One of the country’s pioneer bloggers, Zimbojam turned 3 today. Developing a local website is difficult but going all out to build a company around blogging takes guts. In this spirit we post the article below by Trevor Makonyonga which provides a good understanding of the website’s achievements and aspirations for the future.
In November 2008 Fungai Tichawangana set up the Zimbo Jam website (www.zimbojam.com) from his study at home. It is now Zimbabwe’s biggest website covering lifestyle, arts and entertainment with up to 3 million page views and over 100,000 unique visitors every month. The site’s Facebook page has over 5,600 fans and videos posted on its YouTube channel have been known to get up to 5,000 views in a matter of days.
The site is now run by a team of seven people and continues to grow in both its online and offline presence.
Trevor spoke to founder and managing editor of the website, Fungai James Tichawangana and asked him a few questions about the journey that has led to this point.
How did the whole concept of Zimbo Jam come about?
Zimbo Jam started after another entertainment site we had created, itsbho.com changed ownership when the mother company, Venekera Works was bought by Celsys Limited in 2007. I had started Venekera with some friends in 2000 and it had grown to become one of the leading web development houses in Zimbabwe when Celsys purchased it.
Itsbho.com died as Celsys did not have a vision and plan for it and I started itching to get another arts and entertainment website going. Around mid-2008 I started building Zimbo Jam in the evenings at home. Together, my late wife, Shingie, and I, attended all the events we could to get photos and story ideas. I would take photos while she spoke to people and got their information. By end of October that year the site was complete. It went live on November 4.
The site grew really fast as we were supplying unique, original content. Soon we needed more people, but did not have enough money to hire anyone full time, so we asked my wife’s cousin Tendai to join the project. She agreed and moved from Bulawayo to stay with us. One of her main tasks was to get us into as many events as possible and to build our network and she did an amazing job about that.
What have been the challenges in setting up and running the site?
The biggest challenge we faced was financing the whole thing and we used personal finances to get the site going. It was a strain on us, but Shingie was really supportive and believed that one day the site would pay us back everything we had put into it and be able to sustain itself- even before I tried to convince her about the future profitability of the project.
Another challenge has been Internet access and hosting of the site. We use a lot of bandwidth locally and on the site itself from visitors and that alone makes the operation costly. In total for hosting and internet access we spend over US$500 per month. We are looking forward to the day when truly accessible broadband comes to Zimbabwe at a reasonable price.
What has changed about the site from the day of inception to date?
The team has grown from 1 to 7 people. The site is becoming an internationally recognised brand and we’ve been invited to events in Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa, and Swaziland and have partnered with events in the UK and USA not to mention countless local events. We now have up to 3 million page views every month on our site and have a growing online community. We were honoured by the National Arts Council last year at the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA), who gave Zimbo Jam the first ever accolade for an online publication in Zimbabwe when they presented us with the Outstanding Online Arts Publisher Award. Gees, so much has changed at such an alarming rate that even as the team we fail to keep up with it sometimes.
Any prospects of having a print version of the Jam?
It’s in the works. No dates yet, but we are working on the business and capitalisation model for that.
Where do you see Zimbo Jam in the next few years?
We have plans that would make Zimbo Jam look like child’s play. If you take to heart the motto of Aripano Infinity, Zimbo Jam’s mother company, which is ‘To Tell the Story of Africa’, then you’ll have an idea of where we are going.
Any last words?
It is an honour to be able to do this work. We love what we do. We love being able to share the magic of Zimbabwe with the world. We love being able to contribute to promoting local endeavour.
We totally love the Zimbo Jam community that supports us so much in everything we do and as we turn three I would like to send out a big thank you to EVERYONE who has supported us in every little way from liking a post on our Facebook page to coming up to greet us when they spot the team at various functions but most of all I would like to thank the amazing team of young people that makes the website tick. I think they are all truly amazing. Thank you Zimbo jammers one and all!
Congratulations to Zimbojam, from your fellow Zimbabwean bloggers!