A new initiative bringing together black-owned community newspaper publishers was announced this week. The Media Online interviewed its chief executive officer, Michelle Mashiane.
Imagine a countrywide print run of one million every fortnight. Imagine a readership of five million. This is the vision of Michelle Mashiane, the founder of community newspaper Coal City News in Emalahleni, Witbank. This week, she announced the start of a new project – the Community Newspapers Initiative (CNI), aimed at pulling together black-owned community newspaper publishers.
“As I am talking now, we are already sitting with 86 publications who have signed on as members,” Masiane told TheMediaOnline in a phone interview, conducted while driving to her next meeting.
The idea behind the CNI is to give smaller, independent publishers the opportunity to explore new advertising possibilities and centralise production.
“The role of the CNI is going to be about advertising, and then layout and design, content sharing and also distribution as well.”
Community newspaper publishers will send through their products to a central office where the layout and design will be fine-tuned. These media will also be offered the chance to share distribution networks and content. But perhaps most importantly, they could share a piece of the advertising pie.
“We will seek advertising for them,” says Mashiane.
The main aim of the CNI is “getting a bigger slice of the advertising cake which is still in the control of a few still advantaged people”.
Mashiane estimates that CNI’s members make up about 25 percent of the current community newspaper market in South Africa.
Mashiane, who studied business management, believes it is time for independent publishers to come up with innovative initiatives to help them reach their own goals and sustain long-term growth.
How would she convince advertisers to choose these publishers, some of them who have been in the game for the past 18 years, rather than the newspapers owned by the big media companies?
“I realise the challenges of procuring advertising while still remaining independent because you are competing with the Big Four [Media24, Caxton, Independent, Avusa (now Times Media Group].”
But she believes with a group of so many publishers pulling together, “a lot more” money was to be made. “We are independent… which makes us stronger.”
“Advertisers, whether they need total metropolitan coverage or to target the primary catchment area for their businesses, will be able to reach their target market quickly and effectively.
“We have the potential of reaching at least 5,000,000 readers monthly per edition collectively. The publications are specifically distributed around Mpumalanga, Gauteng, KZN, Limpopo, North West, Northern Cape and CNI is still growing – making it the fasted growing black-owned newspaper company in the country.”
The newspapers have a total print run of one million copies delivered door-to-door free charge every fortnight.
Mashiana started Coal City News in Emalahleni (Witbank) in Mpumalanga 10 years ago with the help of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), which she hopes will also support the CNI.
Since then, she has launched eight other publications in Mpumalanga.
Her publications are also delivered in bulk to libraries, community centres, businesses and shopping centres.
“The CNI’s research feedback reinforces readers’ appreciation of its newspapers’ unbiased, professional and contemporary approach.
“The newspapers’ content reflect the images, thoughts, and everyday happenings of communities they serve, while these communities may vary in size, from tiny isolated locations to bustling suburban centers they share one important feature; the information they deliver provide readers with a sense of pride, sense of identity and a sense of belonging.”
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