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What happened in April & May at SAMIP

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a challenging year for us all. South Africa went into a nation-wide lockdown at end of March and life has not been the same since. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted all industries and for media it has been likened to an extinction level event.

At the start of the month we saw the closure of Associated Media Publishing, the publishing house behind Cosmopolitan SA, House & Leisure and Women in Wheels.

But despite this disruption people still need news media and it is because of that need that the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) continues its mission of accelerating innovation and transformation in South Africa’s media space.

Sheltering in place but still working

SAMIP began remote work in the middle of March. At that point the program had plans to travel to Nairobi to attend Africa Podfest, the first pan-African podcasting conference which, like most major events this year, has been indefinitely postponed.

Since we began our remote work set-up and we had to pivot our operations and plans for the program and its participants. This started with the program offering immediate support and authorization for the re-purposing of grant funding that had been awarded to go towards activities and functions related to the effects of the pandemic.

Like most remote operations we’ve had to also optimize our communications both internally and with our participants and since April we’ve made sure to be in constant contact with our participants through online channels including Slack, email, and Zoom calls.

Reference groups help build our knowledge-base

The program began a series of reference groups that invited select participants to engage in a group call where they’d discuss, and debate issues around specific topics related to their industries.

Since the calls began the program has run reference groups on the following topics:

  • Podcasting – 27 March
  • Remote work – 03 April
  • Newsletters – 09 April
  • Media sales and rate cards – 17 April
  • Online events – 24 April
  • Digital publishing using WhatsApp – 15 May

The reference groups have evolved from being once-off discussions to being an additional step in planning out events, workshops and training for capacity building.

Events, workshops and training

Over the last two months the program has had to change our in-person workshops and training into a series of webinars in keeping with the lockdown guidelines implemented by the South African government.

From the end of March, we held the following webinars:

Newsletters – 14 April 2020

SAMIP held an advanced newsletters webinar for our participants as well as invited quests from outside the program. The goal of the webinar was to take a deep dive into what would make an organization’s newsletter go from the spam box to the top of the inbox.

The speakers that shared their insights during the webinar included: Arena Holdings reader revenue lead Julia Harris, and managing editor for digital Riaan Wolmarans ; Daily Maverick newsletter editor John Stupart and product manager Rowan Polovin; and Inbox Collective consultant Dan Oshinsky who also runs the monthly newsletter Not A Newsletter.

Media sales strategy webinar – 21 April

On 21 April Burn Media general manager Carl Davis led our cohort and invited guests through media sales strategy webinar aimed at taking them through the ins and outs of developing a sales strategy, pricing their products and closing sales meetings.

Online events webinar – 05 May

We organized a webinar on online events for our participants which was appropriate for the times we’re experiencing with in-person events no longer being possible for the foreseeable future. The webinar saw organizations that included Daily Maverick, Mail & Guardian (M&G) and Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism sharing their experience from organizing successful webinars and virtual events.

Publishing via WhatsApp webinar – 21 May

As publishers look for new platforms to engage their audiences on, we’ve seen a number of them turning to the chat app WhatsApp as a distribution platform. We decided to hold a webinar on using WhatsApp as a publishing platform where our participants got to hear from the Praekelt Foundation, M&G and What’s Crap on WhatsApp (a joint project between SAMIP participant Volume and Africa Check) on best practices for using the platform.

We celebrate the wins, big and small

Over the past two months, on a weekly basis, we have been we highlight the work our participants have done in that period in reporting on the pandemic and its effects on society. The goal has been shine a spotlight on work that is not only monumental but also indicative of how our participants continue to perform in such tough times.

Our participants have managed to produce the following work:

As June begins and the year progresses into new territory, we are evaluating our activities considering the pandemic and our plans for the rest of the year. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue our work as we have seen how important it is.

Podcasting in the age of Covid-19

The events of this past week have been monumental: On Monday 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the South African government was going to lockdown the country for twenty-one days starting midnight Thursday 26 March.

Despite the new state of the nation the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants have continued their good journalism in covering the developments of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The diary of a media worker

On Wednesday 25 March, Volume released the first episode of a podcast series called Media Diaries: this is a podcast about media workers covering the Covid-19 outbreak in South Africa. The podcast is a collaboration between SAMIP and Volume.

“The idea was to do something innovative around Covid-19 and the media,” explains Volume co-founder and director Paul McNally. “How do you do your job as a journalist which needs social contact when you’re supposed to be employing social distancing as a private citizen.”

