There are many phenomenal people working in the South African media industry, as the response to our call for nominations will attest. We honed the list down to 40 of the most influential and talented young people.
They range from media owners to strategists, planners and sales people. They include journalists, radio personalities, broadcasters, bloggers and data junkies.
This year’s list reflects a shift in the way media is envisioned, with digital on the rise. Almost everyone on this list has spent much of their working life in the media, emerging as multi-skilled and diverse professionals. For this reason, many straddle a number of sectors and we have done our best to categorise them in the most appropriate way.
To help us select, we turned to the following industry leaders to help in the judging: Omar Essack, deputy group CEO at Kagiso Media; Ray Hartley, editor of RDM.co.za; Jos Kuper, MD Kuper Research; Michelle Meyjes, MEC Global CEO; Clare O’Neil, broadcast media expert; Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO; and Gisele Wertheim Aymes, director of Longevity, ELLE and ELLE Decoration.
We will watch as those we have selected continue to grow, change and have an impact on the industry. If there are people who you believe should have been here, but aren’t, please nominate them next year.
These are the people under the age of 40 that The Media believes are the cream of the industry. We salute you!
* Monday to Friday Cumes, from RAMS 2014/3 Mar/Jul14 (figures supplied by Primedia Broadcasting)
BARRY BATEMAN Correspondent for Eyewitness News (EWN). Age: 35
“Barry Bateman is South Africa’s top tweeter, who has made his mark as a top Twitter reporter and an excellent radio man,” says City Press editor Ferial Haffajee.
He has proved himself as a next-generation reporter, who acti vely engages with his nearly 250 000 Twitter followers, all while writing and broadcasting breaking news.
He became a household name in 2013 from his extensive coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial, which led to the publication of his first book, written with fellow journalist Mandy Wiener, Behind the Door: The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story.
“He’s not afraid to push himself as a journalist and try new things,” says EWN editor in chief Katy Katopodis.
UNIQUE: His first break in mainstream media came when he photographed an aircraft crash at the Wonderboom Airshow, which resulted in him getting a foot in with the Pretoria News.
GARETH CLIFF Founder and host of CliffCentral.com. Age: 37
“The bad boy of radio made the leap from the safety of 5FM and his hugely popular morning show to the world of live internet streaming and podcasts,” says Stuffmagazine editor, Toby Shapshak.
CliffCentral.com is an online content hub that offers listeners a diverse range of content, including Cliff’s own irreverent daily show.
In just five months from 1 August 2014, more than 2.75 million podcasts have been downloaded, making CliffCentral the most impressive podcast content provider in Africa.
“Like Leo Laporte, the US tech radio journalist whose online show is considered the gold standard of podcasting, Cliff i s… big enough, potentially, to be South Africa’s Laporte and a streaming success story,” says Shapshak
UNIQUE: Cliff is passionate about history and architecture, and d esigns intricate castles in his spare time. He’s also a bit of a DIY guy!
Thabisile Mbete is responsible for creating content and research ing issues in which the show’s audiences would be interested. S he works in collaboration with John Robbie to ensure they access, e valuate and disseminate information relevant to the show’s 452 000*-strong listenership.
Her efforts were recognised at the 2014 MTN Radio Awards when the show won Best Breakfast Show in the commercial category and Mbete was shortlisted for best news and actuality producer. “Thabisile’s strengths include her ability to see a story from different perspectives and to understand various sides of a debate,” says Talk Radio 702’s programming manager, Alastair Teeling-Smith.
This larger-than-life radio personality returned to the world of television in 2014, as the host of SABC3’s local talk show, Tongue in Cheek. Mdoda – who spent several years partnering with radio host Grant Nash, first at campus radio station Tuks FM and then at 947 – did a stint on 5FM before returning to Highveld in 2012. She became the
Afternoon Drive’s first female host and her show now garners 700 000* listeners. As a former host of SA’s Got Talent and a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, she “embraces everything and wraps it with wit and charm”, says Primedia’s chief operations offi cer (COO), Ryan Till. “She embodies a generation of South Africans who just get on with it.”
UNIQUE: She can sleep anywhere… even on the most uncomfortable couch or upright in a chair. She also has a penchant for airline food.
When Jeremy Mansfield left 947 in 2010 and Darren ‘Whackhead’ Simpson took over, many thought the Breakfast Xpress would bomb. But prankster Simpson, who has an atypical radio voice, maintained the number of the morning show’s loyal listeners, which now stands at 764 000* people. In 2014, he released the 11th compilation CD of his pranks called
Two Faced and, within a month, it was on iTunes South Africa’s most popular list. “His success hasn’t been from luck – he’s earned it,” says Primedia COO, Ryan Till. “Darren’s a good example that fun really is a serious business.”
UNIQUE: He made his Hollywood debut in 2014 when he was the voice of Drip, a fire-fighting vehicle, in the animated Disney movie, Planes: Fire and Rescue.
As one of M-Net’s youngest channel directors, Victor Eckard was instrumental in the creation of M-Net’s video-on-demand feature and the launch of M-Net Edge, the channel’s home for top international and local series.
