Media associated with this campaign
Overview of this campaign
As a digital-only, investigative and 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.
While paid-for titles in South Africa had shown a drop in circulation of around 50% in the last 5 years, free-distribution publications remained strong. A consumer research survey of 30,000 respondents showed that 82% of online news readers still regularly read a newspaper. But 34% don’t pay for it.
Further to this, in a country with 30% unemployment and 40% poverty, it is our policy that good journalism should be free. As such, Daily Maverick does not operate a paywall on its website and wanted to apply the same principle in the launch of our print publication.
A separate reader survey found that the main reason people stopped reading print editions was a loss of quality and trust in those publications. Armed with this data, we began to think we could find an audience for a quality weekly title produced by experienced journalists and available for free.
Given what we knew about our readers online reading habits, as a digital-first publisher, it was important that we established how our print offering would serve our readers in a unique way.
The content mix had to take into account the weekly nature of the product, incorporating both the biggest stories of the week past as well as new, previously unpublished investigations.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.
In summary, our objective was:
- To launch a quality print publication that readers could access for free,
- Reignite the weekend reading ritual, where people can engage with quality journalism that they trust with a beautiful visual identity, and
- Do so under a sustainable business model
Results for this campaign
To create a model where readers had the option of accessing the newspaper for free, we partnered with a national food retailer, who has over 8 million registered loyalty cardholders, the biggest and most advanced loyalty programme in the country. Shoppers are able to collect the newspaper for free by swiping their loyalty shopper card or, alternatively, pay the cover price of R20.
By allowing consumers to collect the newspaper for free, the business model relies on advertising revenue. From 15 issues so far, two editions have already hit break-even target. And with new advertisers coming on board, we’re well-positioned for good growth in the first half of 2021, with the overall aim to start turning a profit in 18 months.
The newspaper launched with a circulation of 25,000 in late September. By January 30th the circulation had increased by 32% to 33,000, with a low-average return rate of 16%.
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 leveraged off our strong, experienced editorial team, and focused on building a team of young talented designers to curate a world-class visual experience. Examples of their remarkable work are included in the supporting media pack.
The decline in quality and trust of other newspapers had killed the deep reading experience that many people had come to associate weekends with. By offering a product worthy of their time, we could rekindle those experiences. The job it needed to do was give people a reason to take a break from the digital deluge with enough quality journalism to create new weekend rituals.