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DM168 is here to stay if a high-quality newspaper and a weekend reading ritual are worth the investment

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Styli Charalambous is the CEO and co-founder of Daily Maverick, having joined the effort a few months before launch in 2009. Over the years, he has studied media models and news innovation efforts. He has also helped launch various projects and products within the Daily Maverick orbit.

Everyone said we were crazy, zigging when we should be zagging. But here at Daily Maverick we’ve never really followed the crowd. The signals we focus on have always been those between you and us, in pursuit of providing the most important public service journalism.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Venturing from the digital realm into the challenges of legacy printed media was not something we took lightly. When Covid-19 hit we reviewed our strategy and, most importantly, the needs of our readers, and still the light remained green, although slightly delayed. Our launch model, partnering with Pick n Pay’s Smart Shopper programme, was part of the plan to help us get to a critical circulation as quickly as possible and to get our journalism into the hands of new readers. With their help (and a start-up discount from our printers) we managed to ramp up to 200 stores around the country, doubling the circulation of the launch weekend by the time we hit the peak circulation of 34,000, the maximum that our budget would allow.

One of our core beliefs is that journalism that can change a country should be accessible to as many people as possible, another reason why we opted for the launch tactic of providing a quality newspaper free to Smart Shoppers. And it worked. We welcomed many new readers who were experiencing our journalism for the first time, in a powerful, printed weekly newspaper. Many of our loyal digital readers changed their shopping habits to get their hands on the paper, with 65% of those surveyed saying they made a special trip to do so. In the last quarter, more than 14,000 people redeemed at least every second edition that we published.

We’ve learnt so much on this adventure, the rigours of weekly planning and hard deadlines flexing some new organisational muscles led by a powerhouse editor-and-publisher combo of Heather Robertson and Susie White. Whereas feeding a digital monster has a hamster-on-a-wheel feel to it, the rhythm of print publishing has a ritualistic crescendo building up to the rush of Friday-night filing. And yet, this has not just been about the medium.

What has become clear is the value of offering a curated service, a packaged assortment of journalism seeking to satisfy a range of information needs that is much harder to deliver in a digital world, where filter bubbles and serotonin-hijacking apps mean you’ll never read that opinion piece or wonderful bit of satire that you might on your second flip through a paper. We understand that for a newspaper to be successful it has to be the best collection of insights, exposés and diversion from the too often harsh realities of life. Many of you gave us the thumbs up because you responded that you spend between 45 and 90 minutes with each edition, ploughing through the 80,000 words we publish every week – equivalent to a book.

Now, as our launch phase draws to an end, we must pivot to a traditional cover price model. From 31 July, DM168 will cost R25. We wish we could keep absorbing the cost of print and distribution, but the print market has not rebounded from the shock of Covid-19 and we are still a new title carving out our place. Those of you familiar with our ethos know that we advocate two things – accessibility to our journalism and community. And as we switch to this new phase, there are ways you can help us with both.

 We’re still looking to expand our footprint, so if your favourite Woolies, Spar or Checkers store doesn’t stock DM168 please let the store manager know.

If you work in a CSI/CSR team and would like to sponsor an education drive for schools, libraries or community centres to receive copies of DM168, email us at [email protected]dailymaverick.co.za and let’s talk.

Do your crosswords and sudoku puzzles in pencil and consider passing on your copy of DM168 to someone who might appreciate it but may not be able to afford it.

In the meantime, we will continue to seek out new ways to get our journalism into the hands of as many people as possible, regardless of the medium. Our journalism is free, but unfortunately newsprint isn’t. So DM168 is here to stay if you feel the high-quality newspaper and the weekend reading ritual we provide are worth the investment. We hope you’ll agree that they are. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores until 24 July 2021. From 31 July 2021, DM168 will be available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores.

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All Comments 3

  • To all of you that don’t… subscribe!

    R200 a month is a tiny price to pay to ensure continuation of the quality investigative journalism that DM provides, keeping us informed and ensuring our bad boys keep dancing the dance. Wonderful stuff.

  • Perhaps now I’ll make that trip to PnP and actually lay my hands on a copy. That was such a
    I was alway too late. Anything free is gone before you can finish your morning coffee! I really do hope the ‘early birds actually read the paper before using it to wash windows. DM is a national treasure. About time we all started paying for quality journalism.