eNCA.com – Late to the party but streetwise

TV and online seem to be such a happy fit so it has always perplexed me that eNews Channel Africa – or eNCA (previously eNews) – went for so long without a proper website. In fact, eNCA only launched its site – under GM Tim Spira – in April this year.

But even with eNCA still in the process of establishing its brand (the change was necessitated by the launch of a UK channel on the Sky pay-TV platform in August last year), the site’s numbers are exceeding its own expectations: at more than 270 000 domestic users in May, which was its first full month of in existence.

Grubstreet spoke to Spira last week to find out more about why it took so long for eNCA to establish an online presence and what mistakes they hope to avoid by coming to the party so late.

Nic Dawes on the biggest challenges of being the M&G editor

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes is off to India in September, when he will take up one of the top positions at the Hindustan Times in New Delhi, it was announced recently. In this second part of an interview, Grubstreet talks to Dawes about change in the M&G newsroom, his legacy to the paper and the press’ recent battles with the ruling party.

Grubstreet: Do you think the converged newsroom – how you’ve integrated print and online – is the main mark that you’re leaving on the M&G?

Nic Dawes: I certainly think it’s probably the most obvious thing that I’ve tried to do here – to bring some of those (online and social-media) practices into our newsroom, to open us up so that the audience is not so much the audience anymore but participants in what we do.

You have to be really very sanguine and welcome the changes that are going on in our industry because I think they genuinely make us better journalists and make us produce better news products.

I think the other thing is the way we’ve tried to build capacity inside the paper, to keep on doing more thorough public-interest journalism without having new sources of commercial funding. So there’s AmaBhungane (non-profit investigative centre) and the Eugene Saldanha fellowship – these sorts of things, which do substantially broaden the base of what we do and also makes a contribution that goes beyond the M&G in terms of training journalists from other papers and from other countries in terms of advocacy.

And maybe the final thing is opening up a bit more to Africa – trying to bring more Africa coverage into the paper and into the website.

Die Burger’s excellent front-page design pushes visual journalism

by Gill Moodie. There is one consistently excellent stand-out newspaper when it comes to front-page design among South Africa’s dailies – and that is Die Burger in Cape Town. So my ears pricked up when I read that the title’s chief sub, Johnn-Grant Munro, picked up the Standard Bank Sikuvile journalism award recently for lay-out and design.

Surve’s Sunday twissyfit: the start of a feud with Peter Bruce and Times Media?

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) The great thing about Twitter is that you get a direct insight into the minds of powerful people usually only accessible through an army of communications specialists or at least a very firm personal assistant – if they will let you in, that is.

In case you were chilling yesterday, you might have missed an extraordinary twissyfit from Iqbal Surve, the proprietor-in-waiting at Independent Newspapers, who instead of grumbling over his Sunday lunch took to Twitter to voice his extreme annoyance over a column written by Business Times editor Rob Rose.

Pistorius the ultimate litmus test for declining circulation (ABC Q1 2013 figures)

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) That SA newspaper circulation is in decline is common cause these days but the latest set of figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations of SA (ABC) figures – for the first quarter of 2013 – really rubs it in.

Consider that we had the biggest, most compelling news event to hit SA in many years – the arrest of Paralympian superstar Oscar Pistorius for the murder of his girlfriend model Reeva Steenkamp in that quarter – and it had little effect on the circulation figures!

While SA web traffic was off the charts in February, our newspapers could not capitalise in terms of sales.

Even Beeld, which is more of a Pretoria newspaper than a Jo’burg one, did not make merry on sales in this quarter despite it serving up the best consistent coverage of the story that happened in its backyard (the murder occurred in Pistorius’ home in Pretoria) with many excellent breaks and exclusives.

Beeld was at 65 645 total circulation in the first quarter of this year compared with 72 599 in the corresponding period a year earlier. Q1 in 2013 was also down on previous quarter – Q4 2012 – which was 66 132.

