Design, media, and creative enterprises, innovation and the knowledge economy converge in the Western Cape this week. Cape Town is the World Design Capital (WDC) this year. And this month, the city hosts the Loerie Awards and the annual Creative Week.
The Mother City attracts creative people. Artists, designers and musicians, as well as developers, coders and technology entrepreneurs are attracted by its reputation as an innovation hub.
The city has gone into overdrive this year to live up to its WDC promise to ‘Live Design. Transform Life’. The Cape Town Partnership, which with the City of Cape Town drove the bid to secure the WDC title, has nine official WDC projects on the go via its Creative Cape Town programme, but there are hundreds of others resulting from an open pitch process.
“For creatives, technology can be a vital tool in streamlining parts of the creative process that could be time-consuming or lacking in support,” said CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana.
She was speaking at the launch of a new Creative Cape Town app, which was the result of a previous project to map the city’s creative industries and individuals. By updating and expanding the data collected, the idea was to make the information available in an accessible format that can be used by different audiences. The app allows businesses and people to upload their services, portfolios and events. Designed by Domino Digital, it also lets creatives and clients connect, and will most certainly help Loeries’ ‘tourists’ tap into the city’s creative economy.
Matthew Buckland, tech entrepreneur and founder of Creative Spark (publisher of Memeburn, Gearburn and Ventureburn), says the city has “attracted quite a few internet professionals because they choose to live there as a result of its natural beauty and lower crime levels. Many who have worked overseas choose to return to Cape Town, possibly leading to a reverse brain-drain effect”.
Buckland himself is a recent ‘semigrant’ who now employs 34 staff. Delivering an address at the Youth Entrepreneurs Connect Conference, Buckland said the term ‘Silicon Cape’ wasn’t a “meaningless buzzword”.
“To me it describes a movement and community of internet entrepreneurs in a geographical location that want to make the world a different place.”
The city is also home to Naspers, a $28 billion global internet giant (which also owns Media24 and its stable of legacy print titles). But Media24 is not shy when it comes to investing in its digital future.
Nerisa Coetzee, head of digital product and brand at Media24 Magazines Digital, says her division “continually focuses on digital innovation to leverage audiences to unlock new revenue streams and pioneer the manner in which users consume the content generated by the group’s publications”. While they experiment with a variety of digital platforms and formats, their primary products are MyEdit and Flipsubs.
“MyEdit uses an algorithm to learn what users like to read and then serves them more of that type of content on an individualised basis. We are in the process of expanding our content bouquet in order to cater to as many users’ needs as possible,” Coetzee says.
“Flipsubs, sporting a modern user interface, enhanced library experience and one-click buying for users, features favourite Media24 magazine brands. The platform will also provide advanced reporting on a more granular level and will use clever technology to up- and cross-sell users. Flipsubs will offer an affiliate programme that will allow website owners to monetise their audiences by receiving recurring commissions. This is a win-win scenario for affiliates and publishers,” she explains. Flipsubs went live this month.
Willem Breytenbach, former head of Media24 Magazines digital, markets and weekly magazines who recently left the company to launch a digital agency, said he believed the “strategic decisions the City of Cape Town have made in recent years towards supporting entrepreneurs through initiatives such as ‘Silicon Cape Town’ are unique in the country and this has created an environment that supports local businesses and individuals and grows the industry as a whole.”
Breytenbach and his partner, Daniel Malherbe, started Lumico in response to the realisation that there were “opportunities that traditional media companies are not able to capitalise on”, the most prevalent of which was “the way content creation and content strategy is done in South Africa”.
“Traditional media houses and independent media groups benefit from the freelance and creative culture that the City of Cape Town has helped to create. One of the most direct advantages these companies have experienced through the city’s innovative strategy is the access they now have to a large pool of local top creative minds who can work and collaborate in a safe and efficient city,” he says.
Which comes back to the WDC and some of groundbreaking projects that should get traditional media talking.
There’s the Cape Town Story Market, described as a “pop-up marketplace for sharing, recording and broadcasting citizens’ stories”. The battery-powered kit can be packed into a car and set up easily to record stories and stream the stories online under a creative commons open source licence. It can also be used in partnership with community radio stations and municipalities.
The Story Market concept could be helped by the CT Parks Free WiFi project. It is “aimed at the general public to allow everyone to benefit from the use of WiFi in public spaces throughout the city”, while also focusing on the design aspect that goes into their installation. The project will continue long after WDC is over as Connected Space, the company behind the initiative, has signed a partnership deal with the city’s parks department and City of Cape Town to keep it
going until it reaches outlying suburbs and townships.
Digital agency Native VML and its Native Inventions team have designed Bookly, an e-reader application for Mxit. The idea was to make technology available to help people who don’t normally benefit from it. Bookly works on a feature phone. “One of our main challenges was how to design an app that would work on a feature phone, but would still have the functionality of a Kindle, iPad or other tablet. Bookly is not a pretty application, but luckily good design does not only mean beautiful,” says project manager Levon Rivers.
But the innovation isn’t just coming out of small start-ups and design houses. Media24’s commercial project unit has launched MySpecial.co.za, described as a “one-stop competition and specials shop”. Entering competitions is the drawcard, and visitors’ information, including demographic data, is used to grow MySpecial’s opt-in category-based distribution lists that are used to market special offers.
Buckland says News24 is the leader in terms of its media apps “as a result of platform diversity (they are represented in all major formats and platforms), commercial model (they have managed to commercialise their tablet app with innovative full-screen ads and more), functionality (strong personalisation with niche tagging for their iPad app), and traffic (it’s by far the biggest news app in SA)”.
Cathryn Reece, product development manager at 24.com, says besides the popular News24 apps, the company has also started “some exciting brand-specific and news-centric apps like Sport24 Live Scoring (Android with iOS coming soon) and News24 Elections.
“Our News24 Elections app was an exciting product to work on – time-sensitive, we bundled a suite of election-specific services and content like live election results, user-generated content, voting station finders, registration checks etc. The spike in usage over the election week was dramatic and unprecedented in the local app market (80 000 new users over two days). We saw this as an amazing brand-building opportunity, and a significant technical achievement by our teams,” she says.
The Loeries, taking place from 15 to 21 September, have been bundled into the WDC offering due to the advertising communications awards being “vital to the growth of the creative services sector”. And, as with all WDC projects, there has to be an aspect that will ‘transform life’. The Loeries Creative Future scholarship is funded from a portion of all entry fees, and will fund a talented youngster from a disadvantaged background who could be a future leader of the creative economy.
This story was first published in the September 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
IMAGE: Creative Cape Town
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