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 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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Those who can, should teach: Online training for Media organizations

Say you are a media owner, editor or content developer with a strong niche and a captive audience. One way to monetize your expertise is online training.

Online learning, or e-learning has grown into a $200 billion industry, with most e-learning being concentrated in healthcare, education, ICT and retail studies. But if you look around you can find e-learning resources on everything from starting a business to making sourdough bread.

e-learning is not just about making money, it’s also about sharing knowledge both within and outside your own organization.

SAMIP held a webinar that featured speakers who are running online training initiatives, including Fray College founder Paula Fray, former brand and product marketing manager at GetSmarter Claire du Preez, Smart Film School founder Robb Montgomery, and Hashtag Our Stories’ Yusuf Omar.

The lessons learned from this webinar include:

Why you should and why you shouldn’t get into online training

Before you jump into launching an online training initiative you need to know why you should and why you should not set one up.

Claire says that there are three reasons why media organizations should not get into online training. Firstly, online training initiatives can be time consuming and expensive to create, maintain and sell with the pay-off from them taking time to show. Secondly, they can be brand damaging if not done properly. And most importantly it’s not worth your while if online training does not fit your existing business.

But for those who believe that online training fits their business model, Claire believes that the following reasons are why you should get into online training.

Firstly, there is huge demand for online training, especially with people from junior to senior level looking for ways to upskill themselves in their busy lives. Online training also offers you a source of passive income once you have it set up and correctly priced. Online training is also a great marketing tool and allows you to position yourself as a thought-leader on specific topics and niches.

Teach what you know

Paula Fray advises media workers to start looking for content by first assessing your skills and finding your strengths and weaknesses.

“Teach what you know rather than trying to learn something and teaching that.”

Paula goes on to say that your training content needs to demonstrate real-world impact for it to be valuable to your target audience. The best strategy is to look for the demand in skills in the industry you are targeting to train (i.e. mobile journalism, data journalism, podcasting) and then marry your current skillset with that demand in order to craft a compelling offering.

Designing your course

When putting together a lesson plan the best advice from the speakers was to pay attention to pedagogical theory, which are theories on how people learn, and use those best practices to develop a formal plan.

“The key is to make sure that your participants’ user experience is a good one because that experience is your brand experience,” says Claire.

A great pedagogy practice to use in lesson development is the ADDIE Model for instructional design which is used for designing and developing education and training programs. The acronym ADDIE stands for: Analyze Design Develop Implement and Evaluate.

Most importantly focus on the outcomes of the course for participants and transitioning from one section to the next. Paula explained how Fray College has experimented with gamification to encourage course completion for their students.

Where to host your course

Online training platforms are a dime a dozen and each come their own strengths and weaknesses.

Platforms like Thinkific, teachable and podia are best used for hosting courses; platforms like Kajabi and Karta provide an all-inclusive business for online training; platforms like Skill Share and Udemy have a built-in audience which you can more easily but are challenging for newcomers who have to compete against a lot similar offerings; and if you are looking for more bespoke solutions you can look at LifterLMS and moodle that give you more leeway in customizing the learning experience.

Know the business and pricing models

Online training has several business and pricing models which can be employed. In the beginning you can develop a co-branded product which would entail partnering with a well-known brand to develop and also market your course. Curated content from experts in a particular field is another business model you can explore. Or you can experiment with a standalone training or white-labelled solutions.

Pricing strategies for your course include: once-off fees that users can pay to access the course content forever; fixed-term pricing which allows participants to pay for course content that they can access for a particular period; memberships and subscriptions are another way to price courses and these are best for recurring revenue; and if you opt for a co-branded course offering you can look at splitting the revenue between you and your course partners.

Be your own hype man

Building a course and then waiting for people to find it organically is one of the biggest pitfalls you can fall into according to Claire. You’ll need a go-to market strategy to create awareness for your course and attract participants to it.

Hashtag Our Stories’ Yusuf Omar says that for people to know about your course offering you need to be your own hype man and take every opportunity to promote yourself and your work especially your online training product.

