SAMIP participants’ blockbuster bi-weekly update

As we enter the final quarter of the year things are about to get busy and this can be seen in the amount of activity from our cohort of participants.

Food for Mzansi launches a TV show

Digital agri-news platform Food For Mzansi set out into a new frontier, with the launch of their TV show Vir die Liefde van die Land (“For the love of the land”). The show is hosted by FFM co-founder Ivor Price and agri-business manager Piet Potgieter, and is broadcast on DSTV. [LINK:

Tackling race in the media

#SMWX founder Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh has partnered with SAMIP to produce a four-part YouTube series unpacking issues of race in the media. The first two episodes featured journalist and media scholar Pontsho Pilane, and political analyst Eusebius McKaiser:

#SMWX is a video channel focusing on politics, culture and current affairs from a youth perspective. Mpofu-Walsh appeared on eNCA to discuss the ongoing video series.

The future of podcasting in Africa?

The World Association of Newspapers’ (WAN-IFRA) write-up on the growth of podcasting in Africa features the work of two podcasting outlets in the SAMIP family: Volume co-founder Paul McNally and Shandukani Mulaudzi, a producer for Children’s Radio Foundation. The two joined a panel discussion on the topic at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Africa conference last month. [LINK:]

Both Volume and Children’s Radio Foundation also featured in the latest edition of The Podcast Sessions magazine, in an article on strategies for financing podcasting businesses in South Africa and beyond.

Bringing news to new mobile audiences

Scrolla, a bilingual (isiZulu and English) mobile-first news platform has continued delivering local and international news to under-served audiences: from the trial of a policewoman charged with killing family members for insurance fraud, to a teen in Nigeria who builds cardboard superhero outfits went viral on social media.

Stokvel Talk goes back to the printing press

Stokvel Talk, a media company serving members of the South African financial cooperatives known as stokvels, has returned to a print edition of its free community newspaper. For the past few months, the company had focused on publishing digital editions of the newspaper, due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. While Stokvel Talk has demonstrated it can successfully pivot to digital, the resumption of printing is a hopeful sign for South Africa’s return to a new normal.

Data stories: how coronavirus spread through SA

Data journalism outfit Media Hack Collective has turned their months of Covid-19 data into an interactive timeline on how the pandemic spread through South Africa. It was published by health reporting group Bhekisisa, and Health24.

Championing women’s voices

Last week QuoteThisWoman+ director Kathy Magrobi spoke at the African Investigative Journalism Conference 2020 in a session on the challenges facing women investigative reporters.

In its ‘Our Voices’ newsletter series, QW+ team member Christina Schild wrote a moving piece about a series of artworks about gender-based violence by Capetonian artist Emma Leslie. Lizette Rabe, a member of the QW+ community of experts, published a piece on the importance of mental health, marking Mental Health Awareness Month.

Tips and resources from the SAMIP family

• Volume’s latest newsletter includes lessons on creating quality podcasts and audio voiceovers in a pandemic – read it here and subscribe at
• Children’s Radio Foundation has produced a toolkit on tackling Covid-19 stigma, to help its youth reporters and radio stations in how they cover the pandemic, and a toolkit on its approach to Remote Outreach and Campaigns to 16 community radio stations.
• Youth outlet The Daily Vox published a handy guide to “fighting fake news on the family WhatsApp group”

September comes and goes for SAMIP

The month of September is Heritage Month in South Africa. This is a month in which all South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their unique backgrounds, cultures and religions. September also marks the last month of the third quarter and the beginning of the end of the year. 2020 has not been short of surprises, challenges and highlights.

With the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) having marked its third year of existence in August we are now into fourth year of the program and we have developed a new culture with our cohort of participants.

SAMIP participants celebrate Heritage Day

Our participants marked Heritage Day with special reports such as The Daily Vox who looked at the real issues South Africans should be paying attention to during this day, including the background of the public holiday and the role that food plays in celebrating our shared heritages.

gsport for girls also celebrated the different cultures present in South African women’s sports and all the female athletes that are flying the country’s flag high around the world.

