Opinion: Having clearly charted its media course some years ago, Naspers has been pretty much alone as a former newspaper group moving well beyond newspapers.
In their roadshow last week, the TMG team headed by Trevor Ormerod, their affable general manager of sales and marketing, finally nailed their colours to the mast. And about time too, having struggled through the sea of sustainable media for the past decade or so, pretty much rudderless.
It is also targeting dominance in the business and automotive sectors.
The most critical part of this reformation is the fact that TMG insists that content will be at the heart of it all. And that journalism will take the place of the voyeurism which, in my opinion, has been decimating the integrity of journalism in this country.
Clearly there is a lot of hype around this new strategy, particularly with comments that print was “haute couture” and digital “prêt-à-porter”. A silly statement because all it does for me is suggest that print will still have far too much of a dominant role.
But, giving them the benefit of the doubt, it could also have been devised to appease those die-hards who still believe that newspapers will continue ad infinitum to be the be-all and end-all of journalism, marketing and media sustainability.
The reality is that in future, as Naspers has proved, newspapers and magazines will contribute little, if anything, to the overall TMG revenue. The company has to have the balls to persuade recalcitrant staff to accept this fact and stop cushioning the pain with talks of haute couture when they actually mean stale fast food.
But, generally speaking, the TMG intention is sound and strategically solid. Implementing all those goals will, without any doubt at all, put TMG on a highly sustainable and profitable path.
However, and that’s a big however, the major challenge will be to change the mind-set of all those people on the TMG staff who were brought up in the newspaper environment.
Because, the world over, the problem a lot of newspaper companies are having in their attempts to become multi-platform media, is to get into the minds of newspaper editors, journalists and ad salespeople, that they must stop treating the newspaper as the mother ship and all else as little support crafts.
This is a mammoth task because more often than not it’s like trying to persuade deeply religious people to change their churches. Or die-hard soccer fans to switch to rugby.
One of the methods that some newspaper groups have found useful is to do away with newspaper nomenclature and titles. To change editors into content directors and journalists and reporters into content providers.
Certainly these titles are not as flashy but they represent reality in a world where egos have to make way for objectivity and where profit generation becomes something to which everyone contributes.
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