Listen to the messenger don’t shoot them

Online publication Daily Maverick launched a podcast as well this week: Don’t Shoot the Messenger with Rebecca Davis. The podcast is a look at current affairs through the lens of seasoned journalist Rebecca Davis.

In the first episode, Rebecca interviewed Yale Professor Frank Snowden, who has studied the effects of pandemics throughout history.

Youth, anxiety and the Coronavirus

The Children’s Radio Foundation decided to investigate the effects of the viral outbreak on the youth of the country. The non-profit’s network of youth reporters, consisting of young men and women from around South Africa, shared their feelings about the virus and the lockdown that the country is undergoing.

In a series of vox pops that were collected using WhatsApp voice notes the youth reporters shared their anxiety, sadness and fear about the virus.

Other highlights

The rest of the cohort continued their superb coverage of the pandemic. Data journalism start-up Media Hack Collective saw subscriptions to their weekly newsletter soar on the back of their innovative data dashboard that is tracking the Coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

Health-e News reported on the plans that the South African government has in place in order to fight the pandemic in townships and peri-urban areas where South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens live.

Youth news site The Daily Vox shared some important resources for South Africans to have on hand during the lockdown. The resources included numbers to report gender based violence that many fear will spike as individuals are being forced into quarantine with their abusers.

And on a lighter note mobile video start-up Hashtag our Stories shared a compilation of videos from around the world where people engaged in the #StayAtHomeChallenge meme.

These are just some of the many projects and stories from our cohort of participants who are innovating and transforming the media space in South Africa.

SAMIP participant Volume releases podcast series on SA media & Covid-19

Podcast production company Volume and the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) are embarking on a joint project to tell the stories of media workers during the Coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) outbreak in South Africa.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the country into a spin as the nation comes to grips with a situation the likes of which no one has seen in recent history.

It was in light of this unprecedented situation that SAMIP teamed up with our program participant Volume to produce a podcast series that would tell the stories of journalists who are on the frontlines reporting on the pandemic at a local level.

“The idea was to do something innovative around Covid-19 and the media,” explains Volume co-founder and director Paul McNally. “How do you do your job as a journalist which needs social contact when you’re supposed to be employing social distancing as a private citizen.”

With President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing a national shutdown that goes into effect at midnight Thursday 26 March, Volume got to work conducting interviews with reporters and media workers in several of South Africa’s top newsrooms.

For the first episode of the series (which will be available wherever you listen to podcasts) Volume spoke to reporters and editors from Health-e News, a non-profit that produces news and information on the health sector in South Africa with a focus on communicable diseases.

(for those of you who listen to podcasts via Apple Podcasts the series can be found here.)

“We started with Health-e-News who have a citizen journalism network, and what was interesting in this episode was talking to news editors who felt guilty about sending out their reporters in harm’s way to report on the pandemic,” says Paul. “Some of the journalists expressed concern about using public transport to get around but were still adamant on doing their job.”

Volume, who co-produce the WhatsApp “fake news” podcast What’s Crap on WhatsApp with Africa Check, utilized WhatsApp voice notes as a way of gathering soundbites from media workers. This allowed the production to feel more intimate and authentic.

In this time when digital media is a constant stream of information from a number of sources (both credible and not credible), Paul hopes that the series will reach those who are glued to their Twitter feeds and want to form a story about those sources of information.

“Information without context creates anxiety and I hope that this series will offer some form of catharsis for news consumers wanting to know the people behind the stories,” added Paul.

The series is also aimed at journalists and media workers in order to show them how their peers are reporting on Covid-19 across different platforms and beats and to inspire them to report responsibly on the outbreak.

Once the pandemic clears Volume hopes that the series will act as a time capsule that future generations can open up to understand how media responded to one of the most impactful events of the century.

SAMIP participants get to grips with Coronavirus reporting

The novel Coronavirus pandemic (known as Covid-19) is has had a global impact that finally hit South Africa’s shores in towards the end of February. It goes without saying that this pandemic has already begun changing our way of life.

The media industry, both at home and abroad, has stepped up to provide up-to-the minute reporting on the growing number of people being infected with the virus as well looking for novel ways to cover how this disease has changed how we interact and conduct our day-to-day affairs. Our participants are no exception in this mission to provide innovative and timely news and information on Covid-19.

Media Hack Collective’s data dashboard

Data journalism startup Media Hack Collective (MHC), in collaboration with Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, developed a dashboard this past weekend to keep track of confirmed Coronavirus infections in South Africa.

