HIP2B2 magazine – started by Mark Shuttleworth to promote the study of maths, science and technology – is now printing a whopping 250 000 copies a month in order to reach learners across the country, and in doing so, is talking to 1.5 million school children a year. It’s an enormous success story, especially since the magazine is distributed for free where it is needed most.
Shuttleworth believes that only a skilled ‘can do’ generation will contribute to the future prosperity of South Africa.
TheMediaOnline caught up with general manager, Cathryn Treasure, and editor, Janna Joseph, to find out more about New Media’s publishing phenomenon.
“Mark is passionate about HIP2B2 and its ideals of inspiring South Africa’s youth to be the best they can be. Mark started HIP2B2 after identifying a great need to inspire the country’s youth and impart the message to each and every one of them that extra time spent on maths and science related subjects at school would reward them later in life. Mark works closely with the HIP2B2 management team to be involved in the brand’s strategic direction, but it is driven from HIP HQ in Cape Town,” said Treasure.
“He is always elated when told of the success stories of the brand and how it impacts positively on young people’s lives. Although Mark is based in the UK he attends the orientation camp for our new HIP2B2 Brand Ambassadors each year and spends time with all of them sharing experiences, insights and inspirational messages, in addition to attending and taking part in the awards ceremony for our brand ambassadors that have performed exceptionally well,” she said.
The square shaped magazine is printed four times a year and has showcased some of the most innovative and creative covers of any magazine in the country. In November last year, the theme was The Senses and the editorial team created a cover that smelled like chocolate. It was the only South African magazine to catch the eye of FIPP, the Worldwide Magazine Media Association, who mentioned it in their 2011 Annual World Report – Innovations in Magazines. “In a world where young people are constantly distracted by the latest video game or iPhone app, what better way to engage their minds than by appealing to their senses?”
Janna Joseph, who edits the magazine, said their goal with every issue is to create a “showstopper” cover. “In all our research, learners remember covers and they always have their favourites, so we’re constantly trying to push the bar. Fairly early on in the production process, we have a brainstorm about the cover. We push ourselves to think out the box, and we aim to find a solution that is smart, fun and interactive. Whenever possible, we also try to go beyond the printed page and appeal to more than one of our readers’ senses,” she explained.
“Once we’ve got some exciting ideas, we mock up many different options to see which ones translate well on paper. Finally, we narrow it down to one, two or three, which the magazine team presents to the brand team for approval.”
It’s not just the cover that speaks to its audience, but the language of the magazine, and its website, too. “Some of us are young, some of us are young at heart, but we’re all acutely aware of the fact that we’re older than the target age,” said Joseph. “With this in mind, we make a constant effort to immerse ourselves in our readers’ world, keeping up-to-date with their daily lives and finding out what they speak about, dream about and worry about.
“We have about 30 HIP2B2 Brand Ambassadors, who give us regular feedback, and we also select a panel of learner editors to help us with each issue of the magazine. Feedback from readers all over the country after each issue is also extremely important and is incorporated into the next issue – it’s a constant conversation with our audience.”
Science, maths and technology aren’t exactly the easiest subjects out there. And learners are often resistant to them, believing that they ‘can’t’ rather than they ‘can’.
“HIP2B2 knows that youth are challenging to engage, especially when it comes to tricky subjects like maths and science. The whole team is passionate about the youth, and we have years of experience and expertise in connecting with our audience and understanding them. Whether it’s online or on the printed page, we create content that engages and entertains our readers, in the bite-size chunks of information they prefer,” Joseph said.
It seems to work. Feedback from readers is inspiring. And the magazine’s involvement doesn’t end with simply producing the book.
Take this letter from a reader as an example: ““Dear HIP2B”,
I am such a big fan! The Animal Issue was amazing for me…now I’m working hard to study next year, and I’ve decided to become a Zoologist. I get your magazines through my little brother…I love him because we speak the same language: about becoming something big one day…and that day will come.”
That day is coming! The magazine put this girl in touch with the NSFAS, who arranges funding for underprivileged learners to further their studies after high school. “We connect students with scholarship and bursary opportunities through our networks and contacts, and many of our advertisers offer bursaries so they use our platforms to promote them,” said Treasure.
