Newspapers Decided To Step Down Their Online Presence To Drive Hardcopy Sales And Curb Piracy. Bad Idea

Farai Mudzingwa Avatar
Harare, Vendors, Zimpapers, Print media, Street vendors

Traditional news publishers Herald, Newsday and Daily News recently decided to stop publishing full stories on their online platforms. Maybe the publishers believe this move will prevent online publications from stealing content from their sites since the information will now only be available in their physical publication. This is also to drive sales for physical papers according to a journalist on Twitter.

Is this wise?

The move to shun digital platforms and embrace hard copies seems to be an ill-thought out move for a number of reasons. Firstly, the newspapers are only available for a $1 so if online publications are making money from stealing content what would stop them from just buying one copy every morning and then steal content from there?

Zimbabweans in the diaspora will also be handicapped and put off from visiting these online publications. The worst part about the new publishing style is that the most topical stories are the ones that are exclusive to the street paper. Diasporans are usually following these publications online for these headlining stories but now they will no longer be able to access these.

Publishers, why not create apps to deliver news and then strike deal with network operators to introduce bundles to encourage monthly subscriptions? If that isn’t viable why not offer a subscription with payment through the mobile money platforms and then at least offer subscribers access to information if they are willing to pay for it.

Mother nature will be disappointed by the move away from digital back to print. In terms of environmental impact, digital platforms ensure a reduction of carbon emissions significantly. I know this may sound like a non-issue, but publishers that adopt these forward-looking solutions will stay ahead of the competition in the long term.

As a younger guy, I also think this move alienates the youth from the news. Personally, I prefer to consume all my news content online and if I wasn’t a writer I would not even consider buying a physical paper anytime soon. Young people value ease of use, so why lug around a paper when everything can be accessed remotely.

The publishing industry is under threat from the internet the world over. The solution is in adapting and re-engineering business models that work on the internet not retreating from the internet itself. Traditional publishers have had the problem of viewing digital as merely a good idea and not an important branch of their business. The future of their business actually.

We will see how this move will turn out but I think this is a step back and instead of innovating publishers are resorting to old and trusted methods that may not necessarily pay dividends in this ever-changing digital time.


  1. Mithiyabo

    To me those are last kicks of a dying LION that has never kicked before.

  2. XXII

    They want to sell information but they don’t know how to do it online without the laborious KYC data required to make it work. Techzim is correct. The volumes are with the mobile operators and the databases are already there. They can charge say 5 cents for 24 full access to news articles. That may give the newspaper people a much wider readership depending on their headlines which would prompt the readers to pay the 5 cents. But then, a proliferation of unsensible headlines will start to sprout. Its all about payment systems.

  3. Anonymous

    I still prefer my hard copy sunday mail.

  4. Garikai Dzoma

    Newspapers world over are feeling the squeeze. In Zimbabwe these guys have tried anything. I remember H-metro publishing stories in picture format! What a joke, that’s a horrible move SEO wise and the irony is a quick OCR will ensure the “pirates” get a better ranking with these stories. Now they are turning to this nonsense it is another terrible idea SEO wise. It simply means people will move to “pirate sources.”

    Hmetro once moved offline resulting in the rise of pirates like iHarare who simply digitised their news stories and now they have grown into something else.
    My advice they should follow the lead of newspapers like the New York Post, Guardian and Economist. Move to long story in depth coverage. Otherwise they are done in the breaking news game. These clowns couldn’t even cover the coup not coup.

  5. Dan Cooper

    Don’t know if these guys are doing this to push hard copy volumes or as a preamble to a paywall.
    If it is the latter then I’m inclined to agree nadzo boys idzi. Why should people get the full news experience online for free? Nhau dzanyorwa dzinoda mubairo ende i don’t think all those people vaiverenga maziso avo where paying the bills. Pamberi ne paywall, especially ne forex yavanozowana from diaspora.
    Your point on ma pirates doesn’t hold anymore weight IMHO. They’ve been robbed for years, getting some money, even by ginya like this is better than giving it away completely.
    BUT MANJE kana ari madhiri ekutengesa hardcopy chet chet then they really don’t understand how media is evolving.

  6. @rmalunda

    they could charge us a few cents for viewing full articles on their website just like the Sunday Times of the UK and other worldwide newspapers. reverting to paper is not only backward and harmful to the environment, its also discriminatory. we blind people won’t be able to read news again just like in the past. we’ve benefited a lot from technology!

    1. Anonymous

      Hey Rmalunda, were you using text-to-speech technology to access these papers on their digital platforms?

  7. Calvin

    Seriously how can we progress as a nation when some seem to be trapped in the stone age. You can tell old horses are calling the shots. Search them you’ll find at least one using a Nokia brick (ine nyanga iya)…

  8. Osmond

    NewsDay is not on that list. Please correct