Daily Maverick published several opinion pieces on the topic of Heritage Day and South Africa’s history with the national holiday as well as human rights in the country.

SAMIP hosts POPI info session

During September SAMIP also hosted on information session on the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) in order to explain the legalese behind the Act and what is relevant for our participants to ensure they’re protecting their audiences’ data.

SAMIP leaned on our partnership with TouchBase Pro, an email and SMS marketing vendor based in South Africa, who helped take our participants through Touchbase’s new user manual on to ensure direct marketing practices are compliant with the POPI Act.

Daily Maverick goes to print

SAMIP participant Daily Maverick launched their new print product Daily Maverick 168 at selected Pick n Pay stores around the country. The paper was the culmination of a year’s long project that was aided by their membership plan Maverick Insider.

Former SAMIP Advisory Committee member Pontsho Pilane wrote a feature on some of the key innovations behind the title.

WAN-IFRA Digital Media Africa 2020

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) held their annual conference and awards ceremony between 08 and 09 September. Several SAMIP participants featured as speakers and panelists during the conference.

These participants included Kathy Magrobi of QuoteThisWoman+; Verashni Pillay of; Shandukani Mulaudzi from Children’s Radio Foundation, Paul McNally from Volume, Styli Charalambous at Daily Maverick and Ivor Price, Food For Mzansi – each representing their organization’s work, projects, and experiences, and the emerging opportunities and innovations for digital media projects across the continent.

Three of our participants were also named as winners at the WAN-IFRA African Digital Media Awards 2020:

  • Mail and Guardian won Best News Website or Mobile Service for their WhatsApp distributed publication The Continent;

  • Daily Maverick won in two categories – Best Paid Content Strategy, and Best Digital Marketing Campaign for a News Brand, both for its Maverick Insider membership programme;

  • Best of all, agri-news start-up Food for Mzansi won across three categories: Best in Audience Engagement (for the Farmers Inside Track campaign), Best Project for News Literacy (for their citizen journalism project that received funding from the Google News Initiative) and Best Special Project for Covid-19 (for their podcast and audience engagement campaign ‘Thandi and Captain Stay Safe’).

As the month came to a close the program looks forward to the next set of wins from our participants in the final quarter of 2020.

Daily Maverick goes to the presses

With the official launch of a new print title for one of our participants, a shout-out in the New York Times for another, and new products and milestones besides, there’s been no shortage of excitement in the SAMIP family. Here are a few of the highlights.

DM goes to the presses (and keeps winning at podcasts)

This was a big week for SAMIP participant Daily Maverick. On Saturday, the digital news publication officially launched their new print product Daily Maverick 168 at selected Pick n Pay outlets nationwide.

Daily Maverick 168 is a welcome addition to the print industry that has seen long-running publications being shuttered. Former SAMIP Advisory Committee member Pontsho Pilane wrote a feature on some of the key innovations behind the title.

This week the Daily Maverick also released the latest episode of the second season of Don’t Shoot the Messenger, their flagship podcast “telling stories behind stories to provide a new perspective and new insights”.

This week’s episode discusses the battle to use technology to save South Africa’s schooling.  To date season two has been at number one on the “News” category in Apple Podcasts for the last few weeks and is currently at number six for Apple Podcasts in SA.

New York Times highlights Viewfinder’s work

Last week SAMIP participant Viewfinder was featured in a New York Times report on police brutality in South Africa. The Times drew on Viewfinder’s insights on the death of disabled teenager Nathaniel Julies, who was allegedly killed by police in his community in Eldorado Park, and interviewed Viewfinder’s editor in chief Daneel Knoetze on the struggles for accountability in police killings. This is another mark of  the significant expertise that the investigative start-up has established on police brutality since its launch last year; more recently they have shone a spotlight on the injustices perpetuated by the police during South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown.

