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Publishing for WhatsApp? Here are three great ways to do it

With 90% of internet users active on its app, WhatsApp is the biggest social networking app in South Africa. It’s bigger than Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook. So it’s no wonder that publishers have turned to WhatsApp as a way to reach audiences.

The South African Media and Innovation Program (SAMIP) recently hosted a webinar on using WhatsApp for publishing, where three innovative WhatsApp projects showcased their work.

  • Gustav Praekelt, founder of Turn, presented on the COVID-19 HealthAlert service, a WhatsApp-based information helpline that was piloted by South Africa’s Department of Health in March 2020. The platform is now used by the World Health Organisation and several other national governments, with over 20 million users worldwide.
  • Paul McNally of Volume and Africa Check’s Kate Wilkinson presented on the distribution of What’s Crap on WhatsApp, a fact-checking podcast that’s packaged for mass distribution on WhatsApp. (Each episode is a 5-minute voice note, broadcast to nearly 5000 users over WhatsApp.)
  • Simon Allison and Kiri Rupiah of the Mail & Guardian showcased their experimental publishing of The Continent, a new weekly newspaper that packages high-quality reporting from across Africa into a format that is easy to read and share over mobile phones. (Inspired by Zimbabwe’s 263Chat, it’s designed to look like a high-quality broadsheet, but laid out on a PDF the size of a folded postcard. Every article is trimmed to about 250 words.)

Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion.

It doesn’t have to cost you (but you get what you pay for)

Gustav unveiled two main options for most businesses – WhatsApp SMB (WhatsApp for Business), a free option that is limited to businesses with fewer than 5000 users, and WhatsApp Business API, a premium option with a starting cost of about $200 per month – with potentially unlimited audience sizes.

In just a few short weeks, Turn’s HealthAlert app – built on the premium WhatsApp Business Api – garnered over 7 million users in South Africa.

By contrast, the What’s Crap team maintains a community of nearly 5000 subscribers using the free WhatsApp for Business app. Every subscriber is added manually to a set of broadcast lists (with a built-in limit of 256 members per list); each subscriber must also add the What’s Crap account number to their contacts in order to receive messages sent via broadcast list.

Screenshot of HealthAlert app

Automation isn’t for everyone

The principal benefit of WhatsApp Business API, other than its unlimited audience size, is automation. Turn’s HealthAlert service is being used by the World Health Organisation with 10 million users – Gustav estimates that this audience is being supported by about 10 people. However,  bots can’t do everything.  “If you have a model where you really need to support people, you should have one human operator for at least 1000 of your end users,” he says.

Certainly, the manual option requires some manual labour.

Kate says Africa Check had to hire extra help to maintain What’s Crap’s subscriber database during lockdown. Every time a broadcast message goes out, a human operator needs to scroll through the list of contacts to look for the classic ‘single tick’ sign of non-delivery – and engage that user to ask them to add What’s Crap’s number to their contact list.

Though What’s Crap is reaching the 5000-user limit for its WhatsApp for Business account, Kate says they are unlikely to migrate to the WhatsApp Business API: the main limit of the platform, aside from cost, is that it does not allow for broadcast – which is the very purpose of the project.

Make it personal

“WhatsApp is a very personal communication mechanism,” says Gustav. “Broadcast can be conceived of as being spamming, whereas one-on-one interactions can work very well.”

The personal touch is one reason why the small M&G team behind the Continent team has opted for an even more manual form of distribution. Every edition is sent out to WhatsApp users individually, one at a time. (Users can also subscribe via email or download the edition from mg.co.za/thecontinent, and Kiri also sends editions to a few discerning users over Signal.)

This is in part to avoid WhatsApp’s very sensitive block rates (“Not even 1%; 0.01% blockrates can get you flagged,” says Gustav).

The What’s Crap team also relies on personalised interactions with their users as a basic part of their project. Users are encouraged to submit dodgy messages and media that are circulating on WhatsApp, giving Africa Check’s fact-checkers a unique insight into what kind of disinformation is circulating in private, encrypted networks.

