Simon Kolawole, popular columnist and founder of TheCable online newspaper, shares TheCable’s success story with us. He also speaks about where the online newspaper, which was six this week, would be five years from now.
What inspired the establishment of TheCable six years ago?
We initially wanted to set up a print newspaper, but it dawned on us at a point that online was becoming dominant.
Most people were reading stories on their mobile devices. Internet penetration in Nigeria was getting better.
We also studied the online media in the country and discovered that there were very few professional sites.
We felt we had something unique to bring to the table. We wanted to deliver news with speed and simplicity as well as write good features.
We wanted to produce top-notch newspaper that would be respected among those who matter at every level of the society.
Our initial challenge was getting quality hands on board. Many of the experienced hands would rather work with the traditional newspapers than come online
Looking over your content in the last six years, which story – or intervention – would you say had the biggest impact?
It’s hard to say, but we have done some stories that produced positive results, so we are glad about that.
We did an investigation on Unity Schools and we are glad about the remedial actions taken by the government.
There are many stories like that.
We did an undercover investigation into Customs operations as well as Ikoyi Prisons. They created impact but I am not sure anything has changed.
What were the teething problems you faced and how did you surmount them?
Our initial challenge was getting quality hands on board. Many of the experienced hands would rather work with the traditional newspapers than come online.
We had to start engaging fresh graduates and training them. It was a very big challenge but we seem to have mastered things now.
Funding is a big problem in Nigeria’s media industry and online advert rates are low and adhoc. What has kept TheCable afloat financially?
We set out to be different, so our expenses were more than those of the typical website.
We had offices in Lagos and Abuja. We set up like a proper company.
Thousands of sites offering news are operated as one-man business with little costs. They are okay with any advert at any rate.
That is why they are a-dime-a-dozen. However, we are grateful that our target market recognised us and started patronising us. We are sustained mainly by revenues from adverting and partnerships.
We set out to be the most respected quality online newspaper out of Africa. That is a huge task. We want to keep striving at it
TheCable has won a few outstanding laurels. How do you maintain ethics and discipline in a highly contagious environment?
Our ethics are well defined in Our Code of Ethics and I must say I am very proud of the team members.
They put in their best to live by the ethics of the profession.
Part of the advantages for us is that we take them straight from the university and are able to help them gain a professional worldview very early in their careers.
It is difficult to be preaching ethics to those who are already formed in their ways.
Where do you see TheCable in the next five years?
We set out to be the most respected quality online newspaper out of Africa. That is a huge task. We want to keep striving at it.
We are not there yet, but we are better today than we were yesterday.
In another five years, we want to be the No. 1 journalism academy in the country, mentoring journalists that will go on to become award winners and industry leaders.
We want to be news leaders like the BBC and thought leaders like The Economist.