Derek Carelse is the managing director of The Big Issue, a job creation project in which a high quality, monthly magazine is sold by vendors (micro entrepreneurs) on Cape Town’s streets and outside certain malls.
Question: Which independent monthly magazine has been toughing it out in the magazine business for 21 years, while allocating 50% of its cover price to the seller without support from the advertising and media industry?
Answer: The Big Issue
Makes you think, doesn’t it? (When last was that payoff line seen in print? Gives away our age, doesn’t it?)
We at The Big Issue would like to make you think, and think again, why that should NOT be the case.
Here are some of the facts: The Big Issue is an ABC-audited, high quality, monthly magazine sold in the greater environs of Cape Town; it has an average monthly circulation of 12 000 copies with a readership of 48 000 based on a readers per copy factor of four; and it is purchased by well educated, LSM 8-10, middle class consumers.
But wait, that’s not all.
The Big Issue is a non-profit social enterprise registered with the Department of Social Development as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO). Why? Because we are a 100% job creation and skills development organisation project. How? Self-employed micro entrepreneurs who work for themselves sell 100% of the magazines by selling the magazine. These vendors are in effect our distributors and retailers. They buy the magazines for R12.50 and sell them in public spaces for R25.00 – yes, 100% profit guaranteed but no returns allowed for unsold stock. So it is a strict retail business.
Where’s the beef, you might be thinking?
After allocating 50% of the cover price as a guaranteed profit margin for the micro entrepreneurs, our organisation has to recover all the organisational overheads and publishing costs from our R12.50 share of the R25.00 cover price. Those in the magazine industry will tell you that this “maverick business model” creates a business under constant operational and financial strain. But we are committed to creating a small step-up-the-ladder opportunity for our economically vulnerable citizens who are 95% black, although our doors are open to anyone.
So here’s the shout out.
To media agency owners, media planners and media directors of corporates – why not allocate a tiny, tiny, tiny (yes, tiny!) part of your media spend budgets to the audience that The Big Issue magazine reaches. You reach a niche Cape Town-based middle class audience and we get adspend revenue. And here’s the cherry on top – depending on how your company is set up, you might be eligible for Social Enterprise Development (SED) and BBBEE scorecard points for Job Creation Support, Learnership Tax Credits, Youth Unemployment Tax Incentives and maybe media SETA credits too.
Here’s an alt fact for you (a real one) – if you wish to allocate a tiny, yes tiny (there’s that word again) fraction of your CSI spend as a financial donation to The Big Issue, we are certified to issue a Section 18a Tax Exemption Certificate because of our PBO status.
And now for something completely small to do to support The Big Issue (apologies to Monty Python).
Why not support The Big Issue’s Big 200 campaign by your company pledging R200 per month to fund our monthly operational costs and allow us to continue to do the work we’ve been doing for the past 21 years? Just visit this link to activate your contribution.
And to end this letter, a payoff line of our own: Change is in your pocket.
MD, The Big Issue
0827887098 / 021 461 6690
[Disclaimer: Glenda Nevill, editor of The Media and The Media Online, was editor of The Big Issue from 1998 to 2003, and is a former member of the NGO’s board of directors.]
This story was first published in the May 2017 issue of The Media magazine which had a theme focusing on media and corporate social investment.