Zimpapers enters the game with Sportszone

Nigel Gambanga Avatar

SportszoneIt’s been a long time coming but Zimpapers, in its move to a more digital approach, has finally decided to create an online sports news platform.

Sportszone, which was unveiled yesterday, is meant to be complementary to the Zimpapers hard copy editions (which are now available on one online platform) with in depth analysis and coverage of everything sports in Zimbabwe and beyond.

The site is set to feature live blogs, a video and audio service for live events and a feedback forum for the readers to share their opinions on different sports events.

So why sports and why now?

The appetite for sports news and content has been and will always be insatiable. This is driven by a host of reasons centred on passion and the excitement of sports entertainment.

A more clear explanation of this reason is probably the way sports always creates the need for every fan to have several perspectives of the same match, fixture or play. Online content delivery makes all of this faster, easier and, thanks to digital options, even more detailed.

The common trend across Africa is that sports has dominant presence in web and browser habits. In a 2014 Opera Mini report sports sites had a strong showing in the top viewed sites for a lot of the countries, being outstripped only by mainstream news sites and social networks.

With a certain homogeneity to Sub Saharan web trends, plus Zimbabweans’ love for local content, the connection was pretty easy to make.

Another reason has been the ascent of other web platforms dedicated to sports in the past few years. Niche publications like School Sports Network and Soccer 24 have displayed how well run online sports properties have a huge potential in terms of following and monetary return.

The other important reason that likely preceded all other considerations is of course the money. The growing revenue potential of digital media and online news is something Zimpapers has now had the initiative to act towards.

The 4% contribution to revenue made by digital platforms mentioned in Zimpapers’ last half year results might not be as attractive as its print counterpart but it’s very visible when stacked up against the 6% decline in the group’s revenue.

Let’s not forget that these digital platforms aren’t laden with material and production costs that have made print production a nightmare for Zimpapers or anyone in the business.

What is Zimpapers’ advantage?

While it might look like our state owned news entity is trying to figure its way through the digital maze that’s a wee-bit too complicated for offline and print veterans, let’s not forget that these guys have a firm grasp on content creation.

This is what a pool of reporters in different corners of the country and standing relationships with other media houses (for example Reuters) gets you. This would also account for the launch of a site that covers everything sports related from cricket to soccer and even schools sports.

However it’s safe to assume that this will probably be manipulated into a copy paste routine that has content from the other titles being pushed onto Sportszone.

What does this mean for wannabe sports news startups?

Zimpapers’ entry is hardly the arrival of the monster that will eat up all the cookies and the table cloth as well. There are many untapped opportunities in sports and the right angle is what wins the day.

Let’s not kid ourselves though, these guys mean business. A new player is in the game and he isn’t going to take long to gain full flight. So if you want to chase that dream of an outstanding online cricket/ Zim basketball/ Women’s Soccer site there has to be more effort to make your product outstanding.

Content has to be engaging and the delivery has to be worth the reader’s time, especially if you are out to make more noise than the Zimpapers title.