The Daily Vox reminds us why we celebrate Heritage Day

Youth digital publication, The Daily Vox, joined South Africans in marking Heritage Day with a special newsletter edition. The Daily Vox builds on its tradition of incisive social commentary in the special edition by examining the significance of this public holiday, why we celebrate it, and what people think about the day.

gsport’s global initiative marks an important milestone

Women’s sports platform gsport for girls celebrated the one year anniversary of their international campaign, #Gsportglobal. gsport co-founder Kass Naidoo reflects on their first international sports reporting at the women’s cricket tour in India, their journey and experience, and the Momentum Gsport awards.

Food for Mzansi brings food to aspiring cooks

Agri-business news site Food for Mzansi has started a new weekly newsletter aimed at foodies, Mzansi Flavour. The newsletter features recipes for different diets and interviews with well-known and up-and-coming South African chefs.

You can sign up for the Mzansi Flavor weekly newsletter here.

DM168: how a membership model helped a digital news org go analog

As the news media struggles in its shift from print to digital, Daily Maverick’s bold move from digital to print followed the success of its membership program, writes Pontsho Pilane

In a tumultuous time for the media industry globally, one of South Africa’s most popular digital-first-and-only news publications, Daily Maverick, has drawn international attention with its launch of a print weekly.

Daily Maverick 168 (the 168, according to the team, makes reference to the number of hours in a week) is set to launch in late September, via the country’s second-largest supermarket chain, Pick n Pay. Shoppers who use Pick n Pay’s loyalty card can get their copy at no charge, while other shoppers will pay just over one US dollar (R20).

While the digital brand’s bold plan to go “back into the future” with a print edition has made waves – a pilot edition was released earlier this month, to glowing reviews – the seemingly counter-intuitive move follows the longer-term success of Daily Maverick’s membership programme, Maverick Insider.

Launched in 2018, drawing on support from the Membership Puzzle Project, Maverick Insider now boasts over 13,000 members and covers nearly 40% of Daily Maverick’s growing payroll. This growth is the cornerstone of the new products Daily Maverick has introduced over the past two years. (Membership Puzzle Project’s case study on Maverick Insider reports that the program makes up 25% of DM’s revenue.)

“We’re completely invested in membership as a particularly attractive and potentially successful solution to the sustainability problem that media news around the world have,” says CEO Styli Charalambous.

Charalambous says the newsroom has almost doubled in size over the last two years — another uncommon trend in the media industry, with most of the country’s newsrooms shrinking and even the most popular print titles feeling the pinch. In 2018, the circulation of South Africa’s top-selling daily newspaper, the Daily Sun, dropped by 20% and earlier this year announced it will be scaling back its national distribution and discontinuing its sister paper, Sunday Sun.

The decision to go analog when everyone is going digital is not one Daily Maverick’s team made lightly. “Over the last five years, we have been thinking really hard about what is the best way that we can get our long-form journalism into the hands of people who enjoy it, and print has always been one of the avenues that we felt would be a good outlet for that,” Charalambous explains.

Knowing the outlet has at least 13,000 supporters made the decision to start publishing a newspaper a no-brainer, he adds. Unlike a completely new player in the media industry, Daily Maverick has an established brand, and an existing audience made up of loyal readers and members.

“Our members were the first people we told about Maverick 168. We made it clear that we’re going to need their support in order for it to be successful and sustainable, except that this time it’s not going to cost a cent because of the partnership with Pick n Pay,” says Charalambous.

Partnering with Pick n Pay was a decision of convenience and exploiting an already great business partnership with the brand, he adds. Copies of Maverick 168 are predicted to move from the shelves because the publication’s research has shown that most of its members and readers shop at Pick n Pay.

Charalambous says the partnership with Pick n Pay is also an attempt to reach a new audience — one that may otherwise not buy a weekly newspaper because of their cost.