MHC co-founder Alastair Otter  says that they made the dashboard publicly available on Monday and by that evening there were as many as 100 people viewing the dashboard at any one time.

“Tuesday morning peaked at 200 concurrent users. Now, on Thursday morning, we have just passed 30,000 views of the dashboard, in just under three days.”

The dashboard displays measurements that include daily infections, a breakdown of age groups of those infected and where the virus has spread in the country among other indicators.

For updates on their dashboard and projects sign up for their weekly newsletter.

Notable highlights

Digital publisher Daily Maverick launched a pop-up newsletter on the impact the Coronavirus is having on SA and our government’s response. The newsletter comes out once a day and is a special edition of theirMaverick Insider newsletter that goes out to members of their membership plan.

isiZulu news publisher Igunundu Press has been providing coverage of the viral outbreak in isiZulu publishing several features on Covid-19 in the latest edition of their flagship publication Bayede News and discussing it on their podcast Ikundla Yabantu Radio.

Youth news site The Daily Vox continues to report on the tertiary education sector and in recent days they’ve begun covering how Covid-19 has impacted higher education as some universities close their doors for early breaks due to the virus.

And if you are looking for information on how best to look after yourself during this period Health-e News released a video on do’s and don’ts when trying to prevent yourself from contracting Coronavirus.

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As the weeks go by we will continue to highlight the stellar work being done by our participants and partners as we deal with the Coronavirus.

New Year, New beginnings

January is the month of new beginnings and this year it’s the start of a new decade too. It’s hard to believe that our program has been running for the past three years and we look forward to new year of good work and progress.

At the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) we kicked off the new decade with a new set of additions to our cohort of participants and a reinvigorated mission to transform and innovate in the South African media space.

Kicking off the year to a good start

With the new entrants selected we held our annual kick-off event in Johannesburg where our participants got the chance to present to each other. The presentations took the form of pitches allowing the organizations to showcase their products and services, challenges and successes thus far.

It was inspiring to see how many presentations we had to go through, a testament to the growth of our program which started with nine participants and is now sitting with more than 15 in our portfolio.

During the presentations we got to hear about: how Daily Maverick’s membership plan, Maverick Insider, has grown from strength to strength; Health-e News who celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2019; gsport for girls who launched a new monthly award for news makers in women’s sports; Volume who released the latest season of their true crime podcast ‘Alibi’; and Igunundu Press who are experimenting with multimedia in isiZulu.

2020 onward

2020 promises to be both a challenging and yet rewarding year for us. Our focus over the next 11 months will be on sustainability, revenue generation, podcasting, newsletters and much more. We look forward to seeing it through and seeing you all at events and conferences as we work towards supporting media in South Africa and beyond.

Remember remember, SAMIP in November

The last couple of months tend to be one of the busiest and the same can be said for the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) that is wrapping up 2019 with a series of workshops and training for our participants.

Revenue exploration Prague

In late October, SAMIP participant Daily Maverick attended the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) / Media Advisory Services‘ (MAS) Revenue Lab Conference in Prague, Czech Republic. The workshop was geared towards providing insight and guidance on the latest trends in revenue generation for media companies and to provide a place for collaboration and networking among the participants and follow up after the event.

“Attendance at the Revenue Workshop resulted in exposure to various useful themes that were taken back to the organization along with strategic adoption of key focus areas for Daily Maverick in 2020”, says Daily Maverick publisher Styli Charalambous.

Tools and marketing in Joburg

In November SAMIP hosted two workshops at our offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg with the first being a showcase of Google News Lab’s tools and process by  visiting fellow Eugene Okumu. SAMIP participants were shown various Google products such as their online courses for journalists in areas that include investigative journalism and verification.

SAMIP then followed this up with a day-long workshop led by The Digital Ivy founder Claire Du Preez who guided our participants in developing marketing strategies for their businesses at the SAMIP offices. Delegates from Health-e News, gsport 4 girls, #SMWX, Hashtag our Stories and Not Yet Uhuru were in attendance.

“I’m feeling much more confident about my own methods of marketing, now that I know exactly how and what I should be questioning in my approach to our campaigns,” says Not Yet Uhuru social media coordinator T.K.

Podcasting in Poland

Way further up north SAMIP participants Volume, Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF), and Daily Maverick attended the MDIF/MAS’ podcasting study tour to Agora (the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza) in Warsaw, Poland.

Several media outlets from Asia, Africa, and Europe were brought together to learn more about how Agora has managed to establish a strong podcasting presence in a short period of time with some excellent results that could be very inspiring for others.

