As inevitable as change is, it’s hardly a comfortable thing. Still, we can’t run from it, especially in corporate leadership where the captain always has to make way for someone new. The good thing though is that it could mark new fortunes for a business.
Zimpapers, our country’s largest print media concern, announced the appointment of Delma Lupepe and Pikirayi Deketeke as the new respective Chairman and CEO of the company.
While board control is going to be under Lupepe’s guidance, the focus of all operations will fall under Deketeke’s purview. One huge consolation that shareholders have is that Deketeke seems to be an aptly qualified and seasoned candidate for this position.
Prior to this appointment, he had been serving as Zimpapers’ Operations Chief and he led the group’s media strategy, running point on Zimpapers’ pursuits in new interests like Star FM Radio, Mutare’s Diamond FM and the setup of its digital platforms like SportsZone, Mobile News and BH24.
Anyone keen on new-age media and content creation in the digital age would be excited at the thought of a new CEO who seems to understand digital, coming in to lead the country’s most visible media company.
I’m hardly the only person whose expectations have been raised here. There is a lot to anticipate from a new manager who appears to have a keen interest in investing in the future of an industry that is faced with so much uncertainty. Interestingly, he takes the reigns of a company that has the world in front of it in terms of opportunities in digital media.
Sure, the move that Zimpapers made into electronic media through Star FM should be applauded, but there’s a whole other field that’s ripe for disruption through Television and also the internet. In fact, when you consider digital migration, TV is where Zimpapers is likely going to end up next if its affinity for snapping broadcasting licences is anything to go by.
When (and I suppose it’s prudent to say if) this happens, there’s a lot that can be explored by Zimpapers and with the right play on aspects such as content creation and cross-platform advertising it could position itself to be a leader in Zimbabwe’s digital space.
Can it become a little Naspers?
That sounds ridiculous when you look at Naspers as the 8th largest media concern in the world which is the most valuable in this field across Africa with a large stamp on media that extends to investments in Chinese tech through Tencent (Yes, it’s a lot more than just MultiChoice).
But If you dial the clock back a few decades, Naspers (the name came from Afrikaans, Nasionale Pers – National Press) was a publishing company willing to take risks in what was then, the latest in media and technology.
Under the guidance of a young and gutsy business school graduate (Koos Bekker) who had written paper that formed the foundation of local Pay TV long before everyone saw the potential, The Movie Network was born, branded M-Net and helped launched what has now blossomed into MultiChoice, that cross-continent brand that most of us are now frustrated at as the largest monopoly in paid entertainment across Africa.
Besides audacity, Bekker and his team seemed to catch the right wave at every turn. Through the MultiChoice team, they saw sense to invest in MTN in 1991. Then, of course, there’s getting Naspers involved with Tencent and Mail.ru from Russia.
Is Zimpapers at the same juncture? Perhaps. Can it mould itself to follow the same dynamism that Naspers has maintained in media? It’s incredibly difficult but definitely not impossible. Digital media is changing rapidly with the best-made moves around content creation, platform and distribution strategies, as well as understanding the technology being the most visible strands of the sort of fabric that will be worn by the next media kings.
Right now, Zimpapers can be viewed as just a content creation company, trying to stay one step ahead of competition like Alpha Media. There is, however, this thing called the internet that will separate winners from losers in all of this. It not only looks like the one space where content creation has already started changing, but it’s also where the distribution models will also be upturned.
Just look at how Facebook is trying to make hay while the sun shines with strategies like the Instant Article feature. It’s also why a marriage between Verizon, a North American mobile network, and AOL, a media company that used to be a huge deal, is such a case study for strategies in media integration.
We no longer consume content of any kind like we used to a decade ago because of the internet. We sure as hell don’t have it distributed in the same way too. These are some of the things that Deketeke will have to ruminate over, and act upon as well. There is no crystal ball here, so no one can tell what will work and what won’t, but it’s all leaning towards the right approach towards tech.
Maybe a calculated move into TV with a firm grasp of quality content that can be scaled across our borders through online distribution? Or a flirtation with a network that wants to look beyond the fact that they’ll be getting into bed with the government? (TelOne, not NetOne is the dark horse here)
Deketeke and the Zimpapers team can decide to play it out whichever way they want. They just need to keep an eye on the tech and everything that surrounds it, otherwise they won’t be a little Naspers, but just another print media company in a digital world.
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