August winds in South Africa are a lovely reminder of the winter that has passed and a reason to look forward to the warmer temperate spring that September brings. This past month was also a reminder of the difficulties that the country is facing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the health and economy of South Africa. 

For the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) August was a reminder of the resilience that is inherent in the program’s participants. As the month came to an end SAMIP held a panel discussion, hosted by property entrepreneur Lynette Ntuli, that focused on women in the media. The panelists were all women (both participants of our program and outside of it) who had a wealth of experience in the local media industry. 

Some of the topics raised in this discussion included the pivots that women in the media have had to make in the wake of the pandemic; their daily inspiration that has helped them weather the storms brought on by the pandemic; an the unexpected opportunities that have been opened up during the pandemic. 

gsport awards go online 

For the past 12 years the gsport Awards and Hall of Fame have been a highlight for women’s sports in South Africa. The red carpet would see female athletes of all ages and members of the women’s sports industry congregating to celebrate themselves and women’s sports which receives less attention than their male counterparts. 

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing all live events either to go online or be postponed indefinitely. The gsport Awards and Hall of Fame was no exception. But this did not deter gsport for girls co-founders Kass Naidoo and Ryk Meiring who pivoted the awards into an online event that will be broadcast by major sports channel SuperSport on the evening of Monday 31 August. 

The awards are also expanding by adding new categories that will be aimed at highlighting sportswomen on the African continent and beyond. This is in line with gsport’s goal of expanding their efforts to celebrate female athletes across the globe. 

SAMIP events & highlights 

What it takes to build a podcast in the global south? 

In the last few months we’ve seen a definite uptick in podcasting in and around the SAMIP family, but there was a frustrating lack of information on the business of podcasting for our contexts. It was clear ‘market insights’ from North America and elsewhere couldn’t be applied to South African media organisationsSo we brought together some of the brightest podcasting minds in our networks, to share their experiences and insights. 

The results are now available as a write-up here, and in a special episode of Rutendo Nyamuda’s The Podcast Sessions. Check them out, share them around, and let us know what you think. 

Product thinking in the newsroom – what’s that about? 

Journalism as a product may sound like a new concept but is one that has been around and relevant for a long time.  

According to Cindy Royal’s paper on product management in journalism and academia media products now encompass both internal and audience-facing initiatives, including the organization’s website, special project and event sites, mobile applications, data visualizations, podcasts, newsletters, bots, artificial intelligence projects, and other applications. 

But how do newsrooms develop a product-thinking mindset, how do they go about incorporating product-thinking with their current and new projects and what does a well-run product look like. 

It was with these questions in mind that SAMIP held a webinar on product-thinking for newsrooms. The speakers in the webinar included Anita Zielina, who is the director of strategic initiatives at the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism, ICFJ product mentor for Facebook’s Digital Accelerator Nuno Vargas and Daily Maverick’s CEO and publisher Styli Charalambous. 

A low-key birthday celebration

August also marks the three-year anniversary of SAMIP’s launch in 2017. The program’s beginnings were marked by a celebration at Constitution Hill where Open Society Foundation president and former United States diplomat to South Africa Patrick Gaspard spoke about the need for independent media. 

Since then SAMIP has gone on to meet that need by funding and supporting independent media in South Africa. This is a mission that the program continues to do with pride. 

Participant highlights & events 

 Daily Maverick launches a newspaper 

While the media industry moves towards being digital-first and only, SAMIP participant Daily Maverick took the opposite approach by developing and printing a new weekly publication called Daily Maverick 168 

While the move looks counterintuitive, the team at Daily Maverick had undergone a long thought process and utilized product thinking to develop this new publication. Daily Maverick’s unique business model, that incorporates a membership plan that SAMIP helped fund, was also what allowed this digital publication to create an analogue product. 

WAN-IFRA shines a spotlight on The Continent 

On the other end of the spectrum SAMIP participant Mail & Guardian developed a digital publication called The Continent that is being distributed via WhatsApp across the African continent. The publication was the brainchild of M&G Africa editor Simon Allison and M&G editor-in-chief Sipho Kings who came up with the idea for the publication after received pirated copies of The Sunday Times and other South African publications on WhatsApp. 

The story of the publication and its innovative distribution strategy is covered in a piece that was published by the World Association of Newspapers and was written by SAMIP editorial consultant Pontsho Pilane. 

Media Hack’s crowdfunding adventure comes to an end 

In late July Media Hack Collective had reached their R30,000 crowdfunding goal within 30 hours of the campaign starting. It was an incredible achievement for the team who had set out to raise a small sum of money to help pay for unexpected costs relating to the interactive dashboard they had created to monitor the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa. 

Media Hack Collective ends the month-long campaign after raising close to R60,000 – double the amount they had set to achieve. The dashboard continues to be used and showcased by ordinary citizens and organizations in the country. It recently was mentioned during a webinar on gym safety that was run by local media aid company Discovery Health.   

Participants build up women’s voices in media 

During August two of our participants ran media masterclasses aimed at upskilling women and young girls interested in pursuing journalism careers. 

Quote This Woman+ hosted a women-led media masterclass under the banner of #NoVoiceLeftBehind. The class focused on how women+ can build their own brands and ensure women’s expertise is reflected in news stories. 

On Sunday 16 August gsport for girls’ media masterclass took place. The Momentum gsport Awards Media Masterclass featured experienced ICC and SABC cricket commentator, Natalie Germanos, Metro FM and SABC Sport presenter, Lebo Motsoeli and sports PR and sponsorship consultant, Lona Benya. 

The goal of the event was to encourage young women to pursue careers in sports media. 

Other highlights 

 Sikuvile Journalism Awards nominations 

Daily Maverick and Mail Guardian were among the finalists for the annual Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards that were announced in August.  

Some of the work the publications have been nominated for included: 

  • Daily Maverick investigative reporter Pauli van Wyk’s reporting on the VBS Bank scandal; 
  • Mail and Guardian’s feature on the death of toddler at Bosasa’s detention centre; 
  • A photo-series by Mail and Guardian on police brutality during the early days of South Africa’s national lockdown; 

Volume and KAS Media launch a podcast  

Podcast production company Volume was commissioned by KAS (Konrad Adenauer Stiftung) Media Africa to produce a podcast that is the spiritual successor to their Media Diaries podcast that was done in conjunction with SAMIP. The new podcast, Africa Media Thermometer, examines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on African newsrooms. 

 Stokvel Talk’s probes the Covid-19 affected funeral industry 

The pandemic has not only affected the way we live but also the way we pass on and are laid to rest. Stokvel Talk hosted a webinar, in collaboration with Calgro Memorial Parks, on the impact of the pandemic on the funeral industry and burial societies. The webinar featured guests who spoke on how stokvel members can announce, hold and finance safe funerals for their loved ones. 

As we enter the last month of the third quarter the program looks forward to another month of progress and achievement with our participants and our mission of accelerating innovation and transformation in South Africa’s media landscape.