Nation Media creates convergence on its digital platform #Nationreloaded

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The Nation Media group launched the reloaded Nation website on Wednesday the 14th of August. The Nation site has been overhauled and the idea is to make it more accessible. It is easier to read so as to make readers consume more information and there is greater to use for interaction to encourage conversation on digital space.

The Nation has always been a dynamic progressive publisher. The Nation is doing a huge shift to digital. It is investing in journalists and infrastructure.  The most exciting shift for me as a communications person is that they want to be a digitally first media company. They want to throw resources and energies in digital first then print second. They also want to re-engineer the newsroom. The work processes will be changed. Journalists will write first for mobile, then for the website then for the news. This is the new way to write news and content in the fast changing news world. This is what international journalists do for their organizations but which wasn’t been done here previously.

The message at the bloggers preview is that The Nation must be relevant for tomorrow. The news needs to be relevant long after it has been consumed for the first time. This means that stories have to be re-angled, meaning going beyond headlines and the news going beyond today.

The Nation is equipping journalists for new media. This includes training from the digital section. It also means relaunching products and changing the way the newsroom operates. This means that there is a convergence process in terms of gathering news and using multimedia – text, graphics, audio, animation, and videos. In terms of gathering news it means finding out best practices that can work on the African continent.  

In this age of convergence print journalists – file stories in three places. The thing is to develop the front site and deliver content. There is a misconception that newspapers are dying. But the thing is newspapers are evolving.  Society is changing and becoming more digital. The media ideally is supposed to be the way in which the community talks to itself. The media should be empowering- a voice committed to good journalism.

Nation Media is committed to robust media. In the current world content that is believed and has value will remain. It will last. Content that makes a difference and has a long shelf life. It makes a difference in your life. It is the future of journalism. So Nation Media are re-engineering and training journalists and changing processes.

Linus Gitahi the MD talked to us.

The world has converged. In ten years Google, Apple, Facebook have grown and each makes more than the GDP of Kenya.  The digital world has expanded. Before the world rewarded capital but in the digital world that we live in it rewards intellect instead of capital. The Nation site will add value, be an opinion shaper and be an online influence. The Nation is making itself digitally ready which is a win for Kenya.

Churchil – the Digital convergence Editor talked about the history of the Nation website. It started in 1997 as a means to update Kenyan Diaspora. It used to update at night. From then it has grown from strength to strength. This version of the website 4.0 is the biggest change encompassing changing process both on the website platform as well as offline in changing journalism practices of reporting among other key changes.

Some of the things to look out for are.

The news will be more in-depth with more information and a broader take on conversation with more news, and life sections. It has a mega menu which is a sort of silo for major stories. This makes it easy for stories to be found.

It also allows for re-organization of stories. There are labels for finding stories taken from digital natives.

There are 3 home pages.

Editorial view – which has a lot of white space. This enables readers to see content better. The old website was clogged and the stories weren’t been seen properly. The new pages carry more content. It also has lazy loading which means you can read the top stories without waiting for all the stories to load. It also has a long page so that you can see more stories.

The design is also responsive. So you are able to view it on a desktop or a 12 inch screen. It automatically adjusts to home screens.

Text based.  The second home page is for digital immigrants who are not used to reading papers online. It resembles the actual paper. It has a lot of text.

Images based.  The third home page is an images homepage. It is a hierarchy of pictures and the top photos are determined by the audience. What audience thinks is important determines how the pictures will appear.  It is interactive and is also based on topics. It has text, pictures and videos.

There are also specials. There is huge interest on specific issues. There is a section with long reads with about 3000 words, using alot of multimedia and infographics. These are on topics that interest people like weight management.

Leadership. Then there is the .9 blogs. These take on issues in news. There are nine blogs which help explain the news and current affairs. These are done by 9 bloggers.

Then there are page completely dedicated to videos and pictures which include picture galleries and videos from across the African continent.

There is also covering of counties. This covers what is happening in counties like Mombasa, Eldoret and other counties as well.

Then there is a website within a website. It includes a section on life and style, art and culture, showbiz, one page dedicated to women, and one section on health.

A major key change is that the website will be easily assessable by mobile. People will be able to go online via phones and have a more user friendly experience.  A mobile platform has been created with a dedicated team of professionals. This site seeks to take advantage of a very vibrant, mobile community who will be able to share feedback and comments. This can be used to make contributions to various parts of the site.

The site was going live on Thursday. Bloggers got a sneak preview of all of this. It looked good.

The sponsorship model is what they will be using for advertising. This means that one company takes a page and sponsors it for a long period of time instead of having banners all over the place. This means that one brand is consistently identified with one page.

Another unique feature is that they will not be using pagination. This causes the mobile user to use a lot of bundles and is also slow to load. This will encourage user engagement as videos will also be able to load on the same page.

The mobile site is responsive. The old Nation site was challenging for mobile users. It was geared more to users who used desktops and higher end gargets like tablets. It has news in 5 bullet points from editors so that if you just want the highlights you can get them. This system works on all devises. Once a mobile user goes in they are force redirected to the mobile site. There are separate developments for different screens.

Linus was clear that the Nation was not for government regulation of social media just the way the mainstream media wasn’t for government regulation. It is better to self regulate. Organizations like the bloggers association of Kenya can regulate its members. 

The Nation team also made it clear that they weren’t going to go into paywall which is where you have to pay to view articles or pay a monthly subscription fee. The strategy is about building audience s and encouraging ecommerce.

That is why the Nation developed Hela for the Diaspora. So that regardless of where you are you can send money. So far there are about 12000 cards in circulation. People can now send money to Mpesa and recently even to a bank account (recent).  It is also now being used a lot in Kenya.

I have managed to use the Nation reloaded both of mobile and desktop. It takes abit of getting used to. Change is never easy.  I can see that it will have some teething problems before they get it right. Some people don’t seem to like the new mobile experience on their phones.

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