Robb Montgomery advised that you should build off each online training you develop as they may lead to more opportunities.

Ultimately online training offers media workers and organizations more opportunities to increase their unique selling propositions as well as to potentially add more revenue streams to their businesses.

Pivoting to webinars – 5 lessons for small media orgs

As media organisations race to adapt to life under lockdown, many are turning to online events – to reconnect with audiences, make up for lost revenue, or to establish themselves as agenda-setters on the key questions of the day.

Last week, the South African Media Innovation Program convened an online conversation with four media outlets – the Daily Maverick, the Mail & Guardian, Food for Mzansi, and Bhekisisa, to discuss what they’ve learned in the past six weeks as they pivoted to hosting online events. Yes: we had a webinar about webinars.

If you missed the event, here are a few big takeaways.

1. There’s revenue in them hills

Fran Beighton, who heads up the Daily Maverick’s Maverick Insider community, told us that DM never set out to turn webinars into a revenue-making exercise. The first goal was simply to connect with members. But, she said, once her team started organising events, sponsors quickly came forward – suggesting that even ad spending has dried up across many sectors, advertisers are still looking for somewhere to go. According to Fran, in the weeks since South Africa’s lockdown began, Maverick Insiders has hosted webinars and online discussions that netted anywhere between R0 and R35,000 in sponsorship per event. Their main cost – a R13,000 yearly subscription to WebinarJam.

2. It’s easier than you think

Taahir Hoorzook, CFO for the Mail & Guardian, told us that the organisation understood the need to move to online events – M&G’s physical events had made up 30% of its revenue – but at first they’d been hesitant to dive in. “We overthought it for the first few days,” he said. But after getting quotes from production companies that ran to tens of thousands of rands, the M&G team realised it would have to organise the webinars themselves.

The lesson learned, according to Taahir: “It’s easier than you think.” After getting a trial version of WebinarJam, the M&G hosted its first webinar in late April – a discussion on the psychological impact of Covid19, in partnership with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. Since then, the organisation has hosted at least one online event per week, with commercial partners ranging from the South African Human Rights Commission to e-learning giant GetSmarter.

3. It doesn’t need to cost

While the other outlets opted to pay for webinar software, Bhekisisa hosted their recent webinar with two leading coronavirus experts on an ordinary Zoom call. More than 1400 people tuned into Bhekisisa’s interview with Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim, two of the scientists helping to guide South Africa’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In their input to SAMIP’s discussion, Bhekisisa’s Rosaline Daniel and Gopolang Makou explained how they used rigorous pre-planning, and some of Zoom’s more advanced features, to ensure a smooth-running event that was free from disruption. Ros and Gopolang later shared some of their tips on the Bhekisisa blog.

4. Great things can happen

Kobus Louwrens, co-founder of Food For Mzansi – a digital media outlet catering to small-scale farmers and agribusinesses – shared how #TeamFFM went from complete webinar newbies to hosting a wildly successful event in less than a week. When lockdown hit South Africa, Food For Mzansi had been forced to cancel a series of events planned for a roadshow in April and May. By mid April, they had struck a deal with an agribank to sponsor a half-day online event to discuss how the pandemic would affect the agricultural sector, which would be hosted on GoToWebinar. (Cost: starting at R2000 per month.)

“Expectations were low,” he said – webinars are uncommon in the agri space, and they anticipated a minimum of 70 people attending. In the end, over 1300 people joined the event, a success that Kobus attributes in part to right-place-right-timeness of the topic, and in part to the fact that many of Food For Mzansi’s audiences live in small towns and rural areas that have historically been left out of such events.

5. Experiment, adjust, repeat

Each of these outlets has found a way to make webinars work to their advantage, but that doesn’t mean it’s all gone smoothly. Everyone’s had their share of webinar woes – from dodgy internet connections, to panelists having to cancel at the last minute.

What’s worked for each of them is a willingness to forge ahead with webinars, learning as they go – knowing that every mistake is a lesson for what to do differently the next time.

In the likely event that the world stays socially distant for the foreseeable future, there will be plenty of time to practice.