The study tour provided an opportunity for delegates to: gain insight into revenue and production strategies for podcasts; how to consider various podcast formats and the resources required to produce each format; approaches to post-production; and audience development strategies for podcasts.

Products thinking in Mumbai

And on the other side of the world we sent delegates from ViewFinder, SMWX, Health-e News and gsport for girls to a two-day workshop in Mumbai, India that again hosted by MDIF/MAS. This time the focus was on content and product design for publishers.

Attendees of the workshop were also taught steps they should take to consider and implement when introducing a new product offering to audiences, advertisers and the internal team.

Each participating organization presented a short presentation on their current work or challenges faced in presenting new offers in terms of growth and scale. Following the workshop was a collaborative exercise of sharing of experiences, advice, and examples of case studies, and best industry examples.

Participant highlights

During this past month CRF was took home silver prize in the Global Youth and News Media category at the News Decoder Awards. They were lauded for their innovative approach to an HIV/Aids comprehension campaign.

As we barrel through the final month of 2019 SAMIP will be hosting a meeting of the Advisory Committee meeting in December 2019 in Johannesburg to select the next round of entrants to the program. To apply for Entry into SAMIP, fill in the enquiry form on the SAMIP website. Follow us on Twitter at @SAMIP_MDIF for updates and more information.

SAMIP warms up the coldest month of the year

July tends to be dominated with news of the Durban July – the eponymous horse race which brings out the fashionistas of the country. But for the South Africa Media Innovation Program it was a month of learnings and innovation.

New voices in podcasting

The coldest month of the year saw the program attending Radio Days Africa (RDA) with several of our participants and partners. The conference is billed as the largest audio and radio themed gathering on the continent, featuring talks by experts both local and abroad.

SAMIP, in collaboration with our participant the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF), brought over three excellent podcast producers and trainers who lead two sessions at RDA on the business of podcasting and a two-part storytelling masterclass for podcasts:



 

  • Selly Thiam who is the director of None on Record, a digital media organization that works with African LGBTI communities across the African continent and the diaspora. Based in Nairobi, their Afro Queer podcast was recently selected to take part in Google’s Podcast Creator program. Selly is also a journalist and oral historian whose work has appeared on National Public Radio, PBS, and in the New York Times. She was a producer for Storycorps, PBS’ Learning Matters, and a Carnegie Fellow at ABC News Investigative Unit.
  • Veralyn Williams is a producer on WNYC’s new show The Stakes with Kai Wright, and has worked on a wide range of podcasting production and radio training projects (WNYC, Slate). Veralyn is also a former youth reporter, and has done numerous training programs across Africa.
  • Eric Eddings co-hosts The Nod at Gimlet Media. He also co-hosted “For Colored Nerds”, an independent podcast about race, news and pop culture. Prior to working at Gimlet, he helped nonprofits and foundations develop digital strategies at Fenton.

After the conference SAMIP held a special round-table discussion with the podcast trainers and several of our participants to figure out how to add new voices in podcasting in terms of revenue, content and distribution.

It was an insightful discussion which featured debates on the role of WhatsApp as a distribution platform, how vernacular languages are under served in the local podcasting space and possible business models to make podcasting sustainable in South Africa.

SAMIP participant Volume got to present their “What’s Crap on WhatsApp” project at Radio Days Africa. The project is a voice note show created by Africa Check in partnership with Volume to fight mis/disinformation that’s spread on WhatsApp and was the winner of the 2019 Fact Forward Innovation Fund for which Africa Check and Volume were awarded a $50,000 grant.

Fundraising for media

During July our participants were also given special coaching by independent consultant Carolin Gomulia. Carolin took the participants through the complexities of fundraising in South Africa, prospecting for funds and how to manage relations between funders and grantees.

This is in line with SAMIP’s goal of helping our participants become financially sustainable by diversifying their revenue streams.

Other important stories by SAMIP’s cohort:

    • Digest used Instagram to explain Expropriation without Compensation https://bit.ly/2SUSnvT
    • The Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Xperience (#SMWX) covered President Zuma’s testimony on State Capture

With July behind us SAMIP is looking forward to a busy third quarter of the year with more additions to the cohort and exploring topics in memberships and audience engagement.

When the youth is heard

June is Youth Month in South Africa. It’s a time when the country is encouraged to think about the bravery of the young people who, on 16 June 1976, put their lives on the line during the uprisings that started in Soweto and spread around the country.

This Uprising is said to have changed the socio-political landscape of the country as the youth fought against the oppressive policies of the Apartheid era.

