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 Explain.co.za; 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. https://200youngsouthafricans.co.za/

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 Stamps.com, 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: https://mediahack.co.za/coronavirus/newsletter/

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.

Volume releases podcast on Coronavirus’ impact on newsrooms

Another week and another set of wins for the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants. Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic the program has looked at its cohort has conducted projects and reporting on the virus and its impact on society.

KAS Media Africa, in collaboration with podcast production company Volume, released the first episode of their African Media Thermometer podcast series. The podcast, co-hosted with freelance reporter Elna Schütz, will be focusing on the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on newsrooms. The first episode looks at how misinformation has spread during Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges faced by journalists and fact-checkers, and how to create credible content.

Volume is no stranger to this subject matter having produced a similar podcast series at the start of South Africa’s national lockdown due to the Coronavirus in April this year. Their podcast series, Media Diaries, offered an inside look into how SAMIP’s participants, and other media partners, were coping as the pandemic progressed.

SAMIP participants observe Women’s Day

On Sunday, South Africa celebrated Women’s Day, a national holiday that  commemorates the 1956 march of more than 20,000 to to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws. Two of SAMIP’s participants, The Daily Vox and Quote This Woman+, ran special coverage on the day.

The Daily Vox interviewed Sophie de Bruyn, the last surviving participant of the 1956 march, to understand what inspired her to join the likes of Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu in their fight against Apartheid. 

In their mission to get more women voices heard in the media and to celebrate women, Quote This Woman+ curated a list and profiled 90 gender women experts.

Gsport for girls has been running a month’s long Women’s Month campaign long with the named sponsor of their flagship awards ceremony, Momentum. Throughout the month August they have been highlighting female athletes and sports media experts. On Sunday 16 August the women’s sports platform will be running a media masterclassv featuring International Cricket Council and SABC cricket commentator, Natalie Germanos, Metro FM and SABC Sport presenter, Lebo Motsoeli and Sports PR and Sponsorship leading lady, Lona Benya.

The Continent innovates digital distribution in Africa

The Continent is Mail & Guardian’s weekly newspaper aimed at a pan-African audience and is distributed primarily via WhatsApp. Freelance writer Pontsho Pilane recently published a feature on the publication looking at the WhatsApp distribution strategy that MG Africa editor Simon Allison developed for it, the user experience the MG team created for readers, and the unclear business model WhatsApp distribution channel has on generating revenue for newsrooms.

Ongoing highlights

This week in the agriculture podcast Farmer’s inside track, Food For Mzansi features the agribusiness senior manager at Standard bank Bertie Hamman who shares on the difference between cash flow and profit. Also, the episode features two farmers and details on next week’s Fresh Connections: Southern Africa virtual conference.

The Coronavirus dashboard by Media Hack Collective, which the team has raised more than R50,000 for in a crowdfunding initiative, is still a valuable source of information for those wanting to keep tabs on the pandemic in South Africa. The latest numbers show that more than three million tests have been conducted in the country, 572,865 cases have been reported, with 11,270 deaths, and 437,617 recoveries. The dashboard contains detailed provincial data for Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, North West, and Gauteng.

Health- e-News continues to report on the pandemic especially as the world races to find a vaccine for the virus.


Combatting Africa’s infodemic with a WhatsApp-only publication

The off-label use of WhatsApp as a news distributor has created an opportunity for readers to redefine what it means to have a digital experience, but there’s no clear business model just yet, by Pontsho Pilane.

Together with the widespread of misinformation and disinformation, plagiarised digital copies of some of South Africa’s leading weekly newspapers started making the rounds the first weekend after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa will be going into a strict lockdown at the end of March. While it’s still not clear where or how the breach in the production process happened, being forwarded PDF version of South Africa’s Sunday Times on WhatsApp got Mail & Guardian journalists Simon Allison and Sipho Kings thinking. Additionally, there was a “particularly pronounced” amount of fake news circulating on WhatsApp at the start of the pandemic in South Africa.

That is how The Continent—a Pan African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the M&G—came to life. The PDF publication features news from across the African continent and is easily read and shared on mobile phone screens. The articles are short, on average about 250 words and a news edition is distributed mainly on WhatsApp every Saturday.

“WhatsApp was almost always the source of fake news and that’s when we realised that we had to start thinking very seriously about how we can get our news onto WhatsApp. Sipho and I started asking ourselves what product can we make that can showcase the news that we’re doing in a way that works on that particular medium,” explains Allison who is M&G’s Africa editor and co-founder of The Continent. Allison has become the de facto editor of this new publication and says there hasn’t been any time to set up formal structures because the idea executed within two weeks.

