Finweek has taken a hard look at the South African business magazine space, and it place within it. That navel-gazing exercise has resulted in the award-winning publication taking a decision not only to forge ahead with a redesign but also to reposition the magazine in terms of it reach and readership. It has also invested in the rights to carry editorial from the Harvard Business Review (HBR).
TheMediaOnline caught up with editor Marc Ashton to find out more about the new-look magazine that launches in October.
What is the broad thinking behind the repositioning of Finweek, what with the addition of HBR and Fintalk?
Finweek has traditionally been a very niche read primarily focused on investments and the stockmarket. The reality is that in South Africa we have a savings rate of around 0% and about 2% of people actively manage their own money. That audience is tiny and yet there is a huge population out there desperate to take control of their finances. When it comes to controlling your finances your number one asset for 90% of people in South Africa is your job – that is where content like Harvard Business Review adds some real value. When it comes to Fintalk – we need to be realists – digital content is important and it is the way that people consume their media. We see digital content as a great tool to work alongside the magazine.
Can you unpack the idea of Fintalk a bit more? How will you create this content? Does this mean opening some kind of multimedia division?
Digital content is important. Two examples of things we’re adding: The old JSEDirect radio show which used to be hosted by Simon Brown on ClassicFM – we are now streaming this as a co-branded podcast giving our readers (and now listeners) the opportunity to actually hear the words coming out of the mouths of CEOs and market experts. A second example – Finweek journalists have built up a solid following over the last few years and we’re constantly being asked to share our portfolios with readers and let them know when we’re doing something different – online and mobile media are great tools to share this information.
What made you go after Harvard Business Review? What does it add to Finweek?
Maybe it’s fair to add that South Africa has traditionally had something of an inferiority complex when it comes to standards of our media – it gives us an opportunity to stand above our peers.
Is this a costly exercise, considering the dollar exchange rate?
It has costs but considering the discussions that people are having about paying for quality content – I think it is a worthwhile investment
Will it be specially branded in the magazine?
The HBR copy started going out in Finweek about a month ago – it does have a clearly marked section.
How would you describe your advertising at the moment?
It is no secret that the magazine industry has been going through some tough times in the last few years and our case hasn’t been helped with the speculation about Finweek following its restructuring. Advertisers have started to regain their confidence and this week in fact was the first time since I’ve been in charge that we had to turn away an advertiser due to space constraints so hopefully that reassures your readers that Finweek is alive and kicking.
Will you be offering ads on Fintalk?
Yes. There will be sectional sponsorship opportunities. For instance Simon Dingles’ TechTrends is a very popular brand as is the podcast – these both provide advertisers with platforms to reach target markets.
How competitive is the weekly business magazine environment in general, and how do you see Finweek in that big picture?
I think the market is competitive but earlier stats should be borne in mind – 2% of people managing their money, a savings rate of 0% and one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurship in the world – there’s a growing market which can be tapped into. The arrival of Forbes highlights that international players see South Africa (and Africa) as a whole as an opportunity.
I love the cover. How would you describe your cover policy, look and feel?
I think one of the criticisms of business magazines in South Africa is that while their content may be good; they’ve lost a lot of ground to digital media that has been prepared to break all the rules in terms of design and layout. The reality is that its not just a case of competing against local players – people now have the opportunities to buy the Bloomberg, WSJ and FT titles on their iPads and tablets. If print wants to be competitive then we’ve got to prove that we’re prepared to take some risks and do something that is going to make a reader immediately stop and say this is something different.
Who is your target market with this new-look magazine?
The eternal question! Finweek is an interesting animal for two reasons – firstly our readership has become a lot younger (average age 32) and 60% black. Considering our historical old and Afrikaans reader this is quite an interesting development. The second aspect is that Finweek is printed in two different languages that have a slightly different audience. The English product is younger and black while the Afrikaans product is older and white. Ultimately we are going to push toward the younger and black audience but you will have noticed in the last few weeks that we have been working hard to do a bit of differentiation of the Afrikaans offering while sticking within the ABC rules.
How digitally savvy are you?
Bearing in mind that a lot of the Finweek team comes out of the old Fin24.com I’d like to think we are pretty savvy. Simon Dingle is arguably the leading technology journalist in South Africa – he blogs, he tweets, he addresses industry conferences. My background is small business consulting and I’ve spent time learning digital tools to support small business entrepreneurs. Charl Norman and Bradley Voges are our technology partners on FinTalk.co.za and Simon Brown has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to online media tools in financial services so I’d like to think we have a pretty awesome team here.
Can you reveal some of your new contributors and what they’ll offer?
Finweek has won almost every major financial media award in 2011 so we have a pretty solid team to start with – Simon Dingle, Bruce Whitfield, Vic De Klerk, Andile Makholwa, David McKay and Brendan Ryan need no introduction. The addition of Helena Wasserman – probably one of the most dynamic financial news editors in the country – and Simon Brown adds some real weight to our team.
Is there a new cover price with new look?
Cover price stays the same – R21 is bang for your buck and if you order it through Zinio.com for your tablet / PC you can pick it up at a discounted rate – some real bang for your buck.
Plans for an app or two?
We do indeed have some plans for apps – we’re children of the digital age working for the most dynamic media company in the country – Won’t let all the secrets out the bag but I will say this: Finweek journalists have intimate knowledge of relevant personal finance topics and a solid following for their investment ideas and commentary and we’re going to capitalise on that.
Follow Marc Ashton @zamarcashton
Simon Dingle @simondingle
Bruce Whitfield @brucebusiness
Charl Norman @cn