Media24 is launching a new weekly news magazine. The publication, called News Now and edited by Waldimar Pelser, will hit the stands in September and target busy consumers with too little time to read and digest the news on a daily basis, whether delivered by print, online or mobi channels.
“Readers will be able to follow the events of the week in the form of short stories, aggregated first from South Africa and then the world,” Pelser said. “Our concept is to adapt what people are used to reading online or on a mobi site to a print magazine. Stories won’t take more than a minute or two to read.”
The Daily Maverick announced last week that it would be producing a daily iPad newspaper called iMaverick. But its style is to be long on analysis and insight.
Pelser said Media24’s research into people’s reading habits showed that for many, time to sit down and read was short. “They might look at a 1 000 word story and simply put it down, knowing they won’t have time to digest it. Our thinking is that perhaps if that 1 000 word story is distilled into 150 words, they would read it.”
In other words, they’re going to ‘Twitterfy’ the news? Pelser laughed: “That sort of perspective! People don’t have time, once more, to watch news unfold on Twitter, to watch how stories ebb and flow. So we’ll do that for them: identify the stories, distil them and deliver every Friday in time for a weekend read.”
News Now will run to 48 pages, including covers, and retail at R20. Its content will include two big stories a week, and others on South Africa – its politics, its sport, and its health issues. News will be “rooted” in South Africa, but cover the world. Each continent will have a page per week. It will have sections on business and lifestyle and use info graphics to tell stories. Plus, they will publish the week’s best blogs.
“We’re hoping to make the readers’ experience fun but informative. We’ll feature the international stories that made the news, through the eyes of experts giving insights. It will allow our readers to form opinions. As journalists, we’re opinionated because we read so much news. But for many people, that’s a luxury. News Now will allow them to join the conversation.”
Pelser said their newsgathering model would rely on proper copy tasting. “There are so many brilliant journalists out there so there’s no shortage of material. We’re hiring a small team of journalists, around six or seven, plus a strong team of sub editors and layout people. The journalists’ jobs will be to read widely then write a story with sufficient information but that can be read in a minute, an art in itself.”
Pelser and his assistant editor, Charlene Rolls (formerly of YOU magazine), are interviewing at the moment, looking to fill around 17 positions. “We’re received over 600 applications and even after we told candidates that these jobs weren’t about trips abroad and more about working in the backroom, but more about curating the news, people were excited.”
The magazine, surprisingly in these stressed economic times, will stick to a low ratio of advertising versus editorial, allowing not more than 25% advertising per issue. Ad rates have not yet been decided, Pelser said, nor have they settled on the size of their print run. “That’s for the finance department,” he quipped. But it will be printed on 70g “very white” paper, of the same weight throughout. “It feels more substantial than TIME, for example,” Pelser said.
Distribution is sorted, what with Media24’s huge reach throughout South Africa. “The big push will be through the country’s major metros on Fridays, then filter out from there. We will be doing a subscription drive into more remote areas,” Pelser said.
He said they weren’t operating from the position of a start up, chasing scoops. “We’ll deliver the best of the rest, what’s ‘trending’ over a seven-day news cycle, to use Twitter terminology. We won’t tell you that Albertina Sisulu has died, but we’ll give you insight into who she was and what she did.”
Pelser said he was “extremely excited” to be at the forefront of a new magazine. “I think we’ll fill a gap in the market, and tak people to unexpected places.”