While Allison liked the idea of reading a newspaper on his mobile phone, the pinching in and out to better read was not a great user experienced. “Reading an online article is not like reading a newspaper,” he adds. “It’s a very different experience because a newspaper is curated that stories are intentionally put where they are. We wanted to create the feeling of a newspaper without leaving your house to get it.”

WhatsApp as the perfect medium

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in most English-speaking countries in Africa and it’s sometimes the first app most people download when they get a new smartphone. The platform has garnered interest from various media entrepreneurs looking for ways to reach readers and audience in the most intimate ways. For instance, Zimbabwean publisher Nigel Mugamu started 263Chatan ad-based free news service that distributes articles via WhatsApp groups to thousand of its subscribers— in 2012.

WhatsApp’s drawing card is its ability to reach people in an intimate way. Users are able to control who and how they interact on the app. Media scholars argue that the platform allows large numbers of people to communicate in group discussions like other social media platforms such as Twitter, but in a more private manner where users have more control over who sees their content.  The publication’s cross-border nature also circumvents the power repressive African states may exert over their citizens as compared to other traditional forms of media such as newspapers and television.

According to media researchers, WhatsApp’s encryption means it cannot be monitored and censored in the same ways as newspapers, Twitter or Facebook. “WhatsApp has strengthened the hand of opposition parties and civil society groups that have historically faced repression, and this disrupts the status quo.”

A digital copy is almost entirely uncensorable by authoritarian governments, which has been one of the publication’s unexpected strengths.

“A PDF newspaper can slip past borders and can be shared by people without governments being able to see. Ultimately, that might be the most powerful aspect of this way of publishing,”  Allison says.

A booming business model?

As print media organisations try to find new revenue models for the digital era, monetising these products has been an uphill battle. The Continent is yet to explore any revenue-generating models, at this state the weekly publication doesn’t even carry any advertisements. It’s mostly self-funded with some financial support from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the National Endowment for Democracy. Advertisements are not completely off the table for the publication, but it’s difficult to track the publication’s reach when it’s shared through WhatsApp.

“We aren’t able to track how many people are reading the publication that in the way that you can with websites. But we’re able to find out how people engage with the content through getting feedback from readers,” Allison says.

The Continent has published 15 editions since launching in April and sends a new edition to close to 8 000 of its subscribers (equally split between email and WhatsApp subscriptions) What who are based in about 48 African countries—with most readers in Nigeria, Kenya and the Southern African region, says Kiri Rupiah who is the M&G’s online editor and in charge of The Continent’s digital and distribution unit.

While it’s not yet clear how they plan to monetise the publication, Allion says it’s still early days. “We do believe that this is a model that can generate revenue, but the key stumbling block is knowing how many people we are reaching and finding a way to measure the exponential sharing of The Continent has because of the nature of WhatsApp medium. Those are numbers that we can take to advertisers and get real money.”

The distribution costs on WhatsApp are very low, even when switching from a free-to-use WhatsApp Business account limited to businesses with 5 000 users to WhatsApp API which with an unlimited number using and costing from about $200 per month.

Rupiah’s says manually distributing each edition is time-consuming work, however, it works for them. At the time of the launch, The Continent didn’t have money to register for the WhatsApp, but the apprehension to bots also influenced this choice. “There always needs to be a human in the loop. It’s important to talk to readers so we can gauge how they feel about our product,” she explains.

But relying too much on WhatsApp can be disastrous. In September, Business Insider South Africa was forced to end its daily morning WhatsApp newsletter after the messaging app decided to enforce its terms of service, specifically keeping the platform purely for personal communication instead of bulk messaging.

Whether they like it or not, The Continent will have to switch to bot soon as they creep closer to the 5000-limit on WhatsApp Business. “We’re a boutique service. Not an expensive hotel but rather a mom and pop store where you always go because you know you can trust the quality because you know the people.”

With more revenue, The Continent plan to expand into other languages such as elves KiSwahili or French edition to serve more African reader. It experimented with publishing a story about the current unrest in Zimbabwe in Shona.

Read more

Daily Maverick goes from digital to print

In a move that is sure to turn heads in global media circles, the Daily Maverick has announced the launch of a weekly print newspaper: Daily Maverick 168. The digital media house announced its plan to “go back into the future” with a R20 weekly paper to be distributed in Pick n Pay stores, asking readers to vote on which branches the paper should be launched at. Daily Maverick 168 will be free to all customers on Pick n Pay’s SmartShopper loyal programme.

How students are coping with online learning

This week, youth media outlet The Daily Vox hosted a webinar on online learning challenges faced by university and TVET college students, informed by a survey by Youth Capital on how South African students are coping with online learning.

The Daily Vox also reported on how the 2020 academic year has impacted on NSFAS (the National Student Financial Aid Scheme) and what that entails for the 2021 academic year application. TDV shares the NSFAS timeline of updates from 2019 to date.

