Why I Set Up TheCable Online Newspaper – Kolawole

Why I Set Up TheCable Online Newspaper – Kolawole

Sunday, May 11, 2014 1:50 pm

Two years after he stepped down as editor of ThisDay newspaper, Simon Kolawole has introduced his new online newspaper, TheCable. Kolawole, in this chat with FUNSHO AROGUNDADE, speaks about his new project and the need for the mainstream publications to embrace the new digital media platform

What informed the setting up of TheCable and preference for digital newspaper?

Simon Kolawole

Simon Kolawole

In Nigeria, we are still stuck with this mentality that something has to be printed and it is not until we see the printed can it be accepted as a mainstream medium. All over the world, I don’t know of any country where new newspapers are being launched; not in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France or South Africa. Everybody is going digital. Everything you do now, you have the digital App. There is mobile App for everything. You want to pay for your airline ticket now, you get the mobile App. We are now doing electronic ticketing. Before, you needed all those booklets as ticket, but now you print your boarding pass electronically. The world has gone digital and nobody can drag us back. There is nothing we can do about it as the world has decided to change and if you don’t change, you die.

So the concept of our new online newspaper, TheCable, is like you are getting a cablegram or you are getting a telegram. It is like this is your regular dose of messages and news. Now, why did we choose online? If you look at it, before we started using earpiece to listen to music, we were using cartridge and gramophone. Now, music has gone digital. So essentially, the world is going digital and you can deliver news immediately. Something breaks now, you are delivering it to people’s mobile phones real time. That is the fastest way to do it and I believe that is the way to go because increasingly, newspaper sales are dropping. More people are going online. People wake up in the morning, like 7am and, in a jiffy, have read all Nigerian newspapers without leaving their room. That is where the world is going.

To launch your online newspaper, you organised a town hall-like discourse. What is the need for that?

At TheCable, like I said, we want to be part of solution to Nigeria’s problem. We don’t just want to say there is a problem; we want to say there is a solution. And why we choose this topic, Nigeria @ 100: Reflection On The Future, is also to reflect on Nigeria and reflect on the future. We intent to be part of solving Nigeria’s problem. We don’t want just to be highlighting the problems, we want to be part of how do we solve these problems. How do we move this country to greatness? This is the first step and we are going to take similar and more constructive steps to achieve that.

What exactly will be TheCable’s niche?

Our niche will be our authoritative and in-depth reports and rigorous analyses of events. We want to help the citizens, leaders in the public and private sectors, to make informed decisions. Our mandate is to deliver knowledge-based journalism with our news and views based on fact and reason. We have several features on our website that are quite different from what you get from other websites.

How do you intend to bridge the gap already created by the likes of SaharaReporters and Premium Times?

To be honest with you, I like what SaharaReporters and Premium Times are doing, to a large extent. But we are not in competition with them. We can also say we are competing with them in the sense that we are all on the internet; but our audience is clearly defined. We target decision makers in business and politics in a constructive way. We are not activist in the sense if we talk of activism. That is not our wish. We want to engage in the process of change.

You started your journalism career with mainstream news media like Tempo and TheNEWS, and many who know you expect you to do a traditional hard copy publication. Given the way TheCable has started, will it later give birth to a physical newspaper?

Let’s face reality, when you are about to set up a newspaper, you buy a press and that is over N500 million gone. You buy distribution vans; hire staff all over the country. It is a cost structure that cannot be maintained. If you talk to newspapers owners, they are groaning. Every day, they are putting vehicles on the road to drop 500 copies in Benin, 200 copies in Osogbo. It is killing; when you can as well deliver news online. Of course, people still talk about those who prefer printed copy. But is it true? Do you know how many people go online? As we are talking now, do you know how many people are browsing the internet reading news now? How many copies are newspapers selling? When I was growing up, newspapers were selling 500,000 to 800,000 copies. Are you telling me that there is a newspaper in Nigeria that is printing 500,000 copies? This thing is just in our mentality, as I said earlier. You put an advert on a website and millions of people see it every day. You want to pay N200,000 for one month. You put your one full page advert in a newspaper and pay N600,000 for one day; somebody sees it or may not even see it; and how many copies?

So, you have your fears for print media industry?

I think the print media should integrate online in to their operation. They should do online very well. The way the print media is going by the business now, they just treat online as a necessary evil. The best of their stories, they don’t put them online until the following day. They prefer to keep the best stories for the hard print and I’m asking them: how many copies are they selling? If you put the story like ‘Sanusi Sacked’, imagine the millions that will read it immediately. How many millions will read the newspaper the following day? So, it is about our mentality. We are still analogue in our mentality.

What now happens to your popular column, Simon Kolawole Live in ThisDay?

Nothing. It continues. I will still maintain the column.

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