South African entertainment website, Channel24, has hit the big time with its latest measurements, reporting a 427 822 unique domestic user mark in July (Effective Measure July 2011), making it the 10th biggest website in the country.
TheMediaOnline caught up with editor, Annel Malan, to find out the secrets behind the site’s success. Under Malan’s leadership, the site has grown with more than 350 000 unique users in less than a year, according to Nielsen’s Market Intelligence. She and publisher, Deirdre Ingpen, believe the site’s redesign in October last year had quite a bit to do with it.
The addition of breaking local and international news, plus a great gossip component, helped drive the process. Previously, that type of story was covered by News24. “we felt the readerwas better served if all the entertainment content was housed in one place.” “And it worked.” says Ingpen, “we haven’t looked back.”
“Because our international stories mostly come from feeds there is a lot more to choose from and it is quicker to get up. We are probably at a 60/40 split currently but would like to have as much local as international content if not more,” said Malan, talking about the split between local and international content.
“We rely on a few international feeds but have found that it is the local stories that people want to read. We end up writing a lot of original content ourselves. When we re-use stories from our media partners, we try to re-angle them so we can offer a fresh account of what’s happened,” she said.
It’s a small team that drives such large numbers. “We are team of five people and one very valuable intern. And yes, you’re right, it is very intense but what helps is that each of our content sections is managed by an expert in the field, for example, our music editor is the bassist for rockabilly band, Three Bored White Guys,” Malan said.
Much of their success could be attributed to using social networks. “Getting the social networking right is a group effort. Each of my content producers tweet their big stories of the day.,” Malan explained. “With Facebook we try to keep it informal and interactive. We show fans what is happening behind the scenes at Channel24 and try to involve them in the content.”
Asked what marked the most poplular stories on the site Malan said: “Well, in one word, Steve Hofmeyr. Hofmeyr is the Julius Malema of the entertainment industry. No-one has anything nice to say about him but everyone wants to read about him. Other big hitters this year has been royal wedding news, Amor and Joost, and most things Idols. Generally, the sexy stuff does the best.”
They have also taken advantage of South Africa’s well-known use of smartphones. “If you go to Channel24.co.za on your phone you will be redirected to our mobi site. Channel24 content is also bundled into the News24 app for Android, Blackberry, j2me, Bada, the Nokia AppWizard and the iPad,” Malan said.
Like many sites in South Africa, advertising remains an issue in terms of ads helping site’s achieve self-sustainability. “We are working towards it, but like any new site these things take time. And with the site’s rapid growth both in terms of audience and page impressions, we have available inventory,” she said.
The site features an excellent Free Music Download section. How do they sustain that? “The aim of our Free Music Downloads section is to provide a platform for upcoming local bands to share and market their music. We are hoping that people who like what they hear will go on to buy the album and support SA music,” said Malan. “The Top Ten reflect the top downloads for that week. It just goes to show what South Africans are listening too. “
Currently, the site has an LSM of 8 – 10, and more males using the site. But, said Malan, with the focus on gossip, she suspects this could change.
“At Channel24we are focusing more and more on showcasing our reader’s opinions and reviews. We have very active social media streams and often use Twitter to break high level entertainment news.”
Follow Channel24 on Twitter @Channel24