In a world of fierce competition for people’s time and attention, newsrooms are always looking toward the next project or initiative that will drive readership and engagement.

July 18, 2018, would have been former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. News24 jumped at the opportunity to do something fresh and unique to celebrate Madiba’s legacy and draw in readers.

After weeks of brainstorming, the editorial, marketing, product, and commercial teams launched Mandela 100 to celebrate Madiba by honouring 100 young South Africans who embody the characteristics he was best known for: leadership, vision, compassion, resilience, and creativity. 

Having spent most of his life in prison, separated from his children and grandchildren, Madiba had a particular soft spot for youth and youth issues, so the News24 staff felt he would have approved of the Mandeal 100 project.
Having spent most of his life in prison, separated from his children and grandchildren, Madiba had a particular soft spot for youth and youth issues, so the News24 staff felt he would have approved of the Mandeal 100 project.

We invited News24’s 6+ million readers to nominate and help us find these special, young South Africans age 35 and under from all walks of life. Entries had to explain why the nominees stood out in one of the five categories.

We received more than 1,000 entries of young people doing the most remarkable things to uplift their communities or help other people. Like Aaron Greenblatt, age 9, who drove a nationwide campaign through which he donated more than 24,000 pairs of socks to orphanages, places of safety, old age homes, and the homeless.

Or 25-year-old Reabetswe Ngwane, who owns a company with her sister in Johannesburg that transforms discarded tires into valuable products.

And Dr. Mukovhe Phanguphangu, age 28, from the small town of Thohoyandou, who champions for children with hearing disabilities and conducted valuable research and fundraising for surgically implantable hearing devices.

 

With editorial flair and technical brilliance from our product engineering team, we built a beautiful Website to showcase the profiles of the 100 young Mandelas and other content celebrating Madiba’s birthday.

In the week leading up to July 18, we published think pieces on “The meaning of Mandela in 2018” by leading global voices such as former United States President Bill Clinton, business maverick Richard Branson, Director of United Nations Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Mandela’s former assistant Zelda la Grange.

We also created three video stories: a 360-degree video of Madiba’s birthplace, Qunu; a choreographed message from the youth; and a collection of birthday messages from well-known South Africans. The Nelson Mandela Foundation took note and officially endorsed the website with their logo.

The main objective of this project was to drive user engagement, while at the same time creating an editorial project that could be leveraged for commercial gain. Our commercial team won two major sponsors for Mandela 100, which made it a big success from a financial point of view. The 100 young Mandelas were chosen by a panel of members from the editorial team, which means it was really owned by the newsroom and everyone could feel proud of the product.