As a digital-only, investigative long-form news outlet based in South Africa, Daily Maverick has made a habit of contrarian moves in the decade of our existence. The launch of our weekly print publication was no different.
Undeterred by the drop in circulation of paid-for titles in South Africa over the last five years, and instead bolstered by the strong circulation of free-distribution publications at the same time, we launched Daily Maverick 168 in 2020.
Aligned with our policy that good journalism is a public service that should be free to all who wish to access it, the Daily Maverick Web site operates without a paywall, and this is a principle that we strove to continue with the launch of a weekly newspaper.
Marketing the launch
Our goals were to:
- Find an audience for a quality weekly title produced by experienced journalists and available for free.
- Reignite the weekend reading ritual where people can engage with quality journalism they trust with a beautiful visual identity.
- Find a sustainable business model to allow us to do so.
The route to that goal was to partner with a national food retailer with more than 8 million registered loyalty programme members. With this partnership, shoppers are able to swipe their loyalty card and get a free copy of the Daily Maverick 168, or, alternatively, pay the cover price of US$1.37. This allowed us to provide the newspaper for free and rely on advertising as a revenue stream.
The newspaper launched with a circulation of 25,000 in late September. By January 30, the circulation had increased by 32% to 33,000, with a low-average return rate of 16%. We have already met our break-even target on two editions and are well-positioned for good growth in 2021 as new advertisers come on board.
Creating a weekend read
From a content perspective, it was important to take into account the weekly nature of the newspaper, incorporating the biggest stories of the week and previously unpublished investigations. For readers, this newspaper would be about reigniting the lost ritual of the weekend read, something that came up strongly in our one-on-one discussions with our team and readers.
Historically, there have been concerns that when publications expand from print to digital, their print audience will see a decline. In Daily Maverick’s expansion from digital to print, we witnessed the opposite, with a growth of 20% in our online audience in the first three months of launching.
Furthermore, we have seen a rise in weekend traffic when comparing the data to the same time period year-on-year. We have managed to leverage our strong, experienced editorial team, and we focused on building a team of young, talented designers to curate a world-class visual experience.