Two one-week training courses held in Harare and Bulawayo examined the benefits of media organisations operating as converged content factories in order to reach new audiences on new platforms and generate much-needed revenue.
The course looked at changing audience behaviour in the West and in Africa, focusing on the move by many young people in Zimbabwe to abandon print for social networking, and the potential to reach new audiences in the Diaspora with a portable, personalised and participatory news offering.
Both the Harare and Bulawayo workshops used the case of a fictitious newspaper called The Zimbabwe Daily Bugle, which has rapidly falling circulation figures, high production costs, a tired and overstaffed workforce, and an editorial focus that was unfocused on the needs of the audience.
Using interactive group sessions, the participants were encouraged to act out the creation of a converged news room, define the key roles and responsibilities, identify the target audience, outline the main issues of concern to that audience and design systems for producing content to multiple devices from existing resources.
Media strategy consultant David Brewer, who designed and delivered the course, said the Zimbabwe response was one of the best experienced so far.
"I have run this workshop in several countries, but the response from these Zimbabwean journalists has been one of the most enthusiastic and productive so far," he said.
Mr Brewer went on to explain that it was important that independent, state and community media were present and that they were able to work as a team and in mixed groups.
"Journalists who knew each other but rarely met because they work for competing newspapers, both in terms of revenue and politics, were able to join together. The humour and spirit of journalistic fellowship made the two weeks extremely rewarding," he said.
Abigail Gamanya, the executive director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), which organised the event, said that the workshop was well received by all participants.
"The media strategy workshop came at an opportune time when the media is trying to interface and dialogue with each other in an effort to improve professionalism in the media workplace as well as recognising international standards and trends of doing business. The turnout demonstrates the industry's recognition and acceptance of the efforts of the VMCZ to increase the media's capacity to deliver".
Participants described the course as superb, rewarding, challenging, enlightening and timely and all expressed an interest in a follow up later this year.
The workshop was funded by Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and was part of a joint programme involving WAN-IFRA and The Institute for the Further Education of Journalists (Fojo).
Patsy Nakell, programme manager for WAN-IFRA, said the workshops were about helping Zimbabwe's media managers and senior journalists adapt to changing audience behaviour.
"These workshops were important in terms of building the capacity of Zimbabwe's media leaders through the transfer of skills so that they can work to building strong, well-functioning media based on values the audience can trust."
Johan Romare, Fojo Programme Manager said the course was well received.
"The focus on journalistic content, media convergence and how to make money was highly appreciated by the media houses involved and brought the frontline discussion on the future of journalism to Zimbabwe," he said.
A version of this article first appeared on the website mediahelpingmedia.org.