“Lots of people discuss WhatsApp as a distribution mechanism, where you’re sending content out, but we also use it as a way to gather information,” says Kate.

Get creative to measure engagement

While the hefty pricetag of a WhatsApp Business API platform comes with detailed analytics and audience insights, users of the no-cost options have to make do without. What’s more, WhatsApp’s content encryption means that publishers have very little insight to what happens to their message once it’s out in the wild: there is little way of knowing how many people share it, and with whom.

The What’s Crap team tries to get audience feedback by sending simple questions out to users. Users were asked to rate the latest episode on a simple emoji scale: thumbs up, thumbs down, heart, or poop. It was mainly thumbs ups and hearts, says Kate.

For The Continent, Kiri says they have built one sneaky engagement feature into the newspaper itself: a news quiz, buried on page 19 of the paper.

“The quiz is not just a brain teaser. The quiz is to see how far into the content people are going,” she says. You won’t find the answers to this week’s quiz in next week’s edition – the only way to get the answers is to send a request, via WhatsApp, to The Continent’s account.

Clearly, whatever they’re doing is working. In just four weeks the mobile-first newspaper has garnered thousands of subscribers across Africa.

Subscribe to each of these innovative projects on WhatsApp:

SAMIP’s participants top the charts and empower citizens

South Africa has now been under lockdown for 60 days with no end in sight. Despite the odds, the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s participants have continued the hard work of reporting the news and creating innovative products.

In this week’s episode of Food For Mzansi’s weekly podcast, Farmer’s Inside Track, the digital startup speaks focuses on the importance of indigenous crops. Qinisani Qwabe, an agricultural researcher and soybean farmer, speaks about his love for indigenous vegetables – traditional crops that have been family favourites for decades. Farmer’s Inside Track recently reached the top of Apple Podcast’s business and entrepreneurship podcasts.

Media Diaries highlights Hashtag Our Stories’ new kind of journalism

This week’s episode of Media Diaries: Covid-19 Edition looks focuses on Hashtag Our Stories, a citizen journalism organisation that has gathered together a global network of storytellers, trained them to use their mobile phones to create videos, and post them on social media platforms for millions of people. This series started 8 weeks ago when the lockdown began and it’s still not over. With any luck, there will be a second season.

Empowering you when getting into a lease agreement

Not Yet Uhuru’s latest episode of What’s Love?! focuses on one woman’s struggle with residential harassment. What’s Love?! is a feminist podcast series that empowers South African women with knowledge about love, money, and economic equality. In this episode, financial expert Magauta Mphahlele helps Melanie deal with getting harassed by her neighbour. A must-listen for anyone who is getting into a lease agreement!

Public-health star Dr T part of a growing community of women

QuoteThisWoman+, a non-profit committed to getting more women’s voices heard in South African media, now offers a database of more than 70 expert women’s voices to help journalists understand the impact of COVID-19 on our society. Their latest newsletter profiles gender commissioner, medical doctor, and author Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng.

Appreciating frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Frontline workers are working hard to take us out of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, The Daily Vox profiles Bhelekazi Mdlalose, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders assisting in the government’s contact tracing programme.

Coronavirus in South Africa dashboard

As of 22 May, South Africa has conducted over 525 000 tests and recorded over  19000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. There have also been 369 deaths and 8950 recoveries. Media Hack Collective’s Coronavirus in South Africa dashboard has all the latest update on COVID-19.

Women’s voices are highlighted by SAMIP participants during lockdown

As South Africa entered lockdown level four last week Friday, with a slight easing of restrictions on movement and economic activity, SAMIP participants have continued their work, documenting aspects of life under lockdown.

This week’s Media Diaries: COVID-19 edition podcast features Quote This Woman+ (QW+), a media organization committed to getting more women’s voices heard in South African media across a wide range of subjects. In this episode, Volume explores what it takes to change the media landscape, particularly with how QW+ represents women, and how they deal with the cold during the lockdown in KwaZulu-Natal. In the past few weeks, Media Diaries featured SAMIP participants, #SMWX, Scrolla, Food For Mzansi, Media Hack Collective, and Health e-News.