Maverick 168’s editor Heather Robertson says she had not foreseen having to launch the newspaper during a pandemic, but she’s convinced that Daily Maverick is more than up to the task. “We’re not re-inventing the wheel. We’re going to use our existing resources and exact same staff to provide the content for the newspaper. What is going to be different, obviously, is that newspapers are designed on different programs and need to be laid out, but we’re leveraging on the existing systems,” she explains.

The weekly newspaper has two 16 page sections — one for news, opinion, business and sport, and a tabloid section for lifestyle content. The newspaper will use some of the content that will be on the website through repurposing and repackaging, she explains. But the aim is to have unique front-page investigations that are exclusive to the print product.

For media studies scholar Dr Prinola Govenden, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, a new addition to South Africa’s print titles is a positive development.

“A new newspaper could mean more voices, more perspectives. It could also mean more jobs. However, I do caution that just because there’s another newspaper it doesn’t automatically mean it brings diversity,” says Govenden.

Daily Maverick says it’s going to provide powerhouse experts and quality analysis which is good, but that doesn’t mean providing media coverage and content for the ordinary citizen, or for people with a certain literacy level?” says Govenden.

While debates about the future of print media continue among industry and academic circles, one thing is clear: with its launch into print, Daily Maverick is willing to take a chance that few are willing to – or can afford to. It seems unlikely that this move could have been possible without years of work on building up a community of members willing to invest in the organization and its journalism. Whether Maverick 168 is a success or a failure, it offers the industry new insights that could in the future unlock a viable revenue stream for media producers.

Pontsho Pilane is a freelance writer, and former news editor at Health-e News and the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. She debuted as a journalist at The Daily Vox, where she wrote primarily about gender, race and how they intersect. @pontsho_pilane

A week of wins for SAMIP participants

This week saw a range of awards, honours and achievements for participants of the South Africa Media Innovation Program, as well as a new hard-hitting investigation into police abuses, and an explainer on complex debates about South African cultural identities.

Awards for Food for Mzansi, M&G and Daily Maverick

Several SAMIP members were named as winners at the WAN-IFRA African Digital Media Awards 2020 that took place on Tuesday afternoon:  

  • Mail and Guardian won Best News Website or Mobile Service for their WhatsApp distributed publication The Continent; 
  • Daily Maverick won in two categoriesBest Paid Content Strategy, and Best Digital Marketing Campaign for a News Brand, both for its Maverick Insider membership programme; 
  • Best of all, agri-news start-up Food for Mzansi won across three categories: Best in Audience Engagement (for the Farmers Inside Track campaign), Best Project for News Literacy (for their citizen journalism project that received funding from the Google News Initiative) and Best Special Project for Covid-19 (for their podcast and audience engagement campaign ‘Thandi and Captain Stay Safe’).

Celebrating digital media in Africa

SAMIP participants were also well represented at the WAN IFRA Digital Media Africa virtual conference this week. Among this year’s speakers were Kathy Magrobi of QuoteThisWoman+; Verashni Pillay of; Shandukani Mulaudzi from Children’s Radio Foundation, Paul McNally from Volume, Styli Charalambous at Daily Maverick and Ivor Price, Food For Mzansi – each representing their organisation’s work, projects, and experiences, and the emerging opportunities and innovations for digital media projects across the continent. 

M&G names its 200 Young South Africans for 2020

This year the Mail & Guardian hosted the first-ever virtual reveal of its signature 200 Young South Africans” list. The awardees are featured in a M&G special edition which profiles talented young leaders across a range of fields, from science to the arts. Among the awardees this year was our very own Yusuf Omar, co-founder of Hashtag Our Stories, who was named in the Film and Media category.

Amplifying women’s voices in media

Quote This Woman+ continued its work of building a database of women+ experts as a newsroom resource: this week QW+ eight new woman+ experts on their database, offering expertise on anything from shifts in online learning, to privacy and data protection in Covid-19 contacttracing apps.

