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Free State kudos in Vodacom journalism awards

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The Central regional awards for the 2017 edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year recently took place where journalists were recognised in 12 categories for outstanding work.

The theme for the awards this year is ‘Your Word’ and promotes the integrity of journalism across all media. This year’s competition drew over 1 000 entries from all over the country, including 188 entries from the Central region.

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The entries across the 12 categories were excellent this year. Our criteria for judging is to look for entries that could possibly make the cut for the national finals, and the overall prize of R100 000 for the journalist of the year award. As always, the entries from the Central region were interesting and enjoyable and, in some cases, even quirky. But all of this is what makes a competition such as the Vodacom Journalist of the Year so special.”

At a function held at the Protea Hotel Bloemfontein, winners in the Regional categories each took home R5 000, with the exception of the Young Journalist of the Year regional finalist, who received a certificate. All the regional winners go through to the national awards in Johannesburg on 16 November 2017.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at the Vodacom Group, says: “We are delighted to announce the Central regional winners in Bloemfontein for the 2017 Awards, which honour journalists from around the country by recognising their best work from the past year. We look forward to welcoming them at the national finals.

I would also like to pay tribute to the judges, who year after year provide their expertise and knowledge in the adjudication of these prestigious awards, thereby ensuring the integrity of the process. Thanks go to Ryland Fisher, Mary Papayya, Arthur Goldstuck, Elna Rossouw, Patricia McCracken, Nikiwe Bikitsha, Megan Rusi,  Mathatha Tshedu, Albe Grobbelaar and Obed Zilwa.”

The winners of the 2017 Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Awards in the Central region are:

2017 Radio News

A good Radio News story must fit into a very short time frame with a variety of sound elements, interviews and even translations. Telling a difficult story and balancing different opinions in only a few minutes is a challenge competently achieved by the regional winner: Neo Bodumela of SABC News for “Negligence at Kimberley Hospital” and “Elderly woman raped”.

2017 Radio Feature

Great analysis and story telling with good use of sound clips gave the winning entry all the elements of a good Radio Feature. In addition, it tackled a difficult and extremely sensitive topic in a very professional manner.  The regional winner is: Earl Coetzee of OFM News for “State capture fallout”.

2017 Sport

A beautifully written story made the reporter the judges’ unanimous choice to win the Sport category in the region. The reporter also took all the memorable accompanying action pictures in this story about a schools rugby match. The regional winner is: Christiaan Cloete of Noordkaap Sport for “Northerns Onderskep Sege”.

2017 Sustainability

The judges expected a better response to this category from a region brimming with Sustainability issues. The regional winners, however, did an excellent job in pinpointing the conniving and corruption that confronts and threatens to defeat many of the poor who rely on natural resources for their survival. This specialist category rewards excellent in-depth reporting in any medium and this year, the regional award goes to a thought-provoking and well-produced TV feature: “Vissers debakel” by Keith Sayster and Eddie Stemmet for SABC Fokus.

2017 Print News

The passing of a highly respected and internationally recognised South African literary figure is news. If there is evidence that the person planned his own death, the circumstances become even more newsworthy. The Print News regional winner is: Elsje du Toit of Volksblad for her combined coverage entitled “Karel Schoeman sterf”.

2017 Print Feature

Feature writing allows a journalist to explore and expand the boundaries of print news. From an unlikely start, a story set in a small town in the Northern Cape proved to be irresistibly charming and engaging. The regional winner is: Charne Kemp of Volksblad for “Wat in Vosburg gebeur, bly in Vosburg”.

2017 Online

Fine writing, effective video interviewing and excellent visuals are all elements that draw the reader into an Online story. Another temptation in online journalism is to focus only on issues of the day or fall-out from major stories or social crises. But our regional online winner brought to life a strong human-interest story: Andre Damons of Netwerk24 for “Vir 18 jaar het hy dwelmhonde opgelei”.

2017 Financial/Economic

Financial and economic issues are a fundamental media beat because they reflect the impact of political power and decision making on community and individual welfare. These aspects were particularly highlighted in the debacle over SASSA payment management. This category rewards excellent in-depth reporting in any medium and our winners combined in a TV feature elegant contextualisation with moving interviews from victims. The winners are: Keith Sayster and Jabulani O-A Afrika of SABC News for “SASSA uncertainty”.

Photography

Creativity is tested to the limit and all photographic elements used to portray the beauty of our country is portrayed in a new light in this creative photo essay. These outstanding images show the unusual transformation of nature when winter snow and ice start to dominate the South African landscape. The regional winner is: Mlungisi Louw of Volksblad for “It’s South Africa”.

2017 Television News

The right to education is enshrined in the South African Constitution – but it is far from easy to enforce if you are disabled and living in the Northern Cape when you may have to wait up to four years to find a school that will accept you. The TV news regional winner highlighted the plight of these learners: Refilwe Gaeswe, freelancing for SABC TV for “Education denied for Northern Cape children with a disability”.

2017 Television Feature

Some communities have to adapt more than others to the demands of our rapidly changing economy to integrate a rich culture, heritage and age-old ways of survival with an uncertain present. Shot beautifully, the winning TV Feature brought to the fore people on the outskirts of society. The regional winners are: Keith Sayster and Gerhard Botes of SABC Fokus for “Karretjie mense”.

Young Journalist Award

The winner in the region gets a certificate and goes through to the national round to compete for the overall prize. The overall award provides an opportunity to fast track a young journalist’s professional and personal development through an all-expenses paid overseas trip that includes a visit to the renowned Thomson Foundation, as well as the opportunity to work in a newsroom overseas. To enter this category, the journalist should have worked in the media for up to, but not more than three years, and be able to demonstrate their potential through their entries. The winner is Katleho Morapela from OFM News.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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