McLeod finds the market online

2012-04-14 15:00

Journalist Duncan McLeod has transformed himself from just writing about gadgets, technology and the telecommunications industry to being a media technology entrepreneur.

His company, TechCentral, provides analysis, insight and information on the world of information and communications technology.

TechCentral has penetrated into a market in which a lot of established media houses haven’t found the niche to make profit. The online publication has grown in leaps and bounds since it was established in September 2009.

It has grown from 35?000 page impressions to 200?000 in just more than two years.

A page impression is generated every time a user views a page displaying Google ads.

TechCentral has yielded exponential growth in traffic revenue. McLeod’s coverage and deep analysis on telecommunications has attracted thousands of viewers. He cites this growth on “the editorial space we focus on is technology, and companies in the technology realm are a bit more aggressive in their spending mix”.

McLeod never considered print media, he said, because of the cost structure challenges. “I felt that the future was in online and considering what was happening in the print media market at the time. A decline in ad print and a lot of publications were going down and online was growing. I saw it as the opportune time to get involved.”

Like many technology entrepreneurs, McLeod bootstrapped his way into business – using his own funds as seed capital. He acknowledges that it is scary and risky as often bootstrapping does not provide enough initial investment for the business to become successful in a reasonable period of time.

This makes McLeod’s success more remarkable as he built TechCentral off a very low base into the most successful online information platform in South Africa – proving that some bootstraps are gold-plated.

“I think the biggest challenge is overcoming the fear of the unknown and taking the plunge,” he said.

He concedes: “It is undoubtedly more risky than being an employee at a company. There is also red tape and legislation when you set up.”

TechCentral provides analysis of the national information technology policy, legislation and comments on the regulatory environment. Companies in the technology space then use his insights as a form of market intelligence.

“South African advertisers have not seen the true value of online media,” he said, adding that internationally there was greater appreciation of the benefits of online advertising. In nations like the US, this development has posed a serious threat to traditional media such as print.

He is convinced that “new media” will take off in South Africa and feels that TechCentral stands well positioned at the threshold of this emerging development. He has hope that when advertising picks up on online platforms, greater success lies in the wake of TechCentral.

A self-confessed workaholic who cut his teeth in technology as a copy editor, McLeod said he has always loved computers even though he initially did not take well to coding. This is hard to believe as he cuts the figure of a typical Silicone Valley executive.

The complexities of being a technology journalist are challenging. Explaining terminology and breaking down figures for the average Joe is not easy, he said.

His love for technology reporting and how South Africa was not seeing the true value of this medium was the catalyst behind TechCentral. It all started while running a blog for Financial Mail, he said.

He attributes the growth of his business to the relationships he made in his career and the quality content.

He has foresight of the evolution of technology in the South African market. The controversial 4G is a subject that he delves into with a bit of unease but enthusiasm. “4G is definitely the future in South Africa.”

With 4G, he said, economic activity would be increased by the speed at which transactions could be concluded.

McLeod is planning to grow his publication with beats like sport.

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