Starting several years ago, I led PressReader’s expansion into Ireland to grow our international presence and gain access to a large pool of technical talent for our initiatives in machine learning and data engineering.
And finally, on November 16, 2017, it all came to an end, or should I say, a new beginning with the ribbon-cutting ceremony around the opening of our new Dublin office. Together with then-Ambassador of Canada to Ireland, His Excellency Kevin Vickers, our Group CEO, Alex Kroogman, and our new General Manager of PressReader International, Ruairí Doyle, we made a quick and well-orchestrated cut across the green-and-red (naturally) nylon strip, and the new chapter in PressReader’s life officially began.
Left to right: Ruairí Doyle, Alex Kroogman, Nikolay Malyarov
I remember thinking at the time, “My work here is done. Time to get back to my day job!” Little did I know that less than two years later, I’d be living and working in Dublin as the new CEO of PressReader International.
That’s life in a global technology company!
But I’m not complaining. We are living in exciting times at PressReader and growing at an unprecedented speed. And although we’ve done a remarkable job in terms of content acquisition and brand partnerships with thousands of hotels, airlines, cruise & ferry lines, libraries, government & corporate offices, cafés, hospitals, and even retirement communities, it isn’t easy building and nurturing a business where personal relationships are so important.
Which is why I’ve spent so many years on the road and in the air visiting major players in media and business and negotiating thousands of contracts in dozens of countries (one of these days, I should really make a list of places yet to be visited).
Recently, on one of those whirlwind trips around the world, I found myself strolling along the picturesque V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. With the Table Mountain and the famous Robben Island on both sides, there was one of those multidirectional signs with arrows pointing to different cities around the world with the distance to them. One of those arrows was pointing to Vancouver, Canada, sitting more than 16,000 km away (that’s more than 10,000 miles, in case some of you are wondering). It’s hard to get much further away from our head office than that, and that’s not a hyperbole!
Despite the distance, South Africa is one of our largest markets in terms of publisher relations and business partnerships. We grew it through our agent network, which has done an amazing job, but it really hit home to me that it was time to ratchet up our presence here. Possibilities are truly endless there.
I was in South Africa to speak to local publishers at the FIPP Insider, a great event organized by our industry partners. One of my fellow speakers talked about the power of education. He referenced a Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study that found that 78% of South African fourth-grade students can’t read.
Harvard professor Jean Chall in the 1990s led research, which resulted in an arguably oversimplified finding that in K-3, you learn to read, in grades 4-12, you read to learn. It’s oversimplified, because, as is often the case, there’s more to the story. But no one is denying the fact that by the time you reach 4th grade, or roughly 8-9 years old, you really ought to know how to read.
But with nearly 80% of South African fourth-graders being unable to read, what does that say about their ability to learn down the road? What does that say about the future of the country?
The South African government is investing in a six-year program to address this issue, committing to provide every student with a digital workbook, e-textbooks, and other digital content. This is an area where PressReader can offer a lot of help.
And now that we are growing our international team in the same time zone, we will be able to spend more time in South Africa to help students in K-12, colleges, and universities with not just with literacy, but with media literacy which is a global concern.
That’s just one example of the huge potential ahead for me and my growing team of local business development and territory managers. Up until now, we’ve just scratched the surface. But now we can start engaging in deeper conversations with publishing and business partners about collaboration and commercialization in strategic markets and verticals.
I’ve worked out of the Vancouver office for over 16 years, and it’s not easy moving far away from my co-workers and friends, even if in this case, the similarities between the two cultures and even in weather, make the transition very smooth. I love my work there and the amazing team we’ve built over the years. But there is always a silver lining. Handing off the reigns to others in the company opens up new doors for them, and I’m excited to watch them grow and succeed.
We’re on a mission to improve the way people discover stories that matter. Forgive me for saying this, but I love this mission of ours. I’ve always loved quality content and am proud to be working in the company that helps keep journalism sustainable. With our eyes set on expanding into other content sources, I look forward to seeing the difference this will make for our content partners, and, most importantly, readers — readers, who, in today’s world call the shots on where, when, how, and what content they want to consume. In continuing my role as a Group’s Chief Content Officer, I remain deeply excited about the future of media.
And in the new role at PressReader International, I’m excited to be growing the team, as it opens up new job opportunities here, in Ireland, in Europe, and other markets where PressReader plans to deepen its presence. HR is going to be very, very busy! So, yes, we’re hiring… Have what it takes? Drop me a line.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.” And so today, I’m off to the wee land of leprechauns to find new pots of gold! Wish me, “Ádh mór ort!”