Jos Kuper is the inaugural winner of the Bell Award. This recognises an individual who, though not working for a media owner or agency, has made an exceptional contribution to the betterment of the media sector. Lauren Shapiro, her friend and research partner at Kuper Research, describes Kuper’s vast professional experience, her deep thirst for understanding, and the impact she has on others.
Jos Kuper is a research professional with more than 40 years of experience. She is the founder of Kuper Research, a consultancy specialising in media, marketing and socio-political analysis. Prior to that she was the MD of marketing and media research (MMR) for 21 years, a wholly owned subsidiary of Independent Newspapers.
She is one of the independent researchers responsible for the futurefact survey that has been monitoring the significant social, political and economic attitudinal changes in our country since 1998. She has worked intensively on the various mindsets of South Africans, including the relevance of social mobility, social cohesion and dissent, the digital society as it evolves and the headspaces of audiences and readers of various media.
Jos has given many papers internationally, consults for universities and business schools, and has worked in the media field in several countries. She identified the gap in the market for the Daily Sun newspaper and its development, which earned her the title ‘mother of the thing’ from the founding publisher. Kuper Research was commissioned by SAARF to lead the team that conducted the extensive futureproofing audience measurement project.
The idea of the Daily Sun was sparked
I have had the privilege of knowing Jos both professionally and personally for over 20 years. As a young researcher I worked with Jos at MMR, where I was lucky enough to be involved in many creative and innovative research projects aimed at understanding newspaper readers in ways that were exciting and new. These endeavours yielded insights that could not be revealed in any mainstream research. Jos was not afraid to take bold research steps and try out methodologies that were ground-breaking and cutting edge.
I was very fortunate to be with Jos at MMR when she started down the road of trying to understand why there was a huge market of potential readers in the country, who had no problem with literacy but were not reading newspapers. She needed to understand this phenomenon, and so we embarked on a research project to figure it out. From this extensive investigation, the idea of the Daily Sun was sparked in Jos’ mind – and the rest, as they say, is history.
During the time we worked together at MMR Jos’ generosity of spirit and her willingness to teach and share her knowledge formed my own and many others’ careers. Not only did I learn about the technical side of research but also about integrity and honesty – tools of research (and life) that are far more important than data.
For the past 10 years I have been even more privileged to have joined Jos as her partner at Kuper Research, an independent research consultancy that Jos established after leaving MMR. For these 10 years we have also been partners (together with Penny Hoets) on the futurefact survey, which is such a source of joy and passion for all of us involved. The survey has given us an opportunity to indulge our love of research, politics, media, South Africa and everything else impacting on our country and the world. It has been a particular joy sharing this with Jos and learning from her vast experience, knowledge and insights into all matters at play in our society.
Richer for her influence
My partnership with Jos has been one of enormous meaning to me, not only from a professional point of view but more importantly from a personal perspective. Our continual learning and sharing of ideas has been an absolute source of stimulation and inspiration. The projects we work on together are always exciting, interesting and creative. Jos never approaches research in the ‘same old way’, she is always looking for ways of breaking the mould and of being sure she is on top of new media and methodologies. Her approach to every project is as a clean slate, with each having its own particular needs and methods while at the same time drawing on her many years of deep and broad experience. There is nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about her – she is a unique and original thinker.
Jos’ contribution to the South African research and media fraternity has been invaluable and significant. Future generations of market and media researchers will be richer for her influence in the field.
While Jos has been an integral part of my career for many years, her place in my life as a friend far outweighs any professional connection we enjoy. Jos is always caring and generous with her warmth and comfort and always ready with hugs of encouragement and reassurance. I am forever grateful for our relationship and feel very blessed to have been able to share my life and career with someone as inspiring and special as her.