A partnership with Wits University will soon launch an start-up incubator for creators in journalism.

Wits is teaming up with the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) to launch an incubator for start-ups that aims to find the next big thing for digital media for in Africa.

The Future of Journalism Lab (J-Lab) is the “incubator”—a place where entrepreneurial journalists will receive office space, business mentoring, access to potential partners and investors. In addition to journalists, the incubator, located in the Tshimologong Precint in Braamfontein, will also host tech and finance entrepreneurs.

Many South African youths face the problem of unemployment. Flagging issues are the scarcity of jobs and the mismatch between available jobs and skills.  Government and businesses are encouraging young people to create their own solutions to their employment issues. One such solution is creating businesses, known as start-ups.

“The place where employment happens is in start-ups, not big business,” said director of the JCSE Prof Barry Dwolatzky.

The first pool of media innovators to occupy the incubator will be selected by a panel at JCSE and begin in October this year. The selected start-ups will spend up to a year developing their ideas and programs with the aid of the resources and network provided by Tshimologong Precinct.

FUTUTISTIC: A model image of what the Tshimologong Precint in Braamfontein is set to look like. Photo: Provided by JCSE

FUTUTISTIC: A model image of what the Tshimologong Precint in Braamfontein is set to look like. Photo: Provided by JCSE

The initiative to develop new ideas for digital media comes alongside the need to keep up with the changing nature of journalism. Among these changes is the challenge to monetize content.

“[Digital journalists] still haven’t figured how to generate revenue from content,” said ENCA multimedia editor Lebo Mashiloane.

Innovators are, however urged to be mindful of the challenges of digital journalism start-ups. “Advertisers still choose to spend their money on traditional media,” said Tefo Mohapi, founder of digital communications company iAfrikan. Additionally, the art of journalism has moved from simple content generation to brand development.

Furthermore, the founders of the incubator hope for it to be a space that gives disadvantaged communities access to digital information.

“Kids from the townships have no role models in the digital community,” said Dwolatzky.

Ultimately, the incubator seeks to develop a new group of future journalists and bring new innovation to African content producers.

The opportunity will be open to innovators across Africa.


Wits Vuvuzela, Digital innovation in Braamfontein, August 14, 2015