Maybe the editorial, marketing and distribution departments at Beeld did not co-ordinate on Pistorius – and it would be interesting to know what their returns were in Q1 2013 – and, if so, this is really a publishing failure rather than an editorial one.

When you’ve got big breaks on a big story, you’ve got to make a lot of noise about it – increase the postering and the print run, get the trucks out there early and also get your social-media manager (and you should have one by now: its 2013) piqueing interest. And then you have to keep the exclusive offline for a few hours while you push the papers on the streets.

How to save TopTV: let customers pick packages of channels at various prices

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) Don’t be afraid of competition in the market, say the business handbooks, but rather assess you rivals’ strengths and weaknesses. Everyone does this in business plans and it helps new entries in the market or smaller players to spot the gaps and opportunities.

But what do you do when you’re playing in a market that is utterly dominated by one big player – as On Digital Media’s TopTV that was rescued recently in a complex takeover deal by China’s digital pay-TV company StarTimes – found with Naspers’ DStv Multichoice?

Did TopTV ever actually stand a chance?

DStv was already so entrenched in the local market – and across Africa too. It had nailed down that absolutely essential – and enormously expensive – element of pay-TV: local and international sports rights.

And it had the ability (and savvy) to counter the new entry’s threat by putting money into a big marketing drive for a cheaper bouquet, the Compact, to sign up lower-LSM subscribers that were TopTV’s target market.

Digital growth for the Mail & Guardian

A short while back Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes told Grubstreet that the paper’s website was doing very well – with its traffic up by about 40% over the past year.

“We’re rolling out new products,” Dawes said in February this year. “We’re spending money on growing a digital business and our online traffic was up 40% last year. We sell something like 1500 iPad editions and approaching 3000 Kindle. So we’re growing and things are happening.”

That’s great news from the tough little paper that has gone from strength to strength in recent years. It is, in fact, one of the few in SA to have stable or rising circulation so it’s heart warming to hear that M&G online is also growing – especially in a market dominated by the giant News24. Grubstreet tracked down M&G online editor Chris Roper to find out more the website’s fortunes.

News24′s leap into Kenya and Nigeria

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) Type in www.news24.co.ke to your browser or www.news24.com.ng and you get a site that looks familiar to the South African eye: it has the colour palette and lay-out of our biggest news portal, News24, but look a bit closer and you see the content is different: about Kenya and Nigeria respectively.

These two sites are, in fact, News24’s great big leap into Africa although they have started modestly and without much fanfare so that they can learn about the two markets that are so different to South Africa’s.

You might also have noticed an isiZulu News24 (that you can go to from the English-language portal) and you get the picture: News24 – which so dominates the breaking-news scene in SA – is on the march, which is interesting considering that Iqbal Surve, Independent Newspaper’s proprietor-in-waiting, has also mentioned Africa and the vernacular markets as key growth areas.

Grubstreet spoke to News24 editor-in-chief Jannie Momberg, who is overseeing the move.

Analysis of 2012 Amps readership figures: what lurks beneath for SA newspapers?

by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA) The ABC circulation figures tell us that South African newspaper sales with the exception of the vernacular press are in a sustained decline but the Amps readership numbers – the full-year 2012 Amps were released last week – say that most newspaper titles have maintained their readership.

What gives here?

As we puzzle over the numbers, we know that newspapers have been hammered in developed markets – particularly in the US – and as online and cellphone usage spreads and deepens in SA, we all wonder if the downward move of print circulation will accelerate to match the trends overseas.

On the other hand, there is also the view that because we are an emerging market, print still has legs in this country – particularly in the vernacular press led by the fantastic success story of the isiZulu-language Isolezwe.

What actually is the state of the health of our newspapers?

I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in between the ABC and Amps pictures but, first, let’s look at the main trends in the recently released 2012 Amps figures from the South African Audience Research Foundation.

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