Johannesburg - Independent Media has set the cat among the digital pigeons with the launch of what it calls a “leapfrog” in technology with a new IOLMobile for smartphones.
The new product – www.iolmobile.com (or iolmobile.co.za) – goes live today (Friday August 29) at an official launch for company employees by the company’s executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé.
The IOLMobile site will run in tandem with Independent Media’s news website, iol.co.za, and will offer simplicity in design and top-class speed and responsiveness for both viewing and navigation on smartphones.
IOLMobile was designed to stay true to the company’s new brand promise of placing the reader first and celebrating individuality.
The technology team’s goal was to create a reading experience so absorbing and enjoyable that the technology involved fades into the background.
Survé said the new platform would enable consumers across South Africa and the African continent to get a full news experience on their smartphones and enable advertisers to have access to a broader market. Independent Media will include IOLMobile advertising as part of an ad bundle which will cover print, digital and mobile.
Chief digital officer Anthony Robinson said research indicated that the responsiveness or speed of a site was the primary requirement for smartphone users, while readers were seeking simplicity in navigation and design. IOLMobile offers all of this and its users will be able to click or swipe between articles quickly and easily.
IOL Mobile has been benchmarked for speed against leading international news sites, added Robinson.
Survé paid tribute to the in-house development team (part of the Sekunjalo group, new owners of Independent Media) for bringing IOL Mobile to market in just four months and, he said, on a budget that would be “embarrassing” for global players because it was so small.
Survé said a deliberate decision had been taken to do the development of the service within the Sekunjalo group of companies, because local developers could focus on the product’s unique South African needs and because costs could be controlled.
IOLMobile will enable Independent Media not only to catch up to its competitors but to overtake them, said Survé.
“It proves that we are a ‘frontier company’ and that we are well on track to becoming the leading media technology company in Africa.”
IOLMobile is part of a range of developments which Independent Media will be rolling out over the next few months, and which are aimed at providing news to the exploding South African and African smartphone market, as well as augmenting current print and digital offerings.
Smartphones are already the devices most Africans use to access the internet, said Robinson, and it will not be long before we see statistics like those in the US, where the majority of people spend more time on their smartphones than they do watching TV or using their tablets and other computer devices.
Survé said that when the consortium headed by Sekunjalo carried out its “due diligence” examination of the Independent group in South Africa prior to making an offer for it to the Irish owners, its overseas advisers, Citibank, were amazed at how far behind the company lagged in the technology field.
“That was seen as both a gap, but also as an opportunity,” he said.
Through its other investments in Africa and around the world, Sekunjalo was committed to improving access to broadband connectivity across Africa, Survé added.
He would not be drawn about the company’s strategy, remarking that “we believe in action, not words – and as we roll out our plans, people will see that action”.