breaks or develops, we're blogging on it. There is a category called Citizen Police, which will allow citizens to upload videos, photos and discussions on acts of corruption and indiscipline in the land. We also have a comprehensive listing of jobs, scholarships and fellowships from all over the world.

What is the mission statement of www.thecable.ng?

Our mandate is to deliver knowledge-based journalism in the quest for Nigeria's development. Our news and views will be based on fact and reason.

You have been in the print media all your life, why the choice of an online media platform?

I grew up when gramophone was still in existence. Same for cartridges and cassettes. But the world has gone digital. We now buy songs from iTunes Store and listen to them on our phones. There is a similar development in the media. I was trained to write with pen and paper but now I use the laptop. I grew up buying newspapers but now I read them on my mobile phone. The world has changed. The world is increasingly digital. The future is here with us. If you do a survey on the number of people who read the printed newspaper and those who read on the internet, you will be surprised where the world is going.

How do you intend to sustain the site in terms of contents?

We have a modest newsroom with reporters who are assigned to beats. We have a team of seasoned analysts as contributing editors. We also subscribe to wire services.

Again, www.thecable.ng is not a paid site where people will have to subscribe to access your contents. How do you intend to generate income to run the business? I ask this question because there is hardly much you can do without adequate fund.

We have a business model that will generate money. Aside regular advertising, we have developed packages and products that we shall be unveiling in phases. We are very confident of making a commercial success out of the newspaper. Conventional wisdom is that online journalism is not commercially viable, but you can be sure it is making more money today than it used to do five years ago.

Why are you targeting only political leaders and captains of industry? Is the www.thecable.ng exclusively for the rich? And don't you think that you will be neglecting the news feeds of the larger population who are poor, so to say?

We will report everything under the sun. But we aim to influence decision makers in government and business to advance the progress of Nigeria. If Nigeria progresses, the poor people will benefit the most. We have a category for jobs, which is for the unemployed and the underemployed. We have a category we call Citizen Police, which will allow the people to police the government and highlight what is wrong with the society with photos and videos. We have a solid entertainment section targeted at the youth. There is something for everybody in TheCable.

What is your take on the opinion that the future of journalism, world over, lies in the online?

We're on the same page on that. Your children and my children will not buy newspapers. I can take a bet on that. Their phones and tablets will be their newspapers.

In five years from now, where do you hope to see www.thecable.ng?

Our plan is to expand the online space and become a dominant player. We want to be so good in what we are doing that we will be the No. 1 online newspaper in Africa. We have set out to be the most respected. We will get there.

As you launch your online media platform, what is your message to Nigerians and the world?

The message is a bit simple: news wants to be free and people want free news. People want news on the go. They can't wait till tomorrow. TheCable will do all its best to fulfil their heart desires.

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