I find Business Day’s appointment of a new editor both fascinating and hopeful.
Not because Songezo Zibi is the newspaper’s first black editor, which after 20 years of democracy, should now be irrelevant and hardly newsworthy.
What fascinates and cheers me up as both a marketer and former newspaperman is that Zibi has spent far more time working in the corporate sector than he has as a journalist.
Which might sound really stupid –- a bit like appointing someone who has been working in dentistry all his life as a heart surgeon.
But, when it comes to newspapers in this day and age, it’s not like that at all.
Quite simply editors of business publications in particular have to understand utterly and completely not only what readers want, but equally importantly, what the corporate world demands of a business publication.
Zibi spent less than a year as a senior associate editor at the Financial Mail, which is about as good a platform you can get for understand financial journalism. But he spent 15 years at Volkswagen South Africa in a communications role and eight years as a corporate affairs executive at Xstrata.
I have never met Zibi. In fact I had never heard of Zibi until a few days ago. But I feel I know him.
I have heard him say all the right things in terms of what I have been banging on about for years in terms of how newspapers should be ensuring their sustainability.
Speaking on Radio 702 a few days ago, Zibi predicted that newspaper publishing might be a forgotten practice in 20 years time.
Notice he did not say that newspapers would die, just that newspaper publishing models of the past would be obsolete.
He added, “The problem now is lack of sufficient Wi-Fi availability. The day that changes, the guy who tuned to that technology will be ahead of the pack”.
Music to my ears, I have to say.
While it might sound a bit like nit-picking, I would have preferred to hear that Zibi had been appointed head of Business Day content resources and by the way, would also act as editor of the Business Day newspaper, which is destined to become just one of many carriers for the company’s content.
Because there is no question in my mind and I would imagine Zibi’s as well, that in the years to come the role of Business Day will change from a newspaper with a really great digital sidekick called BDLive into an on-demand resource for the business and political markets with a touch of lifestyle on the side.
That’s the impact improved internet connectivity will have. It will allow the current consumers of business publications to change from being recipients of various media to demanding specific information as and when they want it and as Zibi says, the guys who will have tuned to that technology will be ahead of the pack.
I am happy to see that former Business Day editor/publisher, Peter Bruce, will stay on as editor in chief because it is important that he is party to the impact his new editorial appointment will have on the way his company morphs into what should be a powerful and profitable resource.
It is also vital for Bruce to be around to protect his content teams from the powers that be at Times Media Group – many of whom have not given any indication that they understand the importance of producing quality content.
News organisations will, in future, live or die by the value B2B and B2C consumers will place on their information.
And quality content does not come from newsrooms that are continually trimmed, juniorised and dumbed-down in order to increase short-term profitability.
The really bad news for mass media management these days is that content providers –those people we used to call journalists – are already their most important assets.