Tackling police brutality against children

Investigative outfit Viewfinder published another data-driven expose on the systemic failure of watchdogs to act on police killings of children in South Africa. This follows national outrage after police allegedly killed 16-year-old Nathaniel Julies, who had Down syndrome. Viewfinder reports that this follows dozens of similar cases in recent years, almost none of which led to convictions. 

 Heritage month debate

September is Heritage Month in South Africa, and youth outlet The Daily Vox tackled a heated debate on social media over perceptions on coloured identity in a post-apartheid South Africa. 

Hashtag partners with Facebook to train African journalists

One of SAMIP’s earliest entrants, Hashtag Our Stories, has partnered with the Facebook Journalism Project to run a six-week training course aimed at journalists on the African continent. The Facebook Video Storytellers-Africa will prepare participants to discover story ideas as well as shoot, script, edit, upload and distribute high-quality videos using a mobile phone. Applications close on 18 September and if you are interested in participating just following this link.

The latest from the agri-business industry

This week in the agri podcast Farmer’s Inside Track, Food for Mzansi catches up with a young cattle farmer in the North West, an agri-business banking expert, and a chef with a secret recipe to the perfect home-cooked meal 


New awards nod for SAMIP orgs

WAN-IFRA names finalists for African digital news awards

SAMIP congratulates three of our participants, Daily Maverick, Food For Mzansi and Mail & Guardian, for being named as finalists in the WAN-IFRA African digital news awards. The awards celebrate publishers who deliver unique and original media projects in the last twelve months. The winners will be announced during the Digital Media Africa 2020 virtual event on 8 and 9 September 2020.

Gsport4girls red-carpet event goes digital
This week Gsport4girls celebrated women in sports by hosting the 2020 Momentum gsport Awards. This year marks the first time the red-carpet event to honour women in sports went fully virtual. You can catch the repeat of the awards on Supersport Tv and on Gsport4girls’ YouTube channel.

A victory for land justice

This week youth media outlet The Daily Vox reported on a High Court ruling in favour of civil society organisations challenging the sale of public land to a private buyer. The Vox provides more information on the significance of the case for urban land in the future.

Celebrating women leaders and the youth

This week the Mail & Guardian  released a list of ordinary women doing extraordinary things in South Africa; on 10 September the M&G will host a virtual event to release its much anticipated “200 Young South Africans” list.

Podcasting on the art of livestock farming
In this week’s episode of Farmer’s Inside Track, Food For Mzansi speaks to a farmer about patience, planning and practicing livestock farming. The team also shares information and explains the concept of being under or over-capitalised and the consequences it has on agribusiness.

The future of internet shutdowns

Volume produced the final episode of Kill Switch, a podcast that explores the alarming rise of antidemocratic internet shutdowns across the world. The final episode looks interrogates on whether internet shutdowns will spread and continue across the world.

Hunger during Covid-19

Today on News From The Frontline podcast produced by Volume the team discusses food scarcity and fighting hunger during Covid-19 and lockdown.


August winds bring resilience & innovation to SAMIP

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. 

Celebrating Women In Media

Next Monday SAMIP will host a panel discussion on women in media, looking at the opportunities and obstacles for women leadership in the sector. Our host Lynette Ntuli will speak with Kathy Magrobi from QuoteThisWoman+, Khadija Patel from The Daily Vox; Shandukani Mulaudzi from Children’s Radio Foundation, Dawn Noemdoe from Food For Mzansi, and communications expert Carol Mohlala. To attend, register here.

Media Hack’s crowdfunding campaign ends with a bang
Data journalism start-up Media Hack ended its 30-day crowdfunding campaign this week, netting over R60,000 from 189 users in support of their ongoing Coronavirus data dashboard. This result is double their original funding goal. The coronavirus dashboard will continue to be updated with the latest Covid-19 cases, infections, recoveries and deaths numbers, as a vital public service.

