Yahoo! “The smartphone is effectively the African PC”

Colman Murray, Vice President African Business Development, Apurimac (YAHOO!)

Colman Murray,
Vice President African Business Development, Apurimac (YAHOO!)

Yahoo’s Colman Murray talks to IP&TV News about the growing digital opportunities opening up in African broadcasting.

IP&TV News: Where do you see the biggest commercial and creative digital opportunities in Africa?

Colman Murray: Our experience in the past three years has been hugely indicative of a wealth of opportunity across the continent. I refer in the main to West and East Africa where we have been hugely successful in attracting certain business verticals like finance, automotive, FMCG, communications and travel to name a few.

The measurability and immediacy of the digital results make the transition from a more traditional sphere all the more attractive. Mobile is a personal “soapbox” of mine and the potential for further development is mind boggling. In the past four years we have seen consumer media consumption stats rocket from 4 to 30% for mobile the US.  I remember seeing a stat quoting that 90% of South African internet users access the net via their smartphones. The smartphone therefore is effectively the African PC and we have to tailor our efforts accordingly. It is interesting to note that mobile ad revenues almost doubled globally last year and the mobile share of advertising also rose exponentially. The trend is most encouraging – with growth of 45% being realised in 2013…

How significant do you think the intersection between digital and broadcasting will be for Africa and why?

The move to digital is hugely significant and the trend reports are indicative of much greater digital assimilation going forward in Africa. The smartphone is the gateway to the internet for 90% of web users today here in South Africa – this in turn becomes much more than a communicative device for calls and email. We check weather, search the web, share pictures, watch videos, get sports updates. This is what digital offers and it is no longer the bastion of traditional broadcasters. It’s no secret that we are amidst a massive and ever evolving platform shift from traditional to digital, making events like all the more relevant and important in evangelizing new media.

Can you give us some idea of the most exciting aspects of YAHOO’s current involvement in Africa?

For the past 20 years or so YAHOO has excelled in the areas of Email, News and Finance. The aforementioned platform shift to mobile for example takes these areas of excellence and makes them part of consumers’ daily habits by effectively putting them in your pocket. So having immediate access to my personal “daily habits” of communication, news, sports, weather reports and so on is hugely marketable in the US, Europe – and now in Africa. It’s relevant, immediate and important wherever you might reside in Africa.

People sometimes allude to the explosive growth of digital but this can be a misnomer as growth is not necessarily about the proliferation of devices but rather how much time we are spending on our devices – this has seen 5 fold growth in the past two years and that growth shows no signs of slowing. This alone makes YAHOO’s mission statement of making our consumers’ “daily habits” more inspiring and entertaining all the more relevant and exciting throughout Africa.

Where does the “fear factor” come in with regards to digital in traditional management?

I have recently migrated from the traditional arena where I had a great “schooling” courtesy of traditional news behemoths like TIME Inc in the 90s (when I first came to Africa) to my more recent tenure with Agence France Presse (AFP) here in Africa . There is a natural and understandable tendency to embrace and take solace in what you know and to be suspicious of change. Our business is no different and (despite the assimilation of digital into the marketing and commercial sphere) it does not get the share of voice or the budgets it deserves. I find when dealing with corporates on either a local or international level that there remains much in the way of education required to truly understand the upside in all matters digital.

How do you think this trepidation can be dispelled?

It’s happening and will continue to positively evolve in favour of digital. Events like are critical in the ongoing evangelization of this massive and continuing platform shift. It’s awesome to see how digital is becoming such an inherent part of our daily lives and YAHOO is perfectly aligned to same. We have almost 800 million users on the YAHOO core sites globally and we will are projecting further and greater growth (thereby dispelling the “trepidation”). Digital is making our daily lives more convenient, inspiring and more consistent in ways considered almost impossible a few short years ago.

Colman Murray will be appearing at this year’s AfricaCast, Africa’s premier show on the future of broadcasting, which takes place on the 11th-13th November 2014 at the Cape Town Convention Centre, South Africa. Go here for booking and info

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