I travelled to Kenya from Botswana to learn from media industry peers: key takeaways from a benchmarking tour

Tryphinah Dongwana, the managing director at WeekendPost in Botswana, meets with Nancy Agutu, the deputy digital editor at Radio Africa Group in Kenya, and Andy Kagwa, the operations editor at the Standard Group in Kenya.

By Tryphinah Dongwana

Media houses across the world are aligning themselves with the rapid shifts in the industry. Advertising spend is declining, copy sales are in a spiral and operating costs are rising.

Owing to these and many other shifts in the industry, the management at the WeekendPost in Botswana has been strategising on ways to keep the business running, growing and expanding. One of the best ways to do this is to learn from industry peers.

In June, WAN-IFRA Women in News offered WeekendPost an opportunity to do just this. It organised benchmarking visits to two of Kenya’s leading media houses: Radio Africa Group and Standard Group.

Over the course of a week, the objective was to identify best practices in key business areas that could be assimilated in Botswana. To pick up new ideas and better ways of doing business. One of WeekendPost’s business plans is to set up a radio station – the Kenya visit offered an opportunity to get first-hand information on costs and operational insights.

My benchmarking visit included one-on-one meetings with heads of departments on key business processes and procedures. I met editors from digital and social media teams, as well as managers in charge of research and sales. They shared their daily operations and processes, and in the process, I identified critical insights into ways the WeekendPost could improve efficiency and grow revenue.

I was introduced to data analytics tools that unbundle the statistics on the best-performing stories. This helps editors analyse audience needs to provide content that resonates with them. In my view, this is a brilliant tool for both the editorial and advertising departments. I also gained insights into the value that infographics and videos add to print and digital content, and how these feed into drawing in a younger audience. Driven by research, this strategy secures the future success of the media industry.

We also held discussions on the impact of fake news and how to counter it with factual, high-quality stories that engender trust and audience loyalty. It was interesting to observe the organisations’ commitment to gender-balanced and inclusive content and staffing – and how this has made business sense.

The focus on research has also helped generate content that has depth, is factual and legally sound. The structure and flow of digital editorial meetings was impressive. The team focuses on analytics, discusses new angles and invites new ideas.

I also toured Kenyan radio stations and learned about their daily operations, structure and costs. I gained knowledge on the skills and software needed to set up a radio station. I also learned about the need to research to find a niche market. I appreciated the workflow of a converged newsroom and learned about performance metrics.  

It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from industry peers in the African market to improve our own operations.

The author is the managing director at the WeekendPost in Botswana.

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