De-stigmatising living with a disability

One of the top stories this week from youth outlet The Daily Vox is a powerful personal essay by Thembelihle Ngcai, sharing her experiences with disability and dating as a disabled woman.

Amplifying the voice of women in media

Quote This Woman+ continues to amplify the voice of women in media. Their database of experts gives mainstream media access to people to interview and quote. The database has more than 300 credible experts in different fields. This week they include an expert on the Mauritian oil spill.

SAMIP participants’ podcasts

This week, podcasting start-up Volume brought out a new episode of Kill Switch, continuing their focus on internet shutdowns and digital rights violation across the world.

Volume also brought out a new episode of African Media Thermometer, looking into the effects the pandemic on newsrooms and misinformation on health issues.

Food for Mzani’s Farmer’s Inside Track discusses the benefits of agritourism, especially post covid-19.

This week SAMIP also published a reflection on the business of podcasting in sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on the experiences of experts from across the region, including several within our cohort. Read it here.

Lessons on podcasting for Sub-Saharan Africa

What does it take to build a sustainable podcast in the global South?

Maybe it’s just that we’re all stuck at home, but it feels like there’s been an exciting uptick in podcasting among the cohort of media organisations in the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP). It’s part of what we hope is a continued deepening and maturation of the medium in African media spheres. But what does it take to build a successful and sustainable podcasting enterprise in these contexts, when so much the discussion on podcasting is focused on North America and Europe?

To get the conversation started, SAMIP hosted a roundtable discussion featuring expert voices from our own cohort and the industry to share reflections on what it takes to reach sustainability with their podcast products and companies on the African continent.

You can also catch the discussion in a special episode of The Podcasting Sessions, hosted by Rutendo Nyamuda:

But while we’ve got you reading, here are a few things we learned.

Don’t wait on advertisers

Selly Thiam, from None On Record

The first thing that becomes clear is that some of the best podcast producers in Africa don’t see much prospect for advertising revenue for their shows. No African podcast is going to “brought to you by Audible”, or, or SquareSpace.

“In the beginning, there was a pressure for us to try to have a for-profit model for what we did. But that model wasn’t going to work, at least not yet, not here,” says Selly Thiam, the founder and director of None on Record, an LGBTQ-focused media organization based in Kenya, and host of the AfroQueer podcast. The show has picked up international acclaim for its storytelling of LGBTQ experiences across the continent (it was recently featured in the New York Times). But advertising – not so much.

“Even when we were approached to have someone sponsor advertising on our show, it ended up being something like $300. For the season! That was our first idea of how much money we were not going to be making through advertising.”

The success of AfroQueer allowed them to launch AQ Studios and raise grant funding for three new shows, which are due for release later this year.

The other panelists shared Selly’s view that a simple ad-driven podcasting business is a huge challenge in our parts of the world. This led the panelists and the organizations they run to experiment with different revenue models for their podcasting efforts.

Listen: Selly Thiam

Make someone else’s podcast

Paul McNally, from Volume

Volume’s co-founder, Paul McNally, says the start-up has developed its expertise and revenue in helping other organizations and brands produce their own podcasts.

McNally is no stranger to the difficulty of getting advertising even onto successful shows. His true-crime podcast Alibi was syndicated on national radio in South Africa and received international recognition (the show’s first season appeared alongside Serial and S-Town on Mashable’s self-explanatory “best true crime podcasts of all-time” list).

“That was kind of heartbreaking,” he says. “And over the course of this year, we have got to this point where we don’t want to do podcasts which aren’t bringing in revenue… we couldn’t actually afford to plunge resources into an editorial product which wasn’t making any money.”

