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‘Digital transformation is enhancing media business globally’

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Dr. Habeeb Adekunle Quadri (left) and the anchorman, Steve Ipalibo Lawson, during the interview…yesterday.

Yesterday, Dr. Habib Adekunle Quadri, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of The Guardian Group, featured on Business Matters, a business show on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). He spoke on threat and opportunities in media business in the new digital age, and how he is overseeing the emergence of a corporate governance system that would facilitate a new culture of productivity and competitiveness within The Guardian Group.

With the advent of the social media and online innovation in the digital space, how relevance is the print medium in news and information dissemination in the nation?
The Nigerian media space has come a long way from the print, to television and radio. Now, it is about the digital. And the traditional media are also struggling to have a space in the digital. We are so blessed in Nigeria to have the first television station on the continent of Africa and since after then, it has been a competitive landscape. Now, we are talking about the digital transformation of the media landscape and the traditional media are struggling to be online, otherwise if you are not a multimedia platform, you are left behind.

I would not say the advent of the digital space is a threat or opportunity. I think it is both, in the sense that the digital space enhanced the print, television and the radio platforms. In the 1960s, the television could only be watched on the African continent but now you can stream NTA anywhere in the world. The digital is actually changing the entire landscape and it is enhancing the way the print, television and radio operate and compete in a global media landscape.

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In a sense, you agree that the impact of the digital landscape has more positives than negatives?
Yes. It is positive in the sense that all of them stand to benefit from it. We have The Guardian TV right now and it is online. The NTA too is online. They are there to port into the global market of the multimedia so that they can stay competitive. This is why it is an opportunity and a threat because this time you don’t get as many sales as possible from the print media compared to what it was in the 1970 and 80s when there was no digital and the Internet. That is the only threat as it is now but the advantages and opportunities far outweigh the negatives.

We know that as the GCEO of the Guardian Group, the business model must be crafted in a way that reflects the template within the disruption, which the digital space has brought about. Are there safe business models that could be adopted that can guarantee the bottom line in a positive manner?   
We are still an early adopter of multimedia in Nigeria compared to the advanced countries like the United States of America and the United Kingdom. But we are growing and the opportunities are there for people and organisations, especially media houses, to tap into.

If you understand the fact that people can plug and play into your digital platform from anywhere in the World, then you start trying to fine-tune and streamline your business model, to not only appeal to within the continent of Africa or within a geographical confine but to appeal to a global landscape because that is where the money is right now. As a matter of fact, you can publish a job in Nigeria and people are applying for it across the world. That is how a business model should actually reflect and mirror a global landscape.

The reading culture in Nigeria is one that begs for attention. But handheld devices are now creating scenarios where people do more of browsing than reading? What is your view? 
I think it depends on the way you look at it and the population strata. If we are looking at students across the country, I think the digital has encouraged them to read wider because right now they can sign in to any university library without leaving the confine of their rooms. They can access the University of London, Lagos and other libraries without leaving their homes. The students are benefiting from their ability to leverage the digital transformation to access different libraries in the world without having to go inside those libraries to open the books. So, I believe the digital is actually enhancing the ability of students to read wide.

Older people are not lagging behind either. I know many people above 60 to 70 years that have Whatsapp on their phones with which they send different articles and information that, in those days, would have required them to travel overseas. Now, they could spend hours with their children and teach them how to access the digital space. The digital transformation is not only beneficial to young people but to everyone, including business people and those into different ventures. It only depends on where you are coming from and whether you want to take advantage of the digital platform to your advantage. I know a lot of Nigerians that are taking advantage of the digital transformation and are using it to transform their lives, businesses and families.

As an executive with different management experience within and outside the country, looking at the issues of business profitability, staff welfare and the like, do you see poor corporate governance structure threatening media businesses?
I don’t think I am going to limit this to the media alone. Like I said earlier, our corporate governance code in Nigeria just got developed during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. That was when we started developing our corporate governance structure. In those days, we used to have corporate governance body members and these were cronies and friends of the owner of business. To be able to succeed, you must be able to compose a board of directors, headed by people who could get the job done, those that have the industry experience and who can help to address strategic business issues, risk and also manage the metamorphosis of the organisation from where it is to where you want it to be. I am talking about managing the vision now. In Nigeria we are beginning to understand that it is not just enough to have a company but there is need to build a corporate governance that is a convergence of directors, and board of management representing the staff and the shareholders. These are the three major players in corporate governance.

Industries players and business people are beginning to understand that if corporate governance is not well structured, it affects the success of the business itself. So, you have to leverage the experiences of those that have gone through that rank of the business you are into to compose a board of directors that can provide effective strategic oversight to the management to ensure that the interest of the shareholders are well protected. I am not going to say we have not really done well or we are doing so well because it is an ongoing course and we are trying to get better in the way we structure our corporate business.

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