He joined M-Net in 2005 as a youth magazine show presenter on kykNET. He worked his way up to head of strategy and busi ness development before taking on his present role. While at M-Net, he completed a B.Com in business administration and an MBA.
“Having started his media career as a television presenter, Victor has mastered the art of television content, both in front of and behind the camera. There is nothing in television that flusters Victor, an industry success story in the true essence of the phrase,” says M-Net events co-ordinator, Nadine Moonsamy.
UNIQUE: He was born in Zimbabwe and was a radio presenter for six year s on Tuks FM before joining M-Net.
Nkateko Mabaso took five years to climb the ladder at M-Net fro m marketing manager for Channel O, Mzansi Magic and Vuzu to this position, which he took up in April 2014.
He is a ruthless marketer who is passionate about brand s and understands the importance of being ‘consumer centric’. His success in launching mass-market channels Mzansi Magic and Lokshin Bioskop proves this.
As a leader, he gets his hands dirty, has an open-door policy and makes a concerted effort to mentor his staff. “Nkateko displays wisdom and industry expertise far beyond his years,” says Yolisa Phahle, CEO of M-Net. “His humility, coupled with an immense creative flair fosters an environment of innovatio n and absolute efficiency.”
UNIQUE: Mabaso loves travelling and has resolved to see at least three quarters of the world by the time he’s 45.
Yusuf Nabee has been in the broadcasting industry since 2001. He spent a decade working for the SABC, leading its digital migration project team, as well as in its TV sports programming and marketing departments.
Nabee joined Kagiso Media three years ago to spearhead its television strategy. He was instrumental in setting up the Broadcasting Research Council of South Africa, which will manage the research currency for television and radio.
“In the short time at Kagiso Media, he has launched a TV channel and helped acquire a pan-African content business,” says Omar Essack, deputy group CEO at Kagiso Media. “He is now building a team to support Kagiso Media’s (television) ambitions. It’s a very big challenge and Yusuf has shown that he is up to the task.”
UNIQUE:He bakes a mean chocolate cake.
Monde Twala’s position makes him responsible for the company’s multi-channel strategies and the move to digital terrestrial television (DTT).
Twala started off his career in broadcasting at the SABC before becoming sports co-ordinator across all sport entities at e.tv. Twala has held various positions at the commercial broadcaster, including executive producer for the Morning Edition, Backstage and Rhythm City.
“Monde has an innate grasp of the broadcasting industry, a deep understanding of his audiences and locally produced content for television. He is an inspirational leader who is always at the top of his game,” says Janet Proudfoot, general manager of group research and audience strategy at e.tv.
In 2010, he joined MEC in Sydney where he learnt how to adapt communication principles to achieve integration of digital channels.
Gordon Patterson, business director at Omnicom Media Group, says Bishop is “passionate, committed to excellence and has a keen understanding of global trends and expectations”.
UNIQUE: Bishop got into trouble for taking a book on neuromarketing on his honeymoon.
Under Chris Botha’s leadership, The MediaShop has increased its billings by 10% over the past 12 months, despite difficult trading conditions.
In 2014, it was named Large Media Agency of the Year at the AdReview Awards.
A priority for Botha is the nurturing of young talent, and in 2014 he appointed and trained 12 graduates. In October 2014, the University of the Free State bestowed the Cum Laude award on Botha for his achievement in business and he was listed as one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans in 2013.
The MediaShop director Harry Herber says Botha is a man of passion and commitment. “Chris is the sort of guy you’d go to war for. A thought leader who speaks his mind, and it’s worth listening to!”
UNIQUE: He often sports a cut, bruise or black eye, because he passionately takes part in fighting as a sport.
Marco Santos was appointed MD of South Africa’s largest media agency, OMD, in April 2014. Part of his role includes tying up new acquisition deals and launching innovative bespoke media services. This has led to the birth of FUSE – OMD’s award-winning branded content division – and OMG Digital.
Santos started his career at OMD in 2006 when he was approached by the company to start OMG Africa. Under the leadership of OMG CEO Josh Dovey, Santos quickly built the agency into the strongest independent media agency network in Africa, with over 15 registered offices across 11 countries.
“Marco has an entrepreneurial instinct for both our business and the business of our clients. He really cares about them and you can’t fake that,” says Dovey.
UNIQUE: Being of Portuguese descent, he enjoys good food and heated lunch debates.
An AAA School of Advertising graduate, McManus has worked as a creative in South Africa, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Munich and
scooped numerous global awards. At NATIVE VML he has built a multi-disciplinary creative department and was responsible for pioneering multiple award-winning pieces of work.
“He is not bound by the same limitations as other people,” says Jason Xenopoulus, NATIVE VML CEO. “He can leap effortlessly between opposing perspectives, giving him a bird’s-eye view of the problem. The first idea out of his mouth is often the idea that cracks the brief. He then applies rigour when assessing and refining his ideas and he has the perseverance of a true craftsman. He is the most gifted creative director I have ever met and I feel privileged to work with him.”
UNIQUE: He has published a book about a mushroom collector and has crashed the entire server of the Dutch Secret Service.
