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City Press, Independent Media share partnership, product success stories

By Jessica Spiegel

INMA

Portland, Oregon, United States

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By Jalisa Haggins

INMA

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

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Every field has its “brass ring,” a goal that’s highly prized and can be difficult to achieve. When it comes to publishing, one such brass ring is a project that all partners count as a huge success.

On day two of the INMA Africa Media Summit, sponsored by the Google News Initiative, attendees heard from head of content for AdSpace 24, Gayle Edmunds, about just such a content project — one that continues to make the publisher, the client, and the audience equally happy. Matt Knosi, Independent Media’s national executive of sales and marketing, also shared their successful partnership with a local fast food franchise.

City Press’ Money Makeover project benefits both partners

AdSpace 24 is the sales and marketing division of Media 24, South Africa’s leading media company, and City Press is Media 24’s flagship news platform. Together with one of the country’s big banks, Absa, they created the “Money Makeover” project. The project won first place on the continent in the recent INMA Global Media Awards 2022.

Gayle Edumonds, head of content for AdSpace24, explained the Money Makeover project.
Gayle Edumonds, head of content for AdSpace24, explained the Money Makeover project.

Edmunds explained that Money Makeover, which is in its sixth year, delivers financial literacy education in a different way. The project selects six City Press readers and pairs them with six Absa financial advisors “for an intense six-month financial bootcamp.” It’s educational, of course, and it’s also a contest — participants must reach a series of financial milestones throughout the programme and there’s a cash prize to one winner at the end.

“Everyone has heard money management advice,” Edmunds said, “so to make it more impactful we wanted to create engaging storytelling to model good financial habits.” Not only do the participants learn financial literacy, the entire City Press audience learns along with them through stories that are published regularly on different platforms throughout the six-month programme.

“The idea is to move beyond dishing out advice,” she said, and, instead, “model how everyday people, representative of readers’ stages of life, could — in as little as six months — rewrite the narrative of their financial freedom.”

The programme has three objectives that benefit both Media 24 and Absa, the sponsor:

  1. To spread financial literacy to a broad audience using authentic reader experiences.

  2. To position the bank’s experts as accessible to the audience for all their financial needs.

  3. To demystify money to improve everyone’s habits to plan for and live their best lives.

To ensure success with such a complex project, “a dedicated project team executes more than 175 touchpoints across platforms and brands” to find audiences where they are, including print, social media, videos, virtual events, Webinars, and podcasts, Edmunds said.

Before the pandemic, she said they used to hold live in-person events. The pandemic forced the shift to virtual events, but she said, “in a way, that’s even better because it gives even more people access to the valuable information and insights shared.”

Edmunds explained that selecting contestants from the pool of applications that come in is, in part, about their stories.

“We look at candidate stories” in the application process, she said, “because we’re looking for a storytelling thread that will resonate with different segments of City Press readers, people who are at different phases of their financial life.”

Eventually, the winner of the competition is also selected based on strict criteria laid out at the start, including hitting the aforementioned financial milestones as well as participating on social media.

Some former contestants have gone on to become brand ambassadors for Absa in the bank’s advertising and speakers at their events, so the sponsor is able to repurpose some of the content for their own platforms. One former winner even went on to run her own radio series on financial literacy

“It’s a content project that really adds value along the whole chain, from the publisher to the sponsor to the audiences.”

Four things that made the project a success.
Four things that made the project a success.

The programme’s value goes beyond anecdotes, too, Edmunds said. They have an open rate of 25% on newsletters about Money Makeover, for instance, and a CTR of 0.53. The call for applications for the 2022 edition went out in May, and within the first 24 hours they already had about 11,000 people engaging with it.

“This shows the project has a snowball effect,” she said, gaining in popularity every year because it creates “tangible changes to peoples’ lives. It’s not just a one-time event, it’s life-changing over a long period of time.”

Edmunds stressed that it’s easy with partnership projects like this to end up with a product that doesn’t provide value for all parties. If it’s a vanity project for a client or simply a revenue-generating project for a publisher, it may not work well for everyone involved. It’s important to have honest and frank conversations with partners at the outset, she said, to make sure everyone shares the same goal — delivering value to the sponsor, publisher, and audience alike.

“Every group involved in Money Makeover are beneficiaries,” she said. “It’s great content for the publisher, especially when newsrooms are stretched thin and this is content that earns its place on the news diary.” Plus, it’s “useful and relevant content to the audience,” and because it’s an authentic message from the client they’re able to “reach the audience's heart.”

The project's results were impressive.
The project's results were impressive.

A project like this would simply not be possible without the sponsorship from Absa, Edmunds said. It’s a significant revenue project for City Press each year. She’s quick to add that in a perfect world in which money wasn’t such a constraint on newsrooms, “this is the kind of project we would do anyway, which is a nice way to think about content projects.”

She also stressed the importance of working with experts. Money Makeover started because the inbox of City Press’ personal financial editor was overflowing with readers requesting financial advice.

“Working with experts brings real value to what we’re doing,” she continued, adding that “journalism is full of experts” — who may not always know how to put certain expertise to use.

Independent Media partners with fast food franchise to create “Nuggets of Wisdom”

The Independent Media in South Africa used collaboration and innovation to create new revenue from a non-traditional partnership with a popular fast food franchise called Chicken Liken.

Matt Knosi, Independent Media’s national executive of sales and marketing, shared how the Nuggets of Wisdom campaign was born.
Matt Knosi, Independent Media’s national executive of sales and marketing, shared how the Nuggets of Wisdom campaign was born.

The franchise was set to come out with their new bite-sized chicken nuggets called “SoulBites.” Independent Media decided to jump on the opportunity to collaborate with Chicken Licken with an out-of-the-box campaign concept, Knosi  said.

Chicken Licken doesn’t typically advertise via print or digital. They traditionally advertise on television or have outdoor advertising campaigns.

Independent Media created a campaign called “Nuggets of Wisdom,” which they hoped would complement both the media company’s brand and Chicken Licken’s brand. Independent Media began to feature small pieces of information, knowledge, and insight in a variety of their stories.

Knosi explained: “The nuggets of wisdom are very easy, straight to the point, little, and really insightful, easy advice for South Africans to navigate Mzansi’s trickiest situations.”

The nuggets were meant to be a series of entertaining, bite-sized pieces of soulful advice followed by a call to action promoting the franchise, Knosi said. The main question his team considered when deciding how to create an impactful print campaign was: “How do you get a brand that is so used to motion and big and out there and bring it back into print and actually have a very impactful and technical newspaper campaign?”

Knosi’s team did have a budget limitation, so they chose to focus on the right target market. The team began looking at current news stories across their publications to find opportunities to feature their nuggets of wisdom.

“Because this is a series, we wanted to touch on each and every part of print,” Knosi said, showing examples of how their nuggets of wisdom were incorporated across a variety of stories, from lifestyle to sports.

The campaign was shared on Facebook and Twitter.
The campaign was shared on Facebook and Twitter.

It was important the nuggets of wisdom didn’t infringe or take away from the value and gravity of the stories they were featured in, Knosi said. To promote these nuggets of wisdom, they turned to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share the campaign.

The revenue results were impressive.
The revenue results were impressive.

Revenue grew over 360% compared to the previous year, Knosi said. The media company generated more engagement due to added value: “We had to harness the power of added value, which is giving the client what they want within the guidelines and finding some space around it to actually give them something that they need.”

Complete coverage of the two-day summit can be found here.

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