Instead, Volume has specialized in helping business and organizations create custom podcasts.In the last few months alone, Volume produced a string of high-quality social-justice shows for grant-funded civil society organizations: Kill Switch, a show about internet shutdowns; Access, a show about inequality in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and of course with SAMIP, Volume produced Media Diaries, documenting through a series of WhatsApp voice notes how small media organizations were adapting to South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Volume’s work hasn’t been limited to the non-profit sector, however. They also recently helped one of the biggest law firms in South Africa launch its own legal podcast.

Listen: Paul McNally

The medium as the revenue

Kathryn Kotze, Daily Maverick

Daily Maverick’s Kathryn Kotze says the expertise and distribution platform the organisation built up for its in-house podcasts may have created a revenue opportunity in distribution.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger is Daily Maverick’s flagship podcast, hosted by prolific columnist Rebecca Davis. But, says Kotze, even after a successful first season, high production values, and the built-in audiences that Davis and Daily Maverick can bring to the show, commercial sponsorship hasn’t come automatically.

“Even with a sales deck and numbers and analytics and graphics and something that advertisers can listen to, it’s still a difficult sell,” she says. “We’ve had a lot of interest, but nobody’s actually signed on the dotted line yet.”

However, Kotze says they noticed that despite being on all major podcast platforms, 50-70% of their listens were still generated through an embedded web player on Daily Maverick’s website.

“So, we know that the success of our podcast hinges on our audience listening through our platform, which has led us to redesign and redevelop how we distribute it,” she says. That meant developing custom article layouts that look more podcast friendly, and redesigned HTML elements for their newsletters that made clicking through to the podcast as easy and appealing as possible.

“We see there are a lot of corporates who are very interested in podcasting, but what they’re interested in is conveying their own message in their own podcast,” says Kotze. She says Daily Maverick is exploring the possibility of using their IP and tech platform to serve a distribution channel for commercial podcasts looking to get out to market.

Listen: Kathryn Kotze

Building a quality MVP for commercial partners

Michal Rahfaldt, The Radio Workshop

The Children’s Radio Foundation’s (CRF) podcasting entity, the Radio Workshop has a mixed revenue model – grant funding and for-profit – which has given them “a bit of runway” to experiment and research. “Key to any kind of deal or monetization is a good product,” says the CRF’s Michal Rahfaldt. “A lot of the production decisions are actually business decisions on the ways in which we’re going to make sure we have a quality product. We also have put a lot of energy into doing research on podcasts, markets, and business development models.”

Podcasting may be a nascent form in many African media spheres, says Michal, but there is no shortage of storytelling expertise. CRF has built up a network of storytellers and journalists in the region – the kind of person who’s a fan of podcasts and might have a pet project but doesn’t yet have the skills or the platform to bring it to life in podcast form.

“So, our model is soliciting pitches from these contributors and working with them to shape their story for our podcast, where they work with one of our producers and also an experienced podcast editor, which is key.” says Michal. “They get paid for what they produce for us at market rates, but also get a hell of a lot of training and mentorship, and some support on their pets projects.”

In developing podcast-specific expertise, Michal says CRF has sometimes looked for skills in unusual places. For example, they’ve worked with hip hop producers and beat makers to train them in sound design for podcasting.

“In terms of business sustainability, we really need to make sure that we’re building specific podcast roles across Africa, across languages, editors, sound designers. We’re trying to think creatively about people who are already playing similar roles in other media institutions that could be amazing in a podcast role with some tutelage,” he says.

Listen: Michal Rahfaldt

Don’t rule out the donors

Ramsey Tesdell, Sowt

Jordan-based podcasting company Sowt has also developed a mixed-revenue model for their organization that relies in part on donor funding. This is something that they have in common with None on Record who’ve also relied on grants as a source of revenue for their operations.

“Grants are a good part of our business. Model service grants and contracts are another part. And then the third part that we’re working on right now, is listener revenue,” says Sowt co-founder and director Ramsey Tesdell.

Part of Sowt’s success in attracting listener revenue has been their ability to get listed in the top podcasts within the region they operate in. According to Ramsey this is something anyone can achieve by getting in touch with their regional representative for major podcast platforms (i.e. Apple Podcasts and Spotify) for advice and to market their product.

