Chitchat with Vision’s Website Editor
Davis Weddi joined the New Vision in 1996 as a freelance journalist. His first story was placed on the front page of The New Vision on 1st April 1996. It was a fool’s day story of vampires attacking travellers in a bus! He was confirmed as a full time staff in 2004. He has studied in Sweden, German and South Africa photojournalism courses, features writing and news websites.
The New Vision Group is the biggest multimedia house in Uganda. It publishes 8 newspapers and 5 magazines. It owns 3 FM radio stations and a television network. (www.newvision.co.ug)
Ali: Where did you study website building or maintenance?
Davis: I did a course in Global Electronic Journalism for 6 months from Stockholm University in Sweden. The course involved research news websites, uploading audio, visual and video online. We used tools like PHP, Java, CSS mobile XML, XTML and promoting new languages. There after, I worked for a company that took orders for MacDonald’s in Stockholm.
Where did you start from when you joined the New Vision?
In 2003, I found a static website portal; www.enteruganda.com, and I started uploading it casually. In 2004 I was made the website editor at the New Vision. The division was employing 7 staff, but making a paltry $ 200.00 a month! The division needed dynamism to make money. This called for adequate content and better content uploading team.
We gave ourselves a target of earning $ 25,000 per month within 4 years. Today we are earning much more than that with a staff of 8 well-paid people. We have also opened up new websites; each product now has its own website. We also established a jobs website; www.jobs.co.ug. Our clients, the advertisers from the print media add an extra 5% of the cost for the same advert to be run online. The income from the online advertisements is much more than what some newspapers in this country earn.
The websites are now integrated with the newsroom via the Integrated Enterprise Content Management System (IECMS), which will facilitate erasing paper from the newsroom. The workflow system follows what a journalist does – distributes stories to the editors, sub editors, pre press and finally to the printer and finally uploaded online automatically.
Hasn’t this automation reduced the readership of the hard copy?
The statistics available don’t show that sales are suffering; our biggest online readers are abroad.
How does your website fare compared to other websites in Uganda?
Our team looks at self-generated and Google analytics. It is the most visited website in Uganda so far. Our website is dynamic and we have the capacity of uploading content anytime. For example, we can upload content for the Uganda market the next day and for the Diaspora the evening before. We now sell our Internet stories internationally to organizations like AllAfrica.com
What is the future of the New Vision’s website?
We hope to redesign the website to meet modern times. We are now testing mobile SMS. There is also a need to unify radio, newspaper and television. Mobile alerts are also in the pipeline. We have already collected 2 million mobile telephone numbers and we hope to work with the mobile telephony operators to establish whether a number is switched on. The New Vision is to sign up with all telephone mobile operators to allow all users to access the service. We are also confident that applications like E-government, E-Health, and E-Business can be sold to government. In this case government can use or telephone number database for communicating development, health or political messages.
Journalists will also be enabled to send breaking news through the same system. The system will allow readers and listeners to the New Vision’s products interactivity with each other and with the newsroom.
What ICT challenges has New Vision met?
New Vision is prepared to meet all challenges head on. It has heavily invested in its staff by in-house training and IT schooling. So far a few journalists maintain blogs, but soon it will be a requirement for every journalist to keep a blog, where he/she can interact with readers.
How is Internet use nationally?
Uganda’s Internet usage is on the increase. Every day newspapers sign up new online readers especially the youth. Statistics from the ICT ministry show increased Internet usage. Currently there are over 22,000 local websites and nearly 300,000 email addresses. The New Vision has positioned well itself to meet this increasing demand. Soon local language websites will be developed.