Giving voice to those in farming

In their weekly agri-news wrap, Food For Mzansi alerted their audience to key opportunities to be heard on government policy matters: a land-tenure Bill and new regulations on waste management. Though ongoing restrictions on the sale and transport of alcohol continue to impact the wine industry, Team FFM also highlighted the closing day of South Africa’s first ever winery online auction, and a new deadline for entries to the SA Young Wine Show.

In the latest episode of the Farmer’s Inside Track podcast, Food for Mzansi speaks to an award-winning agricultural worker about his journey of success, and gets inspiration from a sheep farmer.

How intellectual property affects your healthcare

In the latest episode of Access, Volume’s new podcast produced with the Health Justice Initiative, host Fatima Hassan looks at the obstacles to access to treatment in a time of COVID-19, and South Africa’s past struggles for access to life-saving medicines.

Coronavirus in South Africa Dashboard

Media Hack Collective has updated the Coronavirus dashboard to include the latest test conducted, infection cases, death and recoveries numbers, and district dashboard for Gauteng, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape.


July sees new entrants & progress for SAMIP

As 2020 progresses and we enter the second half of the year we look back at the month that was and the goings on at the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP).

Towards the end of the first quarter of the year we switched over to remote work and despite being dispersed across the country we have managed to keep up the momentum of the program.

New entrants join our cohort

At the start of the month the program received approval from our Advisory Committee to on-board two new entrants that were shortlisted from the many applications we have received this year.

Explain brings explainer content to the masses

Explain.co.za specializes in explainer news content and was founded by veteran journalist Verashni Pillay who is a former editor-in-chief of M&G. Explain aims to explain the news to local audiences in “fun and engaging ways”. They use entertaining news videos to reach traditionally neglected audiences in South Africa and publish and distribute their content through WhatsApp.

Zonotho promotes financial literacy to South Africa youth

Zonotho is a financial literacy website aimed at young professionals that was founded by university friends Thando Ncube and Benjamin Semugga. The platform aims to provide young South Africans with the financial tools and knowledge needed to make optimum decisions.

The platform was founded by university friends and actuarial scientists Thando Ncube and Benjamin Semugga.

SAMIP delves into the business of podcasting

In the last week of the month SAMIP ran panel discussion featuring speakers from Sowt, None on Record, Daily Maverick, the Children’s Radio Foundation and Volume who were gathered to give their views on the business of podcasting in Sub-Saharan Africa.

At a time when podcasts are becoming more and more common, and the barriers to entry for the podcasting industry are lowered on a daily basis, the time was right for us to look into how media organizations are actually generating revenue from their podcast projects and products.

The panel discussion was well-received and SAMIP is planning a follow-up discussion as we try to find out what it takes to become a sustainable podcasting venture.

Throughout July our participants have launched new podcasts whilst those with podcasts in place have seen them top the charts: Food For Mzansi continued with their chart-topping agri podcast, Farmer’s Inside TrackThe Daily Maverick fills the void in sports with the Maverick Sports PodcastThe Daily Vox’s Critical Stans 2.0 discusses internet culture and online fandoms; Not Yet Uhuru’s What’s Love?! puts a feminist slant on finance and legal advice.

Participant highlights

Media Hack raises R30k in 30 hours

Last week, our friends at the Media Hack Collective launched a crowdfunding campaign for their Coronavirus dashboard, which they have run over the past four months as a public service in open data. Their goal was to raise R30,000 over 30 days – but they raised that amount in just 30 hours.

A week later, they’re at nearly 150% of their goal, with contributions from over 140 users. It’s a testament to the loyal following that Alastair and Laura have created through their Covid-19 data project, which has attracted over 2 million visits since it launched.

Notable mentions:

  • Stokvel Talk, which produces a free community newspaper on stokvel financial cooperatives, continued to show that financial advice isn’t the sole domain of high-end investor publications – they partnered with Nedbank for a webinar on savings strategies and how stokvels can work with the banking sector.
  • Quote This Woman+ grew its database of woman+ voices to nearly 300 members, on news topics ranging from public health and the economy to science and international relations, to change whose voices are represented in the news media.
  • Viewfinder has been getting a lot of publicity as they uncover injustices done by members of our security forces. Founder and director Daneel Knoetze participated in a webinar hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network that examined how open source investigations are conducted on the African continent.
  • The Children’s Radio Foundation ran their listening party as a part of their Menell Media Exchange programme for 2020. The listening party featured the voices from Health-e News,  the Medical Council Research Unit of the Gambia and Mail & Guardian discussing the challenges of reporting on the Coronavirus pandemic.

As we enter August SAMIP will be hosting webinars in the fields of product development as well as many more aimed at women in the media with August being Women’s Month in South Africa.

Throughout it all we will continue our mission of accelerating innovation and transformation in South Africa’s news media.


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