Listen: Ramsey Tesdell

It’s going to cost. A lot.

Irrespective of where the revenue comes from, each of the people who spoke to said aspiring podcast makers should be sure to realise that producing a high-quality show is going to take serious resources, and the resulting product may not pay for itself anytime soon.

Michal Rahfaldt, from the Children’s Radio Foundation, advised on setting a budget early on and tracking both the spending against that budget, and the investment of people’s time on the project: “Try to track how much time each staff person is really to spend willing to spend on each show. That will help you get a better idea of what shows actually cost the most.”

Selly Thiam, from None on Record, cautions that the costs of narrative-based shows are particularly high. “Our next show is a bit more of a chat cast, and the budget is maybe 20% of what we spent on AfroQueer,” she says. “We are smarter in terms of looking at different kinds of shows that we can produce for a quarter of the budget, and actually are probably going to be profitable much quicker.”

In fact, Selly says one unexpected result of the Covid-19 pandemic has been to limit the amount that her team could travel to produce their more research-intensive shows. “That has actually saved us quite a bit of money. It’s been a bit of a blessing in disguise in terms of having us forcing us to sort of fine tune our production.”

One thing that was certain from the discussion: there are many ways for podcasting to succeed in an African media context, and none of them will look exactly like what’s brought success to podcasts in the United States, Canada or Europe. But the conversation, just like many African podcasts, is just getting started.

You can also hear this panel discussion as a special episode of The Podcast Sessions, hosted by Rutendo Nyamuda:

SAMIP participants report on SA moving to Level 2

On Saturday 15 August, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be moving to Covid-19 Alert Level 2. Since the end of March and through to July the country had been under levels 5 and 4 which had the most stringent restrictions on movement and economic activity in the country.

The move was welcome one as the country had been experiencing a harsh economic fallout that saw many people losing their jobs, businesses shuttering and citizens going hungry. Throughout all of this our participants have kept reporting on the pandemic and the consequences (both good and bad) of our government’s response to it.

From the start of the pandemic Media Hack Collective developed an interactive dashboard that initially kept tabs on the infections and recoveries from the virus. It has since grown into a fully-fledged project that includes insight and analysis of the data as well as a weekly newsletter that explains the data in layman’s terms. If you would like to receive their newsletter you can subscribe to it here:

Daily Maverick and Mail & Guardian top Sikuvile Journalism Awards finalists

The finalists for the annual Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards were announced this week. SAMIP participants Daily Maverick and Mail Guardian were among the finalists with Daily Maverick being nominated in two categories and Mail and Guardian in a whopping seven.

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

  • 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;

The awards will be held in a virtual event on 15 October.

Stokvel Talk hosts webinar on the effects of the pandemic on funerals

One of the most difficult subjects that South Africans (and people around the world) have had to grapple with has been how to hold safe funerals for their loved ones during the pandemic. The national lockdown imposed restrictions on the way people congregate and for black South Africans, whose customs and traditions require a lot of face-to-face interactions, this has posed serious questions and concerns.

In light of these questions 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.

New content

Several participants released new episodes of podcasts and features this past week.

The latest episode of Volume’s podcast series on the state of media on the African continent, African Media Thermometer, came out on Thursday. This episode looked at sustainability and innovation in African media during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Food for Mzansi’s weekly podcast, Farmer’s Inside Track, continues to highlight the wins and challenges being faced by people in the South African agri-business sector. This week’s episode highlighted a young entrepreneur from the Eastern Cape and tips for agripreneurs.

One of SAMIP’s newest additions, Zonotho, provides young professionals with the financial literacy tools and advice they need to make optimal decisions. For those fortunate enough to be able to buy home in these tough economic times they published a brief guide on the costs (both upfront and ongoing) when it comes to purchasing a property.