Keeping up with the COVID-19 hygiene protocols

More people returned to work on Monday and the taxi industry saw an increase in activity under the lockdown level four restrictions. Health-e-News, a digital health news organization reported on the challenges faced by the public transport sector in South Africa in keeping up with the COVID-19 hygiene protocols. The health news media house reported that taxi industries in the Free State, North West, and Limpopo are adhering to hygiene regulations while others are facing challenges such as passengers not wearing masks and shortage of sanitizers.

Showcasing acts of kindness

SAMIP participant Hashtag Our Stories (HOS), a mobile Journalism organization that aims to share global stories from people’s perspectives introduced a COVID 19 kindness series. The series will showcase how people are making a difference in combating COVID-19 challenges. The first video shows how volunteers in Cape Town and Durban distribute meals to the homeless to fight hunger during COVID-19 and social distancing.

Keeping track of the COVID-19 numbers

COVID-19 infection numbers are expected to increase during the lockdown level four period that started on Monday. More people are expected to go back to work as an attempt to slowly open the economy. Media Hack Collective (MHC) data journalism and digital storytelling organization launched a Coronavirus in South Africa DASHBOARDduring stage five of lockdown and continues to provide the updated COVID-19 national and provincial confirmed cases, deaths and test conducted in South Africa.

Engaging people in official languages that are underserved

Scrolla joins SAMIP participant Igunundu Press in publishing news in a vernacular language. Scrolla is a news start-up that redefines the mobile-first user experience by publishing investigations in a series of short updates that are posted daily. Scrolla initially published news in English and this week the mobile-first media house adds isiZulu to its platform. Scrolla launched an isiZulu channel on Ayoba.

Myth-busting and fact-checking Covid-19 in South Africa

As this piece is being written South Africa has just been informed that the national lock-down that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa more than two weeks ago has been extended by another two weeks meaning that the country, it’s society and economy will continue to be shuttered.

This move, whilst dire for all, is a bold one. And in this time of uncertainty rumors, myths, disinformation and misinformation are bound to rise in volume and distribution.

In this space SAMIP participants such as The Daily Vox are trying to counter false narratives with information. This week the youth-site published a myth-busting piece that looked at some of the most commonly shared false stories around Covid-19 such as the fact that it’s just like the common flu, spraying alcohol and chlorine on one’s body to combat the virus and who is the susceptible to the virus.

Volume, in collaboration with Africa Check, is hard at work on fact-checking mis- and disinformation on WhatsApp through their ‘What’s Crap on WhatsApp’ WhatsApp channel and podcast. This week they dispelled the following rumors on the chat app:

|FACT FLASH| Here’s “What’s Crap on WhatsApp?” today:

🔒 This photo doesn’t show Kenyans waiting for the coronavirus curfew crackdown. It’s from 2011. READ: https://bit.ly/3aZqCe0

🇺🇸 Did former US president Obama warn Africans against coronavirus vaccines? No! READ: https://bit.ly/3c0sRxv

🔎 Find all our coronavirus fact-checks in one place: https://bit.ly/3dzSN4E

💩 Listen to previous episodes of “What’s Crap on WhatsApp?” on our website: www.whatscrap.africa

Critical and missing information on demand

The lock-down has also caused a lot confusion for South Africans: from when people can leave their houses to access services to the ramifications of having to shelter in place.

Civic technologists Open Up SA released an innovative product for South Africans looking for information on evictions during the lock-down period.

The Soul City Institute for Social Justice also tweeted out information on where vulnerable people (especially women and children) could go should they need to report abuse of power by the police and gender-based violence.

How to shoot video in a pandemic

With the lock-down in place journalists and newsrooms are considered essential services and have the privilege of getting around where others can’t. But if you’re a small newsroom or start-up without the proper press credentials you may find yourself relying on user-generated content which comes with its own trade-offs and pay-offs.

Hashtag our Stories will be hosting a webinar on 15 April where co-founders Yusuf and Sumaiya Omar will be discussing how you can cover a global pandemic like Covid-19 without leaving your home.

