Broadband needed for SA journalistic revolution

Cheaper, faster broadband will rapidly transform South Africa’s journalism industry, said Esmaré Weideman, Chief Executive Officer of Media24.

She was speaking at Stellenbosch University’s journalism department on Monday, where she discussed the state of print media in South Africa and other related topics.

“We are in the middle of this incredible revolution in the media. I sometimes wish that government would just sort out broadband so that it can become cheaper and faster, because when that happens this industry is going to change at the speed of light.”

Professor Lizette Rabe, from Stellenbosch University’s journalism department sympathised with Weideman: “I can just imagine how frustrated you are, waiting for government to provide cheaper, faster broadband. It is the key to the new world.

“What is being done?”

Weideman said that the former Minister of Communications said that “government does not have money”, whilst the Minister’s successor said that the broadband issue is a “key priority”.

Finally she said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what is going to happen”.

Arlene Prinsloo, National Digital Content Coordinator at Media24 believes that low-cost, high-speed broadband would result in more people subscribing to digital versions of newspapers and other publications.

“This shift will also lead to an increased use of interactive graphics or data journalism, because it will not cost as much to download. It would lead to a digital explosion.”

Weideman noted that “there is this impression that people do not read anymore, it is untrue”.

Research by the South African Audience Research Foundation, which “measures readership in South Africa has just come out, and guess what; the Media24 newspaper readership is still on the increase.

“There are people who read, that might be reading very differently nowadays, but the point is that they read.”

Prinsloo was less positive about the future of print media: “I currently have mixed feelings about print media in South Africa; because I think that it lacks innovation, it is stagnating … we focus too much on print.

“Unless we dramatically change our content, so that people would want to read print, I believe that in the next five years there will no longer be printed Afrikaans newspapers, but I hope the future proves me wrong.

“If print dies it does not mean it is the end of journalism. Journalism should not be so closely associated with print media. Journalism can survive on numerous other platforms, as it already does.”

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