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Back to the future for Daily Maverick as it plans print title

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Back to the future for Daily Maverick as it plans print title

Daily Maverick 168, a new weekly narrow broadsheet, will make its debut towards the end of September.

It launches during a torrid time for South Africa's print titles, with most cutting staff and or salaries in response to the falloff in print advertising during the COVID-19 crisis.

The name, Daily Maverick 168, reflects the number of hours in the week, and "possibly how long it'll take to get through all the great journalism we're providing", Charalambous told us.

Styli CharalambousStyli Charalambous"People have called us many things in our time, but being conformist isn't one of them. One of our grounding philosophies has always been to take the core principles of journalism and try to marry digital practices to them to make them better serve our audiences. This is no different."

WAN-IFRA: Why are you launching a print edition? Is this about dwindling digital advertising? Or readership?

Styli Charalambous: It's no secret digital advertising is a tough game where the winners have already been decided.

We need to find alternative ways to generate and diversify our revenue but mostly this about better servicing of our readers and their needs.

"Our research shows that print as a medium still has a place – 80% of our readers and 80% of the biggest digital news consumers in the country still regularly read a newspaper, but many of them don't pay for it," – Styli Charalambous

We looked at the data through a different lens applicable to our situation and came up with a model that we feel will work.

Why now?

Because we love a challenge! This is an idea that we've been kicking around for five years now, but our growth in the last two years needed to be capitalised on. So we set on this course in earnest about a year ago and when the pandemic hit we re-evaluated all our strategies and decided the fundamentals are still strong enough to proceed.

The growth of our membership plan has also meant launching new products is less risky as we have a receptive and engaged audience for them.

Who is your target audience?

Firstly, our most active and loyal readers and members. We produce so much content these days that it's easy for them to get overwhelmed.

We want to provide them with a weekly news service that gives them fresh content and the most important stories of the week that's finishable, shareable and mobile.

"Along with our existing digital readers, we are also looking to grow readership by working with our partners, the supermarket chain Pick n Pay, with whom we've designed an innovative distribution model," – Styli Charalambous

By accessing the most advanced and largest loyalty programme in the country, we're aiming at those members who've bought newspapers and magazines in the past.

Pick n Pay loyalty cardholders will get a 100% discount on the cover price, and we'll be driving our readers to their stores to collect free copies. In return, they'll help us market to their members to reach a critical circulation number quickly and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional launch marketing campaign.

What day of the week will you publish and what format have you chosen?

It's a weekend product distributed on Saturday mornings. There'll be enough content and evergreen material to keep readers busy until the next edition or even if they pick it up weeks later.

We've opted for a narrow broadsheet, designed with at home readership in mind. We are aiming for 40 pages and we'll gauge reader feedback and the economics of this page count as we go.

Where will you print? Will distribution be national?

We're printing in Johannesburg and Cape Town to start, but depending on reader demand have the option to expand to Port Elizabeth and delivery to Durban from Johannesburg.

We're launching with a voting campaign where prospective readers can vote on which Pick n Pay store they'd like us to launch with and from those results we map out the data and decide which locations make the best sense for us. Whose idea was it, and how did the conversation start?

How was the decision received by your team?

It's something we've considered for a long time given how the long-form journalism that we're known for lends itself to print.

"The initial reaction from our team was the same as external – that we're madder than a bag of snakes. But once we've explained the research, our model and that print still commands more than 10% total ad spend share, people come round to the idea," – Styli Charalambous

You are planning to use data and technology to aid your launch. How?

The voting process will allow us to capture prospective readers' email addresses and their preferred locations for starters.

This will allow us to market directly to them ahead of print publication and provide us with information and demand for each store that will help us reduce returns.

We'll also be working with Pick n Pay to see what shopping trends we can glean from our readers who swipe their cards and how that can help with ad sales.

"Having email addresses of every reader also helps us with post-printing surveys and feedback and engagement with our readers. Since moving to a membership model we've embraced engagement in every part of our organisation, and it will play a big role with the newspaper if it is to be a success," – Styli Charalambous

Have you got commitments from advertisers for the launch period?

We're on a digital roadshow now with prospective clients, trying to secure three-month launch commitments and working with our existing digital advertisers to bundle print into their next campaigns.

It's a tough time for the market that dropped 70% in April, so we have to work with the buyers as they come back into the mix.

Are the print costs an issue?

Printing costs are surprisingly affordable thanks in part to the willingness of our printers who want to see us succeed.T

There aren't too many print titles coming to market, so they've been really helpful in working with us.

What lessons are you using from being a successful digital publisher?

The one good thing about being born into the digital native firestorm is that we were forced to run leaner and can produce more quality content than many other publishers. That's in our DNA now, and for the last 10 years that pressure has been a disadvantage for us.

"Now we're able to turn that all around with a digital-first business that can do everything remotely and has a ready-made audience we can access for next-to-zero marketing cost," – Styli Charalambous

Our marginal cost of producing the entire paper is 10 new people with printing and distribution, which is why we can afford to trade cover price for a jump start in circulation.

We also don’t have to worry about the “us versus them” issues that arose for traditional publishers who were faced with digital transformation issues. Coming at it from the other way around has helped us see this as a product-funneling exercise that can complement our existing digital efforts. 


Cherilyn Ireton's picture

Cherilyn Ireton


2020-07-30 13:13

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