In the masterclass, Hashtag Our Stories show participants how they are reaching millions of people with Covid-19 stories created entirely with user-generated content.

Feeding the nation and loving in a time of Corona

While most of us are sheltered in place other essential workers such as retail store workers who stock and sanitize our shops as well as farmers and farm workers are keeping the supply chains moving in order to make sure we can still purchase food during the lockdown.

Agri-business news site Food for Mzansi shone a light on those people who keep our shop’s shelves stocked up with the essentials we need during this time. Food for Mzansi is the subject of episode 3 in Volume’s podcast series on media workers and media work during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also meant disruption in our relationships and episode 2 of Daily Maverick’s recently launched podcast ‘Don’t Shoot the Messenger’ looks at how the lock-down has impacted people in terms of separating them from their loved ones.

At this point no-one knows when the lock-down will end and how the world will look when the pandemic is over. But throughout it all journalists and newsrooms, like the ones in our program and beyond, will do their best to keep everyone informed and educated.

‘No skop, skiet and donder’ but police act with impunity during lockdown

Things are heating up in South Africa as the country enters its first week of a national lockdown during which the government announced the first five deaths as a result of the Coronavirus. The memes have slowed down to a trickle as people begin to grasp the full extent of the damage to the country’s economy, health sector and civil society as a result of the Coronavirus.

Throughout all of this the South Africa Media Innovation Program’s (SAMIP) participants have been hard at work reporting on all of the happenings in the country.

Police brutality comes into the spotlight

With the country going into lockdown the police and army were called up to help manage citizens and their movements. But incidents of abuse of power, by the police, are starting to proliferate on social media.

Investigative journalism start-up ViewFinder published a data story documenting incidents of police brutality that have been an issue even before the lockdown was announced and are now on the rise as members of the police act with impunity.

Mail & Guardian Africa editor Simon Allison and Amabhungane investigative reporter Micah Reddy reported on plain clothes police officers beating up members of the public with shamboks (whips) in order to compel them to observe the rule to stay indoors.

Coronavirus fake news spreads

One of the biggest challenges facing the country in terms of managing the outbreak has been the spread of fake news about the novel Coronavirus on social media platforms and chat apps like WhatsApp.

Online publication Daily Maverick reported on the growing number of fake news stories that are being shared online.

Volume, in collaboration with Africa Check, has been hard at work dispelling myths around Covid-19 such as rumors of Interferon alpha-2b, an antiviral drug used in the treatment of HIV/Aids, being a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus.

According to Volume’s latest ‘Whats Crap on WhatsApp’ podcast WhatsApp voice notes are easy to produce and share, and have become the go-to format that people are using to spread misinformation and disinformation around Covid-19.

Testing on the rise but it is difficult for some

The South African government has been praised for its efforts, especially on the testing front, in fighting the spread Covid-19. But on the ground testing hasn’t gone as smoothly for everyone.

The Children’s Radio Foundation produced a story that was broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) about a South African who came back from the United Kingdom and struggled with getting a test for Covid-19 even after showing symptoms of the virus.

Mobile news platform Scrolla reported on the first patient from Alexandra (a Johannesburg township) to be diagnosed with Covid-19. Scrolla has partnered with local radio stations and mobile operators in order to share their ground-level reporting on Covid-19 in South Africa.

Innovating around Covid-19

Agri-business publication Food for Mzansi used the opportunity presented by the national lockdown to increase their daily news reporting whilst also looking for new angles to present to their audiences. Some of the pieces they published included a list of 21 recipes that people could try out during the 21-day lockdown.

On an international scale, mobile video producers Hashtag our Stories used virtual reality to host a discussion between Italian teenagers who talked about life under quarantine in their country.

In the world of women’s sports, gsport for girls featured an interview with Bosnian American basketballer Indira Kaljo. Gsport discussed with Kaljo on how she is keeping a healthy mind and body during lockdown.


And continuing the podcast series that was launched last week, Volume has released the second episode of Media Diaries. In this week’s episode the story focuses on Media Hack Collective who developed a data dashboard on Covid-19.

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.

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.