Zibusiso Mkhwanazi started his first web design company at the age of 17 with R2 000. In 2007, he merged his business with Krazy Boyz
Holding to form Krazyboyz Digital. In 2012, he and Veli Ngubane left Krazyboyz to start Avatar, which has had over 100% annual growth in turnover since then.
In 2008, he won Top ICT individual in Africa and Top ICT Young Entrepreneur in Africa. He was also selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2011. In 2014, he won the AdFocus New Broom Award, which is given to industry ‘game-changers’.
Avatar’s biggest achievement in the last 12 months was winning two national brands, Brand South Africa and South African Airways. This propelled the company’s growth to over 40 employees.
UNIQUE: Mkhwanazi has been an entrepreneur since his school days and has never been to a job interview… ever.
Marc Ashton, former editor of Finweek magazine, was promoted from general manager and publisher of Moneyweb to MD in less than a year of being at the company. He is now responsible for growing the platform’s revenue and readership of its online titles, and the management of staff.
Since joining Moneyweb in March 2014, Ashton has returned Moneyweb to profitability and stabilised its commercial operations, including moneyweb.co.za, the Moneyweb Today digital newspaper, mineweb.com and the group’s radio and event assets.
“He manages to combine his creativity and journalistic ability with a razor-sharp focus on the business imperatives and the bottom line,” says Paul Jenkins, chairman of Caxton. “He inspires and leads his team from the front.”
UNIQUE: Ashton introduced his staff to a whiteboard, which they now use to draw on to blow off steam and for a laugh.
One of the Daily Maverick’s founders, Styli Charalambous has helped guide this digital-only publication to its fifth birthday in an economic and political environment that its editor, Branko Brkic, says is most unwelcoming to independent media start-ups. Daily Maverick is one of today’s leaders in comment and opinion space in South Africa.
A chartered accountant by profession, he has worked in investment banking in London. “He is one of South Africa’s best kept secrets – a sane business leader who is also a visionary, a chartered accountant who happens to have written some of the best articles South Africa has seen in many years,” says Brkic.
UNIQUE: Along with Brkic, Charalambous says they have the two of the most difficult names in media, giving rise to funny moments. “Often, people ring me up expecting to hear a woman’s voice.”
Colin Daniels is the co-founder and CEO of Grenade, a leading digital production agency in Johannesburg. Daniels previously held various senior positions in the corporate sector including digital publisher of
The Times Online/Times LIVE and new media lecturer at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. He also established and directed the Times Media Group’s first digital research and development unit, which produced a range of innovative web and mobile products, many of which were commercially successful.
Daniels has served on the board of the South African Advertising Research Foundation and on the executive committee of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, South Africa. He has also presented at numerous conferences both locally and abroad.
UNIQUE: Daniels has a penchant for techno and drum ‘n’ bass, and rides his mountain bike over weekends to revel in some dirt.
Last year Paula Raubenheimer was appointed MD of SouthernX – the first independent programmatic buying media marketplace in South Africa. SouthernX enables publishers to buy digital inventory from South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa through real-time bidding auctions. She has doubled the company’s income month-on-month since the launch in October.
“Paula is one of the smartest people in digital advertising,” says Geoff Cohen, CEO of Naspers’ 24.com. “She is at the helm of the largest real time bidding platform in sub-Saharan Africa, trading hundreds of millions of ad impressions on a monthly basis.”
Raubenheimer spent six years with the Habari Group and guided the process around the launch of the advertising agency, Machine, and the division of the Habari group into two businesses.
UNIQUE: Raubenheimer founded and launched Lady Fay’s Boudoir in 2013, an online shop for sex toys and lingerie.
Since assuming his position at Primedia in February 2014, Ryan Williams has been instrumental in creating the Primedia Academy Learnership Programme, enabling 50 unemployed graduates to gain a management qualification. He has also been involved in writing media-related course material for the programme.
His career saw him gallop up the media agency ladder, becoming group MD of Nota Bene. He then switched over to media ownership, first as executive head of sales at Ster Kinekor and then at Primedia. His has lectured at various advertising schools and served on the Amasa committee for four years. He is a board member of Primedia Outdoor and Ster-Kinekor Theatres.
UNIQUE: Despite being an inveterate smoker, lover of fine whisky and confirmed commitment-phobe, he completed his first 947 Cycle Challenge last year.
Mike Wronski founded the social media analytics and media monitoring venture, Fuseware, in 2009. The company works with Africa’s top brands and agencies to monitor and measure their online conversations, customers and competitors by using a unique analytics and software suite. Wronski works with Arthur Goldstuck,, MD of World Wide Worx, to produce the annual South African Social Media Landscapereport.
He is a regular industry commentator and has penned various technology and media publications.
“Mike has established himself as both a great technical analyst and a sharp strategic thinker in recent years. He has evolved from being a key participant in World Wide Worx research to becoming a trusted partner and advisor,” says Goldstuck.
UNIQUE: He has Olympic-size lungs and can easily hold his breath for three minutes.
This post was first published in the March 2015 issue of The Media magazine.