At the South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP) we are driven to make an impact in the media landscape by empowering the youth with our focus on digital native products and funding projects and organizations producing content that serves underserved communities and indigenous languages.

In the past couple of months the program has on-boarded several new participants that can be seen on our website. These new members of our family showcase our commitment to accelerating innovation and transformation in the local media space.

Independent media thrive in elections coverage

During the month of June two of our participants (The Daily Voxand Daily Maverick) were ranked high in Media Monitoring Africa’s Report on Media Coverage of the 2019 Elections. The report rated news media on a number of factors including the diversity of voices, issues reported on, and the political parties covered by media houses.

The Daily Vox and Daily Maverick got special mentions for being small independent publishers who managed to produce quality journalism in the period Media Monitoring Africa observed.

Young voices speak out

The Daily Vox managed to impress the team at MMA by being a publication staffed by five permanent writers and yet able to deliver engaging content leading up to the elections in May.

The publication ran a dialogue series, sponsored by Telkom, that asked the youth of South Africa to say what issues need to be addressed in the current climate. The dialogue series culminated in a roundtable moderated by The Daily Vox managing editor Sipho Hlongwane.

Our latest addition, the Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Experience (#SMWX), also hosted a youth panel at Menlyn Mall which was moderated by #SMWX host Sizwe. The panel discussed everything related to young people including activism and business:

Diversify diversify diversify

The rest of our participants had a busy month in June as they got advice on how they could fundraise and diversify their revenue streams from fundraising and strategy consultant Carolin Gomilia.

As advertising revenue and digital sales come under strain from shrinking budgets, a struggling economy and the dominance of platforms such as Facebook and Google, it’s more important than ever to look for diverse sources of income.

As the year progresses we will be taking deep dives into the world of podcasting, memberships, audience development and newsletters with our participants. We look forward to updating you all.

A New Dawn in May

May 2019 will be remembered as the month that South Africans went to the polls for the fifth time since we attained democratic freedom in the 1990s. The elections that took place on 8 May went without incident and with journalists and other media professionals being free to report on the events

This past month also saw SAMIP begin working with its newly added participants: GSport4Girls, ViewFinder and #YouthTruth (currently known as #SMWX).

Elections 2019 coverage highlights:

#YouthTruth’s flagship show (The Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh Experience) has been making waves for providing a young voice to political discourse in South Africa.

The show started in March with a build-up to the national elections and stakeholders from the major political parties were invited to participate in a series of interviews.

After the elections, The Daily Vox provided a liveblog of the president’s inauguration, that took place on 25 May, on social media which was highly engaged with by their readers:

In Mpumalanga, The New Era reported on the impact of the results on the provincial political scene which saw the Democratic Alliance being replaced by the Economic Freedom Fighters as the official opposition to the African National Congress (ANC).

Leading up to the elections The New Era provided great coverage of the political in-fighting that had engulfed the ANC.

Getting financially literate

On 20 May the team from Unafundo, a business consulting firm run by Khulekile Msimang and his wife Wenzile Madonsela, trained our grantees on financial literacy and business management skills.

The training was in line with SAMIP’s capacity building initiatives which seek to empower our participants with the necessary skills and infrastructure to become sustainable media companies.

During the day our grantees were taken through the basics of financial reporting, accounting, and developing budgets for small businesses.

As the second half of 2019 begins SAMIP looks forward to working with our growing cohort of participants in innovating and transforming the media space in South Africa. Already there are plans to participate in Radio Days Africa, which takes place in July, and WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Africa conference in September.

Continue visiting our site for more updates on the program and our future plans for our participants and the industry.

Children’s Radio Foundation lands third place in WAN-IFRA Awards

The South Africa Media Innovation Program is pleased to announce the third placement of the Children’s Radio Foundation(CRF) at the World Digital Media Awards, in Scotland last night.

CRF was named a runner-up in the category for Best Innovation to Engage Youth Audiencesfor their WhatsApp Radio Integrationproject after taking home first place in the same category at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Africa Awards in 2018.

The overall winner of the category was the South American WhatsApp verification project Verificado 2018, with the finalists including an American childrens’ daily news app News-O-Maticand The Quint’s, an Indian publication, ‘Talking Stalking’.

WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Awards recognize groundbreaking digital products that engage readers whilst growing revenue and they featured the winners from the 2018 Digital Media Awards regional editions in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and South Asia.

The awards ceremony took place at the end of the 71stWorld News Media Congress in Glasgow, Scotland.