Despite Shuttleworth’s famously deep pockets, and a solid advertising base, a magazine with such a huge print run and such innovative ideas must cost a fairly sizeable amount to produce, albeit quarterly. Treasure said the magazine is funded by a combination of advertising revenue and sponsors, including Shuttleworth.
“HIP2B2 dreams of extending the print run even further, but we will need additional sponsorships and partnerships to assist the brand in making this a reality as yes, the production is extremely expensive. Experimenting with various paper stocks has helped reduce the cost,” Treasure said.
“Our decision to produce a bigger sized format is for economical reasons – this new format from a printing perspective is more cost effective and therefore gives us the opportunity to more than double the amount of copies and thereby reach and inspire more youth throughout the country. We have investigated putting the magazine on newsstands to sell but have not found sufficient evidence to warrant it. We do offer a subscription service, which assists but obviously not the whole print cost.”
Of course, the website is there for learners, and a wonderfully interactive space it is, but South Africa’s vast economic disparities means many millions of children can’t access it. It is an issue for the HIP2B2 brand. And it’s one of the reasons they more than doubled the print run.
“The website is a platform where all activities of the brand, including the magazine, and content, are showcased. We are passionate about content! It is created from a central publishing hub and specifically tailored and then posted to the device or medium be it online, mobile, video, broadcast, print or event-based. We continuously strive to keep abreast of our target market’s media, internet and technology consumption patterns and behaviour. There are vast differences amongst the same age groups influenced by several factors,” said Treasure.
“Although we are living in an age of technology- the reality is that many don’t have access to the internet and even on the mobile front, in many households one cell phone is shared amongst all the family members and we can’t assume all the phones are enabled with smart features. And for many, it is up to their parents how much time they’re allowed to spend on the internet. For this very reason we have extended our print run from 100 000 to 250 000 copies per quarter to allow these learners to engage with the world of maths and science because they don’t get the opportunity outside of school hours.
“The magazines are often taken home, read and then passed on to friends and family members to read and enjoy and so the magazine’s pass on rate is very high. HIP2B2 is inundated with calls on a daily basis from schools, in particular in rural areas, to get copies of the magazine,” she said.
“Because we are a forward looking future focused brand, technology obviously has to play a role in communicating our brand message and we have investigated a digital version of our magazine, but at present internet penetration and access is not high enough to make this change but it is something we will consider in the future. The current reality is that in order to reach the whole spectrum of South Africa’s youth a print product is still very much required.
“In addition to this, we strive to create a ‘universe’ of HIP2B2 with a range of what we call touchpoints, so that learners all over the country have multiple opportunities to experience our content and interact with us no matter what their circumstances.”
This makes MXit an important part of HIP2B2’s messaging. “We know that our audience is on MXit pretty much every day. And while they’re chatting to their friends, we’re always there to spark curiosity and generate further conversation. MXit is a great medium to get something out quickly,” said Joseph.
“We offer competitions, quizzes, curious and interesting facts and thought-provoking content on our MXit portal, and we currently have over 85 000 registered users. MXit is yet another area where we are creating the conversation about our brand, and it’s a very popular forum for out target audience,” she said.
With access to learners across the country, listening to the hopes, dreams and plans, do the HIP2B2 believe in South Africa’s maths, science and technological future?
“From our engagement with our audience, yes we absolutely have a hope for our maths, science and technological future. This generation is hungry to make a positive impact, to do good – we’re constantly humbled by how in tune they are with the challenges and issues facing society and enthused by how much they want to make a difference,” said Treasure.
“Our message is to show them how these subjects can open many doors career and opportunity-wise but we’re also very aware of the fact that this generation is growing up in a celebrity obsessed culture with messages of fame and fortune easy to obtain. This is not the case so our message of working hard at school now to lay solid foundations for life after school is a tough sell, however, the continuous success stories that are fed back to us are a sure indication that our audience is listening, hearing our messaging and engaging with our challenge to reinvest in the power of their minds; to empower themselves now by investing in their future.”
For more information